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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 12–14
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Verses 12–14

We are here told, I. Whence Christ ascended—from the mount of Olives (Acts 1:12), from that part of it where the town of Bethany stood, Luke 24:50. There he began his sufferings (Luke 22:39), and therefore there he rolled away the reproach of them by his glorious ascension, and thus showed that his passion and his ascension had the same reference and tendency. Thus would he enter upon his kingdom in the sight of Jerusalem, and of those undutiful ungrateful citizens of his that would not have him to reign over them. It was prophesied of him (Zech. 14:4), That his feet should stand upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem, should stand last there; and presently it follows, The mount of Olives shall cleave in two. From the mount of Olives he ascended who is the good olive-tree, whence we receive the unction, Zech. 4:12; Rom. 11:24. This mount is here said to be near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey from it, that is, a little way; no further than devout people used to walk out on a sabbath evening, after the public worship was over, for meditation. Some reckon it a thousand paces, others two thousand cubits; some seven furlongs, others eight. Bethany indeed was fifteen furlongs from Jerusalem (John 11:18), but that part of the mount of Olives which was next to Jerusalem, whence Christ began to ride in triumph, was but seven or eight furlongs off. The Chaldee paraphrast on Ruth 1 says, We are commanded to keep the sabbaths and the holy days, so as not to go above two thousand cubits, which they build upon Josh. 3:4; where, in their march through Jordan, the space between them and the ark was to be two thousand cubits. God had not then thus limited them, but they limited themselves; and thus far it is a rule to us, not to journey on the sabbath any more than in order to the sabbath work; and as far as is necessary to this we are not only allowed, but enjoined, 2 Kgs. 4:23.

II. Whither the disciples returned: They came to Jerusalem, according to their Master’s appointment, though there they were in the midst of enemies; but it should seem that though immediately after Christ’s resurrection they were watched, and were in fear of the Jews, yet after it was known that they were gone into Galilee no notice was taken of their return to Jerusalem, nor any further search made for them. God can find out hiding-places for his people in the midst of their enemies, and so influence Saul that he shall not seek for David any more. At Jerusalem they went up into an upper room, and there abode; not that they all lodged and dieted together in one room, but there they assembled every day, and spent time together in religious exercises, in expectation of the descent of the Spirit. Divers conjectures the learned have about this upper room. Some think it was one of the upper rooms in the temple; but it cannot be thought that the chief priests, who had the letting of these rooms, would suffer Christ’s disciples constantly to reside in any of them. It was said indeed, by the same historian, that they were continually in the temple (Luke 24:53), but that was in the courts of the temple, at the hours of prayer, where they could not be hindered from attending; but, it should seem, this upper room was in a private house. Mr. Gregory, of Oxford, is of this opinion, and quotes a Syriac scholiast upon this place, who says that it was the same upper room in which they had eaten the passover; and though that was called anogeon, this hyperoon, both may signify the same. “Whether,” says he, “it was in the house of St. John the evangelist, as Euodius delivered, or that of Mary the mother of John Mark, as others have collected, cannot be certain.” Notes, Acts 13.

III. Who the disciples were, that kept together. The eleven apostles are here named (Acts 1:13), so is Mary the mother of our Lord (Acts 1:14), and it is the last time that ever any mention is made of her in the scriptures. There were others that are here said to be the brethren of our Lord, his kinsmen according to the flesh; and, to make up the hundred and twenty spoken of (Acts 1:15), we may suppose that all or most of the seventy disciples were with them, that were associates with the apostles, and were employed as evangelists.

IV. How they spent their time: They all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication. Observe, 1. They prayed, and made supplication. All God’s people are praying people, and give themselves to prayer. It was now a time of trouble and danger with the disciples of Christ; they were as sheep in the midst of wolves; and, Isa. any afflicted? Let him pray; this will silence cares and fears. They had new work before them, great work, and, before they entered upon it, they were instant in prayer to God for his presence with them in it. Before they were first sent forth Christ spent time in prayer for them, and now they spent time in prayer for themselves. They were waiting for the descent of the Spirit upon them, and therefore abounded thus in prayer. The Spirit descended upon our Saviour when he was praying, Luke 3:21. Those are in the best frame to receive spiritual blessings that are in a praying frame. Christ had promised now shortly to send the Holy Ghost; now this promise was not to supersede prayer, but to quicken and encourage it. God will be enquired of for promised mercies, and the nearer the performance seems to be the more earnest we should be in prayer for it. 2. They continued in prayer, spent much time in it, more than ordinary, prayed frequently, and were long in prayer. They never missed an hour of prayer; they resolved to persevere herein till the Holy Ghost came, according to the promise, to pray, and not to faint. It is said (Luke 24:53), They were praising and blessing God; here, They continued in prayer and supplication; for as praise for the promise is a decent way of begging for the performance, and praise for former mercy of begging further mercy, so, in seeking to God, we give him the glory of the mercy and grace which we have found in him. 3. They did this with one accord. This intimates that they were together in holy love, and that there was no quarrel nor discord among them; and those who so keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace are best prepared to receive the comforts of the Holy Ghost. It also intimates their worthy concurrence in the supplications that were made; though but one spoke, they all prayed, and if, when two agree to ask, it shall be done for them, much more when many agree in the same petition. See Matt. 18:19.