May 20, 2013
Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles
By: Tom Lowe
Topic #I: Introduction to the Beginning of the Church, Acts 1.1-1.26
 Subtopic B. The Lord Re-Establishes 12 Apostles (1:12-26)                   
      


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.

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

Where abode means “where they were remaining” or “where they did abide.”  This does not imply that this was their permanent habitation; but that they remained there waiting for the descent of the Holy Spirit

All the apostles which Jesus had chosen were there, except Judas (See Luke 6:13-16 and Matthew 10.2-4). Their names are given to confirm their presence.

Where abode both Peter, and James, and John. These were the three favorite disciples of Christ, and they are often mentioned together, and listed first, as they are here.

and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew. The Syriac and Ethiopic versions put Matthew before Bartholomew.

James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas, the brother of James. All the apostles are mentioned here, except Judas the betrayer, who was dead, to show, that though one had doubted the resurrection of Christ, another had denied him, and all of them had deserted him, and fled; but in spite of that they were together again, and were resolved and unwavering in their faith in Christ, and they were waiting for the outpouring of the Spirit.

Simon Zelotes is not a member of the "Zealot" party, which was a revolutionary party called by that name in 66 A.D., since Acts was written before that name was used in that way. If one really wishes to know what "Zealot," as applied to Simon, actually means, he does not need to search any further than the word of the Lord. In both Mark 3:19 and Matthew 10:4, this apostle is called "The Canaanite"; and "Canaanite” represents the Hebrew and Aramaic words for Zealot, which is of Greek origin. Therefore, Simon's native title, "Canaanite," translates "Zealot" in Greek, the language in which Luke was writing; and since he was a Gentile, Luke did not bother to use the old Aramaic form like Matthew and Mark did. People who wish to make a revolutionary out of one of the Lord's apostles will have to find some other means of doing so!

Their unity of the disciples should be mentioned, because when we saw the disciples in the gospels, it seemed like they were always fighting and bickering. What had changed? Peter still had the history of denying the Lord; Matthew was still a tax collector. Their differences were still there, but now the resurrected Jesus was in their hearts and His presence was greater than any difference.

The list of the Twelve is given four times in the New Testament, in Matthew 10; Mark 3; Luke 6, and here. This list is like the others in that Peter, Philip, and James are recorded first in three groups of four each, of course, the name of Judas has been deleted here. The mention of the apostles by name stresses that the Twelve (Luke would immediately record the replacement of Judas by Matthias) were on hand in Jerusalem, as Jesus commanded, waiting for the promise of the Father.

14 These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.

These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication,
“All” refers to more than “the twelve;” how many more is unknown, but to make up the hundred and twenty spoken of—“And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples (altogether the number of names was about a hundred and twenty)”—we may presume that all or most of the seventy disciples were with them, and that were associates of the apostles, and were employed as evangelists.

The word “continued” stands for “persevering and constant attention.” Their main business was devotion—“but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word." (Acts 6:4; NKJV) (also See Romans 13.6 and Colossians 4.2).

“With one accord” means “with one mind.” It indicates the complete harmony of their views and feelings. There were no schisms, no divided interests, and no inharmonious purposes. This is a beautiful picture of devotion, and an example of what social worship ought to be now, and a beautiful illustration of Psalm 133:1-3—“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments; As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the LORD commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.”

“In prayer and supplication”—these words are nearly synonymous, and are often interchanged. Prayer may simply imply any communication made to God, in the form of an appeal or request; supplication refers to the sincere, affectionate, and continued plea to God for the blessing requested from him by prayer. Prayer asks, supplication plead, urges and re-urges the request. Here they express petitions made to God for blessings, and prayer to avert imminent troubles.

with the women,
These are the women that had followed the Lord Jesus from Galilee and had probably witnessed the resurrection—“And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils, And Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod's steward, and Susanna, and many others, which ministered unto him of their substance” (Luke 8:2-3; KJV). (Also see Luke 8:2-3, Luke 8:23, Luke 8:49, Luke 8:55; Luke 24:10; Matthew 27:55.) The women mentioned are Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, the mother of Zebedee‘s children, Joanna the wife of Chuza, and Susanna. Besides these, there were others whose names are not mentioned. Most of them were relatives of the apostles or of the Savior; and it is not unlikely that some of them were wives of the apostles. Peter and some of the other apostles are known to have been married (See Matthew 8:14), and their wives traveled with them—“Do we have no right to take along a believing wife, as do also the other apostles, the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas?” (1 Cor 9:5; NKJV).

and Mary the mother of Jesus,
Mary, the mother of Jesus, is mentioned, showing that she has cast her lot with the apostles. She was entrusted to the care of John as they stood beneath the cross—“When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home” (John 19:26-27; KJV). She had no other home. This is the last time that any mention is made of her in the scriptures.

and with his brethren.
The brethren of our Lord are his kinsmen according to the flesh (his brothers). The brothers of Jesus were James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas (See Matthew 13:55); and from the fact of their being mentioned apart from the apostles, it is clear that those apostles bearing some of these same names were not brothers of the Lord. As maintained throughout this series of commentaries, these brethren were the literal half-brothers of our Lord, being sons of Mary born after the birth of Jesus. At first they did not believe in Him (See John 7:5); but it seems that they had been converted at some point.

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