Have you ever considered the assortment of people who gathered to pray after the ascension of Jesus? After listing the eleven remaining apostles, Luke writes, “They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers” (Acts 1:14). Most lessons I have heard focus on the apostles preparing for the coming of the Holy Spirit by gathering to pray. Some teachers have also noted Mary’s presence. Fewer have mentioned the other women or the brothers of Jesus.
Who were these women? I suspect that they are the women mentioned in Luke chapter 8: “After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary [called Magdalene] from whom seven spirits had come out; Joanna, the wife of Cuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means” (Luke 8:1-3).
The presence of Jesus’ brothers surprises one who also has read in John chapter 7:5 the “even his own brothers did not believe in him.” However, a post-resurrection appearance by Jesus to his brother James that is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15 would have occurred already; James emerges later in Acts as a key leader of the church in Jerusalem. The books of James and Jude in the New Testament commonly are believed to have been written by brothers of Jesus.
This verse in Acts 1 continues an emphasis on prayer in the book of Luke. It also forms part of Luke’s emphasis on the presence and service of women who were disciples of Jesus. Later in Acts, Dorcas will sew clothes for the poor, the mother of John Mark will practice hospitality as she hosts a prayer meeting during the imprisonment of Peter, Priscilla will serve the Lord alongside her husband of Aquila, businesswoman Lydia will provide lodging for Paul’s group of traveling evangelists, and Philip’s daughters will prophesy. Here an undetermined number of women pray with Mary, her sons, and the apostles.
The various members of this group owed their association to Jesus. Some were his physical relatives. The rest had been healed by him, convicted by his teaching, or called to leave everything and follow him. They were united in faith despite their diversity of backgrounds and gender.
They gathered to pray. We can only speculate about the content of those prayers. Jesus had told them about the coming of the Holy Spirit; some may have also hoped still that Jesus would return quickly. Their faith and their hopes united this group in constant prayer. Their practice challenges us with its regularity and frequency. How much time do we spend in prayer?
“O God, Thank you for uniting us in Christ. Remind us through your word in passages like this one in Acts how Jesus can unite us in faith and hope despite differences in gender, politics, or ethnicity. Strengthen our faith so that we will pray more and dispute less, as some American preachers wrote in the early 1800’s. Help us to remember your love as we relate to others in our world. In Jesus’ name, Amen