The Apostles and Others Gathered in Jerusalem Part 1

by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)

May 20, 2013

Acts of the Apostles

Lesson I.B.1: The Apostles and Others Gathered in Jerusalem
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 1.12-14


Acts 1.12-14 (KJV)

12 Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day's journey.
13 And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James.
14 These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.


Commentary

12 Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day's journey.

Then returned they unto Jerusalem
In Luke 24:52, we are told: “they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.” The act of worship referred to here is probably when they gazed intently as their Lord ascended into the clouds until He disappeared from their view. That experience, and then the angels telling them that He will return in the same manner must have filled them with joy. “They” were the eleven disciples (the twelve minus Judas); along with Mary, the mother of Jesus, the brothers of Jesus (James and Jude), the women who followed Jesus, and others; who when added up amounted to about 120—“And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said, (the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty,)” (Acts 1:15; KJV).

Their obedience is remarkable, because they could have returned to their homes; but instead, they went into Jerusalem where more of their enemies lived than in any other place. They were obedient to their Lord, who told them to return to Jerusalem and wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit, and that is exactly what they did. Jesus’ orders were fresh on their minds, since they had just heard Him say it; therefore, they actually did what Jesus told them to do even though He was no longer physically present with them.

from the mount called Olivet,
“The mount called Olivet,” was on the east side of Jerusalem and about two miles distant, and Christ had often gone there, and from there he ascended to heaven. This is the hill which in 1 Kings 11:7 is said to be "before Jerusalem"—“Then did Solomon build an high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, in the hill that is before Jerusalem…”(1 Kings 11.7; KJV); and in Zechariah 14:4 it is expressly said to be "before Jerusalem on the east"—“And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east…” (Zech 14:4; KJV); and when Jesus sat down there to converse with His disciples, he is said to be over against the temple—“And as he sat upon the mount of Olives over against the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately” (Mark 13:3; KJV). It got its name from the huge number of olive trees which grew there. The Jewish writers sometimes called it, "the Mount of Oil" because of the olive oil, which was made out of the olives that grew upon the trees. It is said, that in an old edition of the Latin version of this text it is called "the Mountain of Three Lights"; and this reason is given for it, “because on the west side it was enlightened in the night by the continual fire of the altar in the temple; and on the east side it had the first beams of the sun before the city was enlightened with them; and it produced plenty of olives, by which the light is maintained in the lamps.” Josephus relates that in the earthquake in the times of Uzziah, half part of this mountain, which was to the west, was divided from it, and was rolled four furlongs to the eastern part of it, so that the ways and king's gardens were stopped up.

The part of the mountain from which Christ ascended was on the eastern slope, where the little village of Bethany stood—“And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage (Bethany), unto the Mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples” (Matt 21:1; KJV). Jesus often spent the night there in the home of Lazarus (whom He raised from the dead), Mary, and Martha. Jesus’ suffering began there—“And he came out, and went, as he was wont, to the mount of Olives; and his disciples also followed him” (Luke 22:39; KJV); it was where Judas kissed Him, He was arrested, and from there He was taken to Herod’s palace.

which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day's journey.
“A Sabbath-day's journey” was as far as a Jew could lawfully travel on the Sabbath. This was 2,000 paces or cubits, or seven and a half furlongs—not quite one mile. Actually, the total distance they could travel was 2 miles, since they must return home. The distance of a lawful journey on the Sabbath was not set by the laws of Moses, but the Jewish teachers had fixed it at 2,000 paces. This measure was determined by a tradition that goes back to the wilderness wanderings that states, that in the camp of the Israelites, no part of the camp could be more than 2000 paces from the tabernacle, and therefore, they were permitted to travel 2000 paces for worship. Perhaps, there is some connection of “A Sabbath-day's journey” with the fact that this was the extent of the suburbs of the Levitical cities—“And ye shall measure from without the city on the east side two thousand cubits, and on the south side two thousand cubits, and on the west side two thousand cubits, and on the north side two thousand cubits; and the city shall be in the midst: this shall be to them the suburbs of the cities” (Num 35:5; KJV). Mount Olivet was only 5 furlongs (approximately 3300 feet) from Jerusalem, and Bethany was 15 furlongs (about 9900 feet)—“Now Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off” (John 11:18; KJV). But on the eastern slope of the mountain, the tract of land was called, for a considerable area, the region of Bethany; and it was from this place that the Lord Jesus ascended.


13 And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James.

And when they were come in,
“And when they went into” the city of Jerusalem, and into a house in that city; but we are not told whose house it was. Some think it was the house of John the Evangelist, and where he had taken Mary the mother of our Lord—“Then He said to the disciple, "Behold your mother!" And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home” (John 19:27; NKJV)—which does not seem unreasonable. Others say that it was the house of Mary, the mother of John Mark, where the disciples met for prayer when Peter was put into prison—“So, when he had considered this, he came to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose surname was Mark, where many were gathered together praying” (Acts 12:12; NKJV). And then there were those that were of the opinion that it was the house of Simon the leper; but his house was not in Jerusalem, but in Bethany—“And when Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper” (Matt 26:6; NKJV). Yet others have thought it was the house of Nicodemus, or of Joseph of Arimathea; but after all it seems most likely, that it was not a private house, at all; but the temple into which the disciples immediately went, and where they continued—“So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart” (Acts 2:46; NKJV). As I said, there is no way we can know where they stayed, but that in not what is important; what’s important is that they were obedient to the Lord’s command and stayed in Jerusalem while they waited for the Holy Spirit to come to them. There they were in the midst of their enemies, but it seems that even though immediately after Christ's resurrection they were watched, and lived in fear of the Jews, but after their return to Jerusalem, they dropped off the Jew’s radar, and no further search was made for them. God can find hiding-places for his people in the midst of their enemies.

they went up into an upper room,
This was either a room in the temple, or in the house of one of the disciples, where the disciples had met before. In Luke 24:53, it is said that, after their return from Mount Olivet, they were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God: it is probable, therefore, that the upper room mentioned in this verse is an apartment within the temple. But still, we cannot say where it was with certainty, although we have ample proof that the upper rooms in private houses were used for the purpose of reading the law, and consulting together on religious matters. Add to this, that the room mentioned here seems to have been the place where all the apostles lodged, and therefore was probably a private residence. Tradition says it was the place where the Last Supper was held, and that it was in the home of Mary, the sister of Barnabas and mother of John Mark.

At the time of the Ascension, an upper room was a part of almost every house, especially in Jerusalem; and the disciples probably selected one where they might be together, and, at the same time, so ordinary that they might be safe from the Jews. The expression used in Luke 24:53, “They were continually in the temple,” means nothing more than that this was a frequent or customary activity; they were always in the temple at the usual times for devotions, or they were in the habit of going there.

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