Then returned they to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day's journey.…
This passage refers to the most interesting period in the history of the Church, the results of which will be felt to all eternity. In one point of view the infant Church was in a bereaved condition. Still their glorified Lord had given to them words of promise which inspired them with the confident expectation of coming glory. And never was there a more interesting congregation. No Jewish ruler, no Rabbi, no Roman senator was there. It was a select and happy group of holy men and women, who had met for the most important purpose, to agonise in prayer. They were not acting under a momentary impulse; nor as the result of a transient excitement, but under the influence of that deep personal piety that needs no other impulse but what is supplied by a sense of duty, or by its own spontaneous energy.
I. THE FEATURES BY WHICH THEY WERE DISTINGUISHED.
1. They contemplated the attainment of a special object. The Saviour's promise, so far from inducing indifference, awoke attention, urged to duty, and gave a specific character to prayer. During the greater part of the Saviour's ministry they seem to have known little of the doctrine of Divine influence. But at its close the Lord dwelt mainly upon this fundamental truth; and now the doctrine inspired their hopes, warmed their hearts, and must have formed the subject of their prayerful appeal to heaven. This blessing is as important for us as for them, The doctrine of Divine influence is admitted as an article of our faith, but it fails to exert the amount of influence over us which its importance demands. Yet, upon the prayers of the Church is made to depend the bestowment of the Spirit in any enlarged degree. And what else can secure the salvation of the perishing? or warm the hearts of slumbering saints? or reclaim the backslider from his wanderings? or correct the existing errors of the Church?
2. The prayers were presented in concert and union. The place was humble, but it served the purpose. It was not enough that that each one separately should have been endued with the spirit of prayer. Religion is social. Like gravitation, its tendency is to bring its recipients into contact; and the wants of the Church make it necessary for its members to meet that they may blend their affections and unite in service.
3. These devotional exercises were continuous and persevering. The disciples laid aside for several days their ordinary occupations and gave themselves to the uninterrupted pursuit of spiritual things. This course was as true to philosophy as it was consistent with religion. It is by oft-repeated strokes that the artisan produces the desired impression on the metal; and that the heart may be subdued and elevated, it must be brought into continuous contact with spiritual realities. It is partly on such grounds that extraordinary religious services may be adopted and justified. A state of things may exist in a Church such as to call for some special effort. It may have lost its first love, and the things that remain may be ready to die. All ordinary effort to revive its piety seems to be in vain. It may be necessary, therefore, to resort to, extraordinary measures and give ourselves to special prayer.
4. These exercises must have been marked by fervency and sustained by faith and hope.
II. THE INFLUENCE AND RESULTS BY WHICH THESE DEVOTIONAL EXERCISES WOULD DE ATTENDED.
1. They would improve personal piety. That indeed had progressed considerably. Still, in point of depth, comprehensiveness, and power, it was susceptible of improvement. And if the first disciples needed an improvement in spiritual character, how much more we? What, then, shall accomplish it? United, as well as private prayer.
2. They would prepare the disciples to receive the promised effusion of the Spirit, and for their future vocation. A fixed rule in the Divine government is that the minds of men must be prepared by a suitable course of discipline for the reception of any special token of the favour of God. Isaiah was not called to witness before the live coal from the altar touched his lips. Moses was instructed by immediate communion with the Most High, preparatory to his mission. Would you be endued with power from on high and win souls to Christ? Then pray in unison.
3. They sustained an intimate relation to the events of the day of Pentecost. May they not be regarded as a most gracious answer to the prayers of the suppliant Church?
(W. A. Hurndall.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day's journey.