It is in verse 12 that Luke’s account of the time between the ascension of Jesus into heaven and the day of Pentecost seems to confuse a great many people. It begins with the apostles returning to Jerusalem after Jesus has gone from the mount called Olivet. The text says that it was a “Sabbath day’s journey.” According to rabbinic law, Jews were prohibited from walking anywhere that was beyond what would amount to a little more than a half mile. The generally accepted length of this Pharisaic law is about 2000 cubits. A more important point at this juncture is that from the day of Jesus’ ascension to heaven until the Day of Pentecost (next chapter) is 10 days. File that away for now.
Back in Jerusalem in verse 13, the apostles went up to the upper room, where they were staying. The text then names them – all eleven of the remaining apostles. Eleven apostles staying in one upper room. A little crowded perhaps, but not overwhelmingly so, especially for the times. The next verse tells of how they were “with one accord devoting themselves to prayer together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus and his brothers.”
Uncannily, some scholars have taken that to mean that all of those women, as well as Jesus’ mother and brothers were staying in that room as well! We find that utterly preposterous. Forgetting the impropriety of such an arrangement in the first place, this upper room was not a high school gymnasium, after all! It would have been cramped for just the eleven. They were staying there, but naturally they would not spend all of their time in that room. Jesus hadn’t commanded them not to leave their room. No, the verse was not saying they were doing all of those things in that small room. Luke is merely describing how they spent their days while waiting for this “power” from the Holy Spirit.
Then, in verse 15, Luke says “In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120)…” Even more incredibly, many scholars even place the entire 120 of them inside that upper room! One has to wonder just what sort of upper room these people are imagining – not to mention, just what sort of building! The term translated “in those days” merely means that the action being spoken of occurred during the time period contextually. So we are not talking about the apostles coming back from Olivet, doing some praying, and then Peter getting up to make a speech all in the same room and on the same day.
At this point, one might ask, “so what?” Indeed, why is any of this important? It will become quite important when we begin chapter 2 next week, and we will refer back to this. For now, it is enough to realize that the apostles were not sharing that upper room with half of a village, nor were they spending all of their time every day there for 10 days. It was a place to sleep and/or eat.
(This year’s reading plan for Luke, Acts, and 1 and 2 Chronicles averages just 15 verses per day – 5 days per week!)
Schedule for this week
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from Acts here
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from 2 Chronicles here
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility. When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.