All JOINED TOGETHER CONSTANTLY IN PRAYER
Acts 1:9-26 Key Verse: 14
“They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.”
Through the opening of Acts, we were amazed by the Risen Jesus who gave the World Mission Command to his self-centered disciples before his ascension into heaven; “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (8)This command set the direction for the Acts of the Apostles. This is also the direction for the task of Christians in every age.
How? Firstly the witness to Jesus is at home–in Jerusalem. This means that the witness is not only a witness of words; it must be a witness of changed lives. Among those who know us, a changed life is the best testimony. For the Apostles, to witness to the risen Jesus in Jerusalem was dangerous. They would be testifying to the very people who had crucified him. They must do this with the spirit of martyrdom. This is why they must wait for the Holy Spirit. He would come with power to change cowards into men of courage; slaves of passion and pride into holy men of God.
Acts chapter 1-7 records the witness of the Apostles in Jerusalem. It is climaxed by the martyrdom of Stephen in Jerusalem. Acts chapter 8-11 records the witness of the Apostles in Samaria and Judea. The conversion of Paul in Acts 9, and Peter’s encounter with Cornelius in 10-11 are two events that are the forerunners to the task to come and final is the witness to the end of the earth. Most of the apostles traveled. Tradition says that Andrew went to Russia, James to England, Mark to Egypt, John to Turkey, Matthew to India etc. Thank God who blessed us to have two Matthews!
But especially in Acts, the Apostle Paul was the man of the hour. He went to the Gentile world. He went to Asia Minor and then to Europe and to the ends of the earth. Luke’s account of the spread of the Gospel focuses on Paul. Today let us think about what the Risen Jesus did and what his disciples did in Jerusalem, after he had given them the World Mission Command and his promise of the coming of the Holy Spirit.
Part I: The Risen Jesus was taken up into heaven (9-11).
Look at verses 9-10. “After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them.” After Jesus finished speaking to his disciples, he ascended into heaven. The disciples had not yet given him their response about his world mission command. But right after he finished talking about world mission, he simply ascended into heaven. The disciples’ jawbones dropped to the ground in awe. What a great faith Jesus had in his disciples!
Why did Jesus have to ascend back into heaven? In John 14:28 Jesus said to his disciples, “You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’” Jesus had to ascend to his Father so that he might come back again and take his church out of the world to be together with him forever. Jesus’ going away also plants the hope of his 2nd coming in the hearts of his disciples, which enables them to live pure and holy lives in the light of his return. Without the holy fear or knowledge of Jesus’ second coming, people live their lives according to their own mundane desires.
Yet, Jesus’ ascension helped his disciples to live as trustworthy servants: Through expecting his 2nd coming at any moment, they could save themselves from their corrupt generation. As the disciples were watching Jesus ascending back into heaven, suddenly two angels dressed in white, appeared next to them. What did two angels say to the disciples? Look at verse 11; “Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who had been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
Two angles’ words, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking into the sky?” do not sound very respectful, but like a slight rebuke. It was like saying, “You, Galilean country boys! What are you looking at?” After this slight rebuke, the angels planted in them the hope of Jesus’ second coming, implying that they must serve world mission as a matter of first importance, as Jesus had commanded them.
Part II: They all Joined together constantly in prayer (12-14).
After finishing his mission here on earth completely, Jesus ascended into heaven. Jesus had run the race of God’s mission and finished it successfully. Now it was the disciples’ turn to run the race of faith and serve God’s mission. Then, where did the disciples go? Look at verses 12-13. “Then they 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 Alpheus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James.”
In the upstairs room in Jerusalem, what did they do? Look at verse 14: “They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.” Entrusting all the matters in God’s hands and emptying their hearts of all kinds of human affairs and desires, they all joined together constantly in prayer. Yes! After Jesus ascended into heaven, the disciples got down on their knees to earnestly cry out to God in prayer. This is really amazing. In the past they were not spiritual like this; at the night when Jesus was arrested, Jesus asked them to pray for him, but all of them fell asleep.
Even during the last supper, while Jesus was talking about his suffering, death, and resurrection, while Jesus was demonstrating his love for the last time by washing their feet, they were arguing with each other about who was the greatest among themselves. Less than two months ago, they were still worldly and political. But when they were convinced of Jesus’ resurrection, when they accepted Jesus’ world mission command, when they decided to offer their lives for God’s purpose of saving souls throughout the world, suddenly they were changed into powerful and spiritual leaders who prayed constantly in one mind and heart.
How could this happen? How could they have this kind of drastic change? It was because of Jesus’ training for the past three years. Through Jesus’ labor of love in training them for the past three years, everything was prepared in their hearts. Now as they accepted God’s will upon their lives, everything clicked; they knew that they were Jesus’ disciples; God’s chosen people to bring God’s salvation in Jesus to the ends of the earth. Now, in order to carry out this mission properly and to receive the Holy Spirit, they all joined together constantly in prayer.
In this Christian country called America, so many people are actually well prepared by God for His purpose. Through their long church going life, some people ten years or even twenty years of Christian life, they are already well aware of the kingdom of God, God’s world salvation purpose, and their living hope in the kingdom of God; they have the knowledge of God; they know Jesus; they have developed spiritual desire to love God and serve Him. But their understanding still remains in their brain level, not in their heart, only in general level, not in personal level. Why? All because they have not accepted God’s world mission command from their hearts.
Without knowing who they really are, they try to fit into this world by getting a job or building a career only to find that they are misfits of this world. No career or marriage can give them true meaning and fulfillment. In John 21 the disciples, even after meeting the Risen Christ, went back to the world, to their old career of fishing and worked hard, but that night they caught nothing, they were misfits in that area. What they need is just one click – just accept Jesus’ world mission command to be his witnesses. That is the will of God for all Christians, and accepting it will click everything.
Suddenly all these once misfits of the world will turn out as well-prepared spiritual leaders for God’s salvation work. They can join in constant prayer for God’s salvation work. When they do so, they look so awesome. There were 11 apostles, Mary the mother of Jesus, Jesus’ brothers, and other women disciples. They had this joint prayer meeting day after day and more people began to join in this united prayer meeting. Their hearts were fully dedicated to Jesus and his purpose, and they were waiting for the coming of the Holy Spirit to receive power and live as the witnesses of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Part III: They mended the vessel (15-26).
One day, Peter stood up among them and spoke about Judas Iscariot and his betrayal. Look at verses 15-19. “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.” (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 that field in their language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.)
Although they had all 120 people gathered together in one unity to pray, there was one missing from their number. Judas Iscariot committed suicide after he betrayed Jesus. It broke the spiritual vessel of the 12 disciples. The subject of Judas’ betrayal was a very painful topic for them to talk about. Everyone knew what he had done and what had happened to him; how he had received money from the high priests for betraying Jesus, then bought a field. Then, since he could not overcome his guilty conscience for betraying and selling Jesus, he committed suicide in that field and his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out.
Yes! All the followers of Jesus in Jerusalem heard about this. As all the believers were praying after Jesus’ ascension, Judas’ case bothered them a lot in their minds even if no one brought it up publicly. So, in order for them to restore the unity and clear up their hearts from any kind of uncertainty, they needed to tackle this matter decisively. So, Peter, taking leadership among them, stood up and addressed this matter. How? Peter addressed that Judas’ case was not a failure, but it happened according to the Scriptures’ prophecy. Yes! There is no failure in God! Then Peter suggested that another person should take his place of leadership.
Look at verses 20-22. “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.’ 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.” Peter found a bible verse that told them to put Judas behind them. “It is written in the Psalms, ‘May his place be deserted, let there be no one to dwell in it.’” He found another verse that gave them direction. “May another take his place of leadership.”
Yes! It was time for someone to fill up the number of the disciples. Jesus had chosen 12. Perhaps he was thinking about the 12 tribes of Israel. They would be the pillars of the new Israel. The one they chose must be one who is qualified to be a witness of the resurrection. He must be one who has been with them from the beginning. Two men were nominated. Read 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.”
They prayed to God who knows every man’s heart, and then they cast lots. What was the result? Look at verse 26. “Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.” Matthias was chosen to fill Judas’ place. The rank of the Apostles was closed. The vessel was mended. They were ready to receive what God would give them. There was no hint of humanism in their fellowship. There was no discord. They were one in spirit, focused on God’s world mission purpose. In this way, God blessed their united prayer and help them to prepare their hearts for the coming of the Holy Spirit.
*Conclusion: Today we learned that the early Christians began to obey the world mission command with joint prayer. They also asked for the Holy Spirit in joint prayer. Like them, we must join together constantly in prayer. We must listen carefully to God’s word. Even though we are all different in character and in opinion, we must honor the vessel of the Holy Spirit. When we do so, may God bless us to sell our bible house and buy a new building for our church and newly start our ministry from this year! When we do so, may God make America a kingdom of priests and a holy nation and to spread the gospel of Jesus to the ends of the earth! Amen!