Scenes From the History of the Early Christians

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A. D. 30.—The Upper Chamber at Jerusalem.
ON a summer day of the year, which Rome, then the mistress of the world, reckoned the seven hundred and eighty-third from her foundation, a company was assembled in a large upper room in one of the streets of the city of Jerusalem. Of that company, probably, neither Jew nor Roman, had they known of its existence, would have taken much account.
Those who were thus assembled were poor and simple people; the chief among them being a few Galilean fishermen and peasants, who had been known as the followers of Jesus, the son of Joseph, the carpenter of Nazareth. There were doubtless among the dwellers in the ancient city some who remembered that mysterious darkness which had fallen like a pall upon the whole land at the time when that same Jesus, whom they had seen led along the streets to die between two malefactors, hung upon the cross set up on Golgotha, in anguish and in death. For there were many who had come together to that sight, and who, "beholding the things that were done, smote their breasts, and returned," overwhelmed, it may be, with the conviction that He who had been among them in infinite grace and goodness was in very truth, as He had declared Himself to be, Son of God. But the tide of life flowed on—the memory of that day had grown less distinct, and men's thoughts had learned to run again in the old channels of everyday cares and interests, almost as if no such scene had ever taken place outside their city walls.
With those within that upper room it was far otherwise. To them, the apostles and disciples of this same Jesus, He was everything—
Their subject, and their object, and their hope.
They were "His own which were in the world"; orphaned indeed of His presence now, but still those of whom their Master had said, "Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am; that they may behold My glory which Thou hast given Me: for Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world.”
Could the eleven apostles—whose names we read in the first chapter of the Acts—forget that they were those who had been chosen by their Lord—those who had been called from their boats or their money tables to follow Him? Had He not bound them to each other in a strong bond of fellowship during those two years when He "went in and out among" them, drawing them ever closer to Himself by each well-remembered word of grace, and act of love? Were they not those to whom their now ascended Lord had shown Himself alive after His passion, those with whom He had eaten and drunk after He had risen from the dead?
As we read the names of those men of Galilee, we cannot but remember how each had a history, and how to each there was a point of time to which he could look back as the moment when he had been first in the presence of the Master, and when he himself had heard deep in his heart the call to follow Him. To Peter and James, John and Andrew, Christ's call to leave their nets and come after Him, for He would make them to become fishers of men, had come three years before, as Jesus was walking by the sea of Galilee. John and Andrew could remember an earlier day, when, hearing the words of the Baptist, "Behold the Lamb of God," they had followed Jesus. Simon could remember how his brother Andrew found him, and brought him to Jesus to receive his new name of Peter the Rock. And Philip, of Bethsaida, could call to mind how he had been found by Jesus the day after, and had been bidden to follow Him. Thomas was in the company; and Bartholomew was also among the number, that "Nathanael of Cana of Galilee" who had once asked, "Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?" and who had exclaimed, all his doubt dispelled by the presence of Jesus, "Thou art the Son of God; Thou art the King of Israel I" Matthew "the publican," as he calls himself, was there too; the same Levi to whom the word of Christ had come as he sat at the receipt of custom at Capernaum. James and Jude, kinsmen according to the flesh of Jesus who had taught them to own Him as Master and Lord, and that other Simon, whose surname Zelotes showed that he had once belonged to a band of patriots who had striven to shake off the Roman rule, were also among the number of the company in the upper room.
Each had his own precious consciousness of what his Master and Lord had been to him personally, but to none of those whom Christ called His "friends" could the past years of companionship with their Lord be more rich in memories of His blessed words and ways than to Peter and the two brothers to whom, from their burning, impetuous spirit, He had given the name "sons of thunder." They had been with Him in the death-chamber, when He called back to life the little daughter of Jairus; with Him, too, upon the holy mount, when, at His transfiguration, the voice from the excellent glory said, "This is My beloved Son; hear Him"; they had been with Him amid the shades of Gethsemane, "sleeping for sorrow," while He, "being in an agony, prayed more earnestly." One of the three, moreover—the beloved John—had "stood by the cross of Jesus," and could yet bear record of what he saw there.
Companionship with Him, who had chosen them out of the world, had been for all alike, the training for the work to which He called them. For two years they had traveled with Him from village to village throughout Galilee. He had designated them apostles— sent ones— and thus they had gone forth, two and two, with power to heal diseases, and to preach the kingdom of God. He had borne with all their ignorance; often, too, with their selfishness—for they were men of like passions with us. He had patiently taught them, showing them plainly of God His Father; for the Son of God was, in word and act, the Revealer of the Father, and He said, "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father." Everywhere they had seen Him bringing help and cure, as they stood around Him while He healed the sick, raised the dead, cast out the devils by His word, and fed the hungry multitudes. To them He had ever been their unfailing Refuge and Succor—rising to rebuke the tempest, coming to them walking upon the sea, leading them into a lonely place to "rest awhile." And we can imagine with what awe-struck surprise they had listened as, upon the road going up to Jerusalem, He began to teach them that "the Son of Man must suffer many things." The Messiah, the One "born King of the Jews," to whom they fondly clung, not only as their Master and Lord, but as the One who should "restore again the kingdom to Israel," had told them that He must "give His life a ransom for many,"—must be "lifted up" that He might draw all unto Him—must "be killed, and the third day rise again.”
Now all that He had said concerning His death had been fulfilled. His cross was over. The risen Lord had appeared to seven of His disciples on the Sea of Galilee, and then to more than five hundred at once. On the fortieth day after His resurrection, He had led His apostles out as far as to Bethany, and, in the act of blessing them, He had been parted from them, and carried up into heaven. In obedience to His last command, bidding them tarry in the city until they should be endued with power from on high, we find them, at the time of which we speak, assembled in Jerusalem, to the number of one hundred and twenty, "continuing with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brethren.”
While they were thus waiting, Peter, after recounting the terrible history of Judas, who had been numbered with the twelve, and had obtained part of their ministry, reminded the disciples that the traitor, by being "guide to them that took Jesus," had fulfilled the Scripture, and then brought before them the word from the 109th Psalm, "Let another take his office." "One," he said, "of these men who have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, must be ordained to be a witness with us of His resurrection." Two of those who had known the Lord Jesus in His life on earth, and who could testify of His resurrection and ascension, were set apart, and after the prayer, " Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, show whether of these: two Thou hast chosen," they gave forth their lots, and the lot falling upon Matthias, he was numbered with the eleven apostles. The number of witnesses was complete, but the word of Christ was as yet unfulfilled: "Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you." For this power they were still waiting; "the promise of the Father" had not yet come.