Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, a distance of half a mile. When they arrived, they went to the upstairs room of the house where they were staying. Here are the names of those who were present: Peter, John, James, Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, James (son of Alphaeus), Simon (the Zealot), and Judas (son of James). They all met together and were constantly united in prayer, along with Mary the mother of Jesus, several other women, and the brothers of Jesus.Acts 1:12-14
After these things Jesus manifested Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and He manifested Himself in this way. Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. Simon Peter *said to them, “I am going fishing.” They *said to him, “We will also come with you.” They went out and got into the boat; and that night they caught nothing. But when the day was now breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.John 21:1-4
Compare these two reactions. It is curious that the disciples end up in Galilee again after the resurrection. The Sea of Galilee is also called Lake Tiberias, in this case Sea of Tiberias. I will not spend time and space discussing the differences because I don’t think there is anything to be gained by it. Suffice to say, Jesus appears to the disciples who are now back up north in the Galilee area. Notice there is no reference in Scripture as to how they got there. Rather, it seems Jesus knew they were there and appears to them there. I have examined the passage before when I compared the two accounts of fishing (Gems 119 and 120). What stands out about this story from John, is why the disciples were there in the first place. All other appearances post resurrection were in and around Jerusalem. Then suddenly we have this story set in Galilee. What motivated the disciples to head up to Galilee? I wonder if it is not a case of when you are severely troubled or at a loss to know what to do, you return to automatic mode. Peter decides he is going to go back to his roots, his trade. The others say, “We will come with you”.
When we compare John’s account with that of Luke’s after the ascension, we have a totally different story. Jesus has just departed from them in a pretty spectacular way. He has made it clear this departure is going to be for a while. Oh yes, the comment in John 16 was “for a little while” but it is also clear that a new era has been ushered in and now they have been told to wait for the Spirit. Well, they actually knew that was the case before they headed off to Galilee. On this occasion however, their reaction is different. This would have been the classic moment to get down and depressed and mourn together over the loss of Jesus. Oh, I don’t mean mourning HIs death. It is clear that He is not dead; that fact has been proved to them over and over again. He may not be dead but He is no longer WITH THEM. The nature of His departure has made it abundantly clear that He has gone back to heaven. This would be the moment to consider going fishing in Galilee, BUT THEY DON’T. Instead they go back down the road half a mile (0.8 kms). When they arrived back in the city from the Mount of Olives on the outskirts of Jerusalem, they went straight to where they had been staying. Clearly from the wording “where they were staying,” they had been using the Upper Room as a base while they were in Jerusalem. It may well have been natural to go back to get their belongings and then leave. Especially with the natural question in their mind, “What do we do now that the Master has gone?” At this point in time they are facing major decisions as to what to do.
All eleven of the disciples are together, not one is missing, as had been the case over the previous days. Every single one of the band is present with the exception of Judas Iscariot. In addition to The Eleven is Mary, mother of Jesus (this is the last time she is mentioned in the New Testament) and several other women (we can almost figure out who these other women are) and Jesus’ brothers. We are told in Matt 13:55-56 about Jesus siblings. The brothers are named as James, Joseph, Simon and Judas but we are not told the names of His sisters. Were they present too among the women who were present? We don’t know but it was likely. It seems this collection of people from all walks of life are hanging on and staying together. There is no hint of going back to life as usual after what they have experienced. Uppermost in their minds must have been Jesus parting words to them, to wait in Jerusalem for the promised Holy Spirit. They were prepared to do just that. They had received the Holy Spirit on an earlier occasion in the Upper Room when Jesus had breathed on them and told them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” (John 20:22) But there is much debate about this as the Holy Spirit had not yet been poured out. How and when does the Spirit come? This will be an on-going question for us through the Book of Acts.
The segment before us today is interesting in the use or non-use of the definite article “the”. In John 20:22 there is no “the” present in the Greek text. Literally the reading is, “Receive Holy Spirit”. However in Acts 1:14, curiously “the” is present in the reading “constantly united in the prayer” (LITV). Most versions miss out the definite article in order to allow the English to flow more naturally. The underlying question is why “the” is omitted in John 20:22 and yet present in Acts 1:14? F. F. Bruce feels the definite article refers to “the service of prayer” or the act of praying. Robertson feels it indicates they stuck to “the task of praying” or the idea of the inception of the beginnings of Christian prayer as an ordinance or ongoing state. Some even think it indicates “the place of prayer” or the synagogue. I don’t think that is the case, as we have been told specifically they headed back to the Upper Room and there they remained in an attitude of prayer until Holy Spirit came upon them. There is much to sort out about the nature and details of how The Holy Spirit (or Holy Spirit) comes upon a person from the Book of Acts. We have just touched the issue at the moment.
Suffice to say at this point that the disciples, the women and Jesus brothers (siblings) are intent and intentional enough to stay there in the Upper Room and wait for the outpouring of the Spirit. But it appears also that this was not “an all night prayer” lasting days. There was time for other things during the time as we shall see in the next Gems. I am fully aware that leaves you with unanswered questions. That is par for the course; knowing Greek and Hebrew does not answer all your questions. In fact, in places where reading the English translations doesn’t spark questions, if I read the Greek it leaves me with questions. We need to hold the questions and put them on the back burner until it is time for them to be answered.
The point of this passage is: the people present were intentional in praying and waiting for the coming of the Holy Spirit. When they could so easily have abandoned the quest and just returned to business as usual now that Jesus had gone, rather they stayed together in the Upper Room where they had been staying and waited for what Jesus had promised. I have many practical, application questions I would like to leave you with now but I will simply leave you in His presence. Allow the Holy Spirit to prompt you with questions and guide you into all truth.
Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.A. C. Doyle
But if I cast out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.Jesus
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power. Paul of Tarsus1 Corinthians 4:20
Do not leave Jerusalem but wait for the gift my Father promised . . . in a few days you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.Acts 1:4-5