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JOINING IN PRAYER

Acts 1:12-1:26
Key Verse: 1:14

In the last lesson Jesus gave his disciples many convincing proof of his resurrection and spoke about the kingdom of God for quite a long time. His ascension was a historical fact and the same Jesus will come back in the same way he had been taken to heaven. Jesus, who rose again and ascended into heaven gave the wonderful promise of the power of the Holy Spirit. May we really keep the promise in our hearts. Today’s passage is about how the apostles prepared themselves for the coming of the Holy Spirit. They prayed together and influenced Judah in a biblical and godly way.

First, joining in prayer (12-14). After receiving the promise of the Holy and power and seeing Jesus’ ascension they returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives. Jerusalem could have been the last place for them to return because the enemies of Jesus were there all around. But they returned to Jerusalem according to Jesus’ command. It was a Sabbath day’s walk (about 1.1 km) from the city, probably taking around 15 minutes. It is a detailed description, making sure that they indeed returned to the place of Jesus’ designation from the place of his ascension.

When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. In the Bible, the upper room is referred to various historical events. Daniel prayed in the upper room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. There, he prayed on his knees three times a day (Da 6:10). Jesus ate the Last Supper in a certain man’s large upper room (Mk 14:15; Lk 22:12). Peter raised a dead person, Dorcas, in an upper room (9:39,40). When Paul was teaching in an upper room until midnight, a young man, Eutychus, sank into a deep sleep and fell to the ground from the third story. Then Paul raised the dead young man and continued the teaching (20:8,10).

What did they do there? Look at verses 13b-14. “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.” What a beautiful thing it is that they all joined together in prayer in the upstairs room! People can join in doing many things, but joining in prayer can be one of the most beautiful things. Joining together seems to be easy, but we know how difficult it is even for two different people to join together to do something significant. Jesus said in Matthew 18:19, “…I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.” God is pleased and willing to answer, when even two people join together and pray.

Luke, here, before writing about their joining together in prayer, wrote each of the eleven disciples’ names because each and every one of them was so precious and important. Each of them would remain in Christian history. Also, we can grasp that each name was written to show they were different persons. How different they were in their personality and characters! Although there were people with same names, their characters were different. Even there was a man named Simon the Zealot, and Bartholomew identified with Nathaniel, a man of meditation (Jn 1:47,48). In the gospel story they could not get together in peace even with Jesus in their midst. Rather, in their gathering they stared at one another with suspicious eyes to see whether someone got more attention from Jesus. They tried to show off themselves to let others know their greatness. They were often crushed and hurt by each other. Without Jesus there would have been exchanges of punch and nose-bleeding.

Then it is really surprising that they all joined together in prayer this time. Even in the description of the names Luke wrote only their names with no mentioning of physical brotherhood like “Simon, his brother Andrew” (Lk 6:14). It could be an implication that the vessel was a spiritual vessel, a single body in Christ. Each of them accepted Jesus’ command to not leave Jerusalem and his promise of the Holy Spirit and power. In obedience to Jesus’ last word they could overcome their differences and got together to pray. In the author’s writing there is an emphasis of their joining. Luke could have written simply, “They joined in prayer.” Instead, he wrote, “They all joined together…in prayer.” They had one mind and one clear purpose in Jesus. In NASB, “These all with one mind were…devoting themselves to prayer,” and in NKJV, “These all…with one accord in prayer and supplication…” And they did not join in prayer just for one day but constantly, about ten days before the Pentecost. “They all joined together constantly in prayer”, this was their preparation for the coming of the Holy Spirit. God is pleased when his people join in prayer regardless of their differences. Some may say, “We are diverse and have different opinions, so we cannot join in prayer.” But it is a spiritual secret that while praying, different people can have one mind and they can be joined.

There are many beautiful examples of joint prayer. In the Old Testament, when Isaac and Rebekah did not have a child, they did not blame each other. Rather, they joined together in prayer for 20 years. Then God gave them twin sons. Paul and Silas, after working hard for the saving of perishing souls, were bitten and put in prison with their feet fastened in the stocks. In their disheartened and disabled situation their hearts were united and they sang hymns to God and prayed together. Then suddenly there was a violent earthquake and all prison doors flew open and everybody’s chains came loose. They were miraculously set free; even the jailer and all his family were converted. When Peter was kept in prison, the church prayed earnestly to God. Then an angel appeared to him and took him walking with him. When they came to the iron gate leading to the city, it opened for them by itself. As they came out to the street, suddenly the angel left him. It was surely the power of the united prayer of the church (Acts 4:5). We know the historic Normandy Invasion, June 1944, which was the beginning of ending WW2. The invasion was difficult and dangerous because the beaches of Normandy in the north western France had steep cliffs and the weather condition was so bad with dense fogs due to previous night storm. But the leaders of the allied army, United States President Franklin Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, U.S. Army General Dwight D. Eisenhower decided to pray for God’s help for their victory against Adolf Hitler’s Germany. Roosevelt prayed in his office for 17 hours. Then God made the Normandy Invasion succeed. The Cambridge Seven were seven students from Cambridge University, who in 1885, decided to become missionaries in China. At that time few university students became missionaries. But the Cambridge Seven met Jesus in their campus days and studied the Bible and prayed together encouraging one another. Their Bible study and prayer at the campus led them to be great missionaries in China. May God lead our Bible students to learn to join in prayer along with Bible study and grow together for the great work of God. May we all have stronger vessel of prayer to serve God’s purpose in this generation.

Second, Biblical view concerning Judas (15-22). Look at verses 15-17. “In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) and said, ‘Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through the mouth of David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus—he was one of our number and shared in this ministry.” When we think about Peter, he could have been self-conscious and withdrawn into himself because of what he had done, denying Jesus three times. Humanly speaking, he could not stand among the people of God. Before, he always stood up to brag about himself and to impress others. But this time of his standing up was different. He stood up for the sake of God and his people, for the ministry of God. He realized that the Scripture had to be fulfilled concerning Judas so that the work of God should move on in a right way. In the past he acted and spoke up according to his feelings. Now he did according to God’s word. His view of things became biblical and godly. He was like Jesus, who said clearly to his followers and the enemies, “The Scripture must be fulfilled,” when he was arrested (Mt 26:54; Mk 14:49). Even while he was on the cross, the prophecies of the Scriptures were in his mind and he died as the fulfillment of God’s prophecies.

Let’s see his view practically. Look at verses 18-19. “(With the reward he got for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called the field I their language Akeldama, that is, Field of blood.)” This can be one of the most tragic events described in the Bible. Judah bought a field with the money he had gotten through selling Jesus, and there he fell headlong. According to Matthew, he hanged himself (Mt 27:5). Probably, while he was hanging on a tree, the branch of the tree was broken and he fell headlong. His body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. This was a vivid factual description. Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, and in their dismay and disgust they called the field “Field of blood.” How could such a thing happen related to Jesus’ ministry? It seemed to remain as a fatal irrevocable dark spot in the ministry of Jesus. How could this dark tragic impact be overcome? What could be a right view of such an event?

Look at verse 20. “‘For,’ said Peter, ‘it is written in the book of Psalms, “May his place be deserted, let there be no one to dwell in it,” and “May another take his place of leadership.”’” What an insight to see the grotesque event! How could he find such appropriate words of the Bible? Anyway, he found them in the book of Psalms. Peter saw the event in light of God’s word and could have a direction based on the words of the Scripture. This was Peter’s biblical and godly view of the event out of his knowledge and understanding of the Scripture. Most probably, he studied the written words of the Scriptures deeply after the risen Christ opened the minds of his disciples to understand the Scriptures (Lk 24:45). But also we can almost be certain that when they prayed God inspired Peter and let him have such insight and view and direction based on the words of the Scripture the words as the answer to their prayers.

Through seeing Judah’s problem from the Scripture and realizing that the Scripture had to be fulfilled, Peter knew what they had to do. Look at verse 21. “Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.” One person had to be chosen in Judah’s place to be a witness of Jesus’ resurrection along with other apostles. The qualification to be an apostle was to have been with the other apostles the whole time of Jesus’ public ministry. It was very clear that the apostles were the ones who had experienced with Jesus from the beginning to the end of Jesus’ public life. They were eyewitnesses of Jesus. Paul said in Ephesians 2:19-20, “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.” This understanding of Christianity is very important. We are God’s people and members of God’s household built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.

Look at verses 23-25. “So they proposed two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. Then they prayed, ‘Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” Although Jesus ascended to heaven, they called him, saying, “Lord” (cf 7:59,60). They believed that Jesus was with them in the Spirit according to his promise. Acknowledging that he knows everyone’s heart, they prayed to know his choice. They were really seeking for the one whom God chose. In this prayer we can also clearly see their same view of Judas that he left the blessed apostolic ministry to go where he belonged. “Where he belongs” is a terrible place. Humanly speaking, it was hard to say this. But they were very clear: it was Judah himself who chose the way of eternal destruction. There was no sympathy for Judas at this point, which would ruin the purity and harmony of their vessel. Their vessel was spiritual, God-centred, Scriptural and prayer-based.

Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles. The vessel of prayer solved the practical problem and twelve apostles were formed. In this way they prepared for the coming of the Holy Spirit.

May God help us to learn to join in prayer and form the spiritual vessel for the powerful work of God through the Holy Spirit.

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