Acts and Mission 2

StLuke.jpgThat opening sketch in Acts (1:1-11) is wide-ranging and cosmic in its theology. We return to earth with the next scene: the earliest followers of Jesus are gathered for prayer (1:12-14):

Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city. When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.

Luke tells us a few things that are very important here about mission and about what God was doing in that earliest community:

First, there is an apostolic core to the gospel mission of Acts. This list is the same, apart from some order difference, as that found in Luke 6:14-16. Here John jumps ahead of Andrew.

Second, there is a family at the core of the earliest mission-oriented community: We have Mary and the brothers of Jesus. That the brothers are present stands in relief to John’s Gospel where the brothers don’t believe and with John 19 where Jesus hands over Mary to John and not to any of his brothers. Perhaps the best explanation is that the brothers came to faith as a result of the resurrection.

Third, the community speaks of reconciliation: the apostles, including Peter who had denied Jesus, and the brothers, who were not believers for some time, were all in one family now. Women and men together. An emphasis here is that they are “together.”

Finally, the community is at work in prayer. This is their constant activity — we don’t know what they prayed for but we do know they were given discernment (next passage) and empowerment.

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  • It might be interesting to ask how people envision that prayer of the apostles in a room in Jerusalem.
    There was a time, in my early training, when I pictured an evangelical Christian sort of prayer circle with spontaneous prayer, lots of eyes closed, hands folded, and people nodding.
    These same apostles had already participated in synagogue prayer on their own and with Jesus (Kaddish, Shema, Amidah) and Temple worship with its use of Psalms and liturgy.
    I wonder how many people think of the Upper Room as an impromptu synagogue and if this picture would be deemed accurate by you (Scot). And does this make any difference as we perceive Acts?

  • Georges Boujakly

    It is also interesting that the gathered apostles were still mindful of their Jewish Practices. A Sabbath Day’s journey (under a mile in distance) is what was permitted! Mission is mindful of tradition? Finally the people of God are going to be a light unto the nations.
    Jaroslav Pelikan (Brazos commentary on Acts) makes a big deal of the 40 day gospel of the kingdom in Acts 1. Jesus preaching the kingdom after the resurrection just as before the resurrection. Continuity of the mission of Jesus. The mission is his. we get to be in on it.