Acts 1:12-26 (spring, AD 30)
“Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem…they went upstairs to the room where they were [all] staying…They all joined constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers” (1:12-14)
So much was going on for the disciples (now termed ‘apostles’ as Jesus was back in heaven). Their best friend, the great man from God, had died. Then he rose from the dead and they realised he had been God himself, all along. They saw him several more times over the next six weeks before he went back to heaven, right in front of them.
They obeyed Jesus in making a remarkable decision that would shape the rest of human history. Jesus told them to go back to Jerusalem, which was the epicenter of opposition to Jesus (and to them) – to wait for the promised Holy Spirit. None of them were from Jerusalem, and they were poor, so they didn’t have their own place to stay. They were packed into a single room, where they…
…”joined constantly in prayer”…(v.14)
What could have driven them to constant prayer? Anxiety over the future, the probability of persecution, the promise of Holy Spirit and the massive task Jesus had given them of taking the gospel around the world. And for their wives, the additional worry about whether they would lose their husbands to persecution. That fear was ultimately well-founded, as ten out of eleven of them were murdered, and the other spend time in exile.
The fact that the apostles’ wives, Jesus’ other female disciples and Jesus’ mother were there is worthy of note. The women-as-equal-with-men, counter-cultural side of following Jesus was birthing.
Equally remarkably, for different reasons, Jesus’ biological brothers were there: James, Joseph, Simon and Judas (i.e. Jude). These were the men whose prior attitude to Jesus was summed up by John’s words: “even his own brothers did not believe in him” (John 7:5). But they too had changed, they now understood the truth, and James became a leader in the early church while Jude wrote a letter that became part of Scripture.
Whatever the previous failures of faith and understanding common to the disciples and Jesus’ bio-brothers had become irrelevant. What was important was that they now knew who Jesus was, and how important obedience, the Holy Spirit, and the spread of the gospel was. They recognised all of that had to be undergirded by a close relationship with God, making prayer crucial.
You too, if you are a Christian, have a mandate to take the gospel to the whole world.
You too, will face opposition whenever and wherever you stand up for truth and Jesus.
You too, need Holy Spirit to guide and strengthen you.
You too, face the struggle to obey through inconvenience, competing desires and the urge to be comfortable.
You too, therefore, need to be “constantly in prayer”.
Some people suggest that the different accounts of Judas Iscariot’s death in Matthew and Acts are proof of contradiction.
Matthew said that Judas hanged himself and the Sanhedrin bought the field (Matthew 27:1-10).
Luke, here in Acts said that “Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out” (v.18).
So which is right? Who bought the field? How did he die?
Scripture doesn’t reconcile it for us (those are details that we don’t need), but it’s not hard to see how the two stories fit. The most obvious explanation, to me, is that Judas bought the field and hung himself from a reasonably high branch in a tree. When he hung himself, the rope (either before or after death) broke, and he or his dead body fell, bursting it open. After that, the Sanhedrin purchased the field.