Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away; and when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John ad James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers (Acts 1:12-14).
I find the events associated with the upper room to be fascinating and instructive for our understanding of Scripture and the life of the early church.
Here are some of the things we know and some of the questions which are raised.
The upper room seems to have been in the home of John Mark’s parents, assuming that Mark is the young man mentioned in Mark 15. After Simon Peter’s arrest by Herod Agrippa I in AD 44 and subsequent miraculous deliverance, Peter went to meet with the other believers at the home of Mary the mother of John Mark (Acts 12:12). This seems to be the same place the disciples had been meeting.
We don’t know how many people were in the room. At a later time, the church met together to decide on someone to take the place of Judas Iscariot. The whole company of the disciples (about 120 strong) participated in the election of Matthias (Acts 1:15-26). In the previous meeting, Luke listed the eleven remaining disciples as well as Mary the mother of Jesus and his brothers.
What makes this interesting is that this is the last mention of Mary in the New Testament. We do not know what happened to her or when her death occurred. We do know she also believed and met with the disciples to pray as they waited in Jerusalem for the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus’ brothers were also present. We know that Joseph and Mary had four sons–James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon (see Mark 6:3)–and at least two daughters (who are not named). Did all the brothers become believers?
We certainly know about James. Paul mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15 that Jesus had specifically appeared to him after Jesus’ resurrection. Did James tell of the experience to his siblings or did Jesus appear to them all? James wrote the biblical book of James and Judas possibly wrote Jude.
What is interesting is how these who were skeptics became believers because they had seen the Risen Savior. Neither James nor Jude mentioned Jesus as a brother. They called themselves His slaves–a clear reference to their understanding that Jesus who grew up in their household–was indeed the Son of God.
All of this together points to Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God who died and was raised from the dead. Their having seen Jesus led them to turn from their skepticism and to follow Him as Lord and Savior.
In the upper room, the early church met and prayed. They prepared for all that God would do through them.