WHY DID THE APOSTLES AND DISCIPLES STAY IN JERUSALEM
AFTER THE CRUCIFIXION OF JESUS OF NAZARETH?
When Jesus of Nazareth was crucified on Good Friday, 30AD, His Apostles and disciples must have been very frightened for their own lives. It is quite amazing to realize that, as frightened and as grief stricken as they must have been, they did not attempt leave Jerusalem to return to their own homes, but they stayed for three days, as the ancients' counted 1, to witness the Resurrection of the Messiah.
The Apostles didn't completely understand how the Scriptures were to be fulfilled in the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, as Jesus Himself would teach the disciples on Resurrection Sunday in Luke 24:26-27 and 44-47, but the Apostles must have remembered the times during the last year of His ministry when Jesus tried to prepare them for what they would be required to face by warning them that it was necessary that He should die but He would be raised from the dead. The first prophecy of His Passion and Resurrection was in Matthew 16:21-23 (Mk 8:31-33; Lk 9:22): From then onwards Jesus began to make it clear to his disciples that he was destined to go to Jerusalem and suffer grievously at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes and to be put to death and to be raised up on the third day. Understanding their grief and confusion after the first announcement of His death and promised resurrection, Jesus gave His disciples hope by promising them: In truth I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of man coming with His kingdom (Matt 16:27-28). Then He gave them a miracle to strengthen their faith. He showed Peter, James, and John a preview of the Resurrection when He took them to the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt 17:1-8; Mk 9:2-8; Lk 9:28-36) where they saw Jesus in His glory together with Moses and Elijah, two great prophets who represented the Law and the Prophets. In essence the revelation of the Transfiguration event was the entire sum of Old Testament salvation history brought face to face with the leaders of Jesus' New Covenant Church in God's continuing plan for the salvation of mankind. From that point until the last day of His preaching in Jerusalem, Jesus continued to speak of His Passion and Resurrection to His disciples in Matthew 17:22-23 (Mk 9:30-32; Lk 9:44-45), in Matthew 20:17-19 (Mk 10:32-34; Lk 18:31-33), and in John 12:31-33.
Not only did Jesus' disciples know of the prophecy of His death and resurrection, but the chief priests and Pharisees knew. Jesus told them in His "sign of Jonah" prophecy which He gave the Jewish authorities in Matthew 12:38-40. Knowing that Jesus had promised to arise from the grave was the reason the Jewish religious authorities went to the Roman governor Pilate and demanded a Roman guard be placed around Jesus' tomb: ... the chief priests and the Pharisees went in a body to Pilate and said to him, 'Your Excellency, we recall that this impostor said, while he was still alive, "After three days I shall rise again." Therefore give the order to have the sepulcher kept secure until the third day, for fear his disciples come and steal him away and tell the people, "He has risen from the dead." (Matt 27:62-63). Therefore, with Jesus' repeated testimony concerning His death and resurrection, the Jewish people "knew", and in the promise of His glorification witnessed in the Transfiguration event, the Apostles "knew." Even though the Apostles and disciples didn't fully understand, their faith, love, and loyalty was part of their "staying power" that, despite their fear, kept them in Jerusalem. However, there was something else which kept Peter, James, John and the other disciples in the holy city after Jesus' crucifixion.
Religious Jews lived within the framework of the Law God gave to His people at the great Theophany at Mt. Sinai. According to the Law of the Covenant, the Sabbath was a day of rest and no work could be done on the Sabbath. 2 The day of Jesus' crucifixion was Friday; it was "Preparation Day" for the holy Sabbath (Mark 15:42; Luke 23:54; John 19:31). All the arrangements for food and the other necessities of life had to be completed the day before the Sabbath on Friday. There was also a prohibition against travel on the Sabbath. St. Luke records in Acts 1:12 that the Mount of Olives was no more than a "Sabbath walk" from Jerusalem. The rabbinic rules in the Mishnah: Shabbat, with certain exceptions, limited walking outside a walled city to 2,000 cubits, or about 0.57 of a mile; therefore most of the disciples, with the exception of those who lived in Bethany and other villages within the prescribed radius of Jerusalem, could not leave the city before sundown Saturday night. But there was also another command built into the holy Law which kept the followers of Jesus in the holy city.
When an old covenant believer died his friends and family not only took care of the burial arrangements, but friends and family were expected to attended the grave and to pray with the family for seven days (see Jn 11:17-31). The body of the deceased had to be buried the same day-especially the body of someone who died for a capital offense: If a man guilty of a capital offence is to be put to death, and you hang him from a tree, his body must not remain on the tree overnight; you must bury him the same day, since anyone hanged is a curse of God, and you must not bring pollution on the soil which Yahweh your God is giving you as your heritage (Deut 21:22-23). It was also necessary to observe the principle of "kevod ha-met", the treatment of the deceased with reverence and respect, and the principle of "kevod he-chai," concern for the welfare of the grieving family who survived the deceased. These two principles provided the basis for the laws and customs pertaining to death and mourning in Jewish communities. The family and closest friends prepared the body of the deceased and a "meal of condolence" (Se'udat Havra-a) for the bereaved family. 3
It was also the responsibility of friends to pray with the grieving family. The "Tziduk Hadin" and the "Kaddish" are two prayers recited during the week long mourning period. 4 The "Tziduk Hadin" begins with the words from "the Song of Moses" (in Hebrew "Parashas Haazinu") in Deuteronomy 32:4: The Rock!-perfect is His work, for all His paths are justice; a God of faith without iniquity, righteous and fair is He (Jewish Tanach). In praying this prayer those assembled accepted God's will in the life of the deceased and in their own lives. The "Kaddish", or mourners' prayer, is an expression of adoration of God, of faith in His righteousness, and the acceptance of His will. The Kaddish has been called "an echo of the Book of Job" since the prayer quotes Job 13:15: Though He [God] slays me, yet will I trust in Him. A minyan (a quorum of ten adults) must be present to offer these prayers and the initial period of mourning, known as "Shiva", is to last no less than seven days. "Shiva" (also spelled sheva or shaba) means "seven" in Hebrew and the custom is based on Amos 8:10: And I will turn your feasts into mourning.... 5 (the holy pilgrim feasts of Unleavened Bread and Tabernacles lasted seven days; Ex 23:14-15; Lev 23:6-7, 34, 39; Num 28:17; 29:12; Deut 16:16). That this seven-day mourning period has been a tradition for the Old Covenant people for a very long time, even pre-dating the Sinai Covenant, is found in Genesis 50:10 where Joseph mourned for his father Jacob/Israel for seven days.
The Apostles were still in Jerusalem with the rest of Jesus' family because, as Jesus' closest friends, they were sitting "Shiva" with the Virgin Mary, Jesus' kinsmen, and the others who loved Jesus. How perfect that their faith, love, and devotion to the Master was rewarded by participating in God's plan of the greatest miracle of the Ages-personally witnessing the visitation of the Resurrected, glorified Jesus Christ!
Michal Hunt, Copyright © Good Friday 2008 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.
1 The ancients did not have the concept of a 0-place value and therefore the first of any sequence was counted as number 1. This is why it is written in Scripture that Jesus was in the tomb three days from Friday to Sunday instead of two days as we would count it; see Christianity and the Roman Empire, Ralph Novak, page 282)
2 Exodus 20:8-10 decrees the Sabbath as a day of rest. The list of prohibitions on the Sabbath are found in the Mishnah: Shabbat where thirty-nine categories of "work" are prohibited on the Sabbath (also see Mishnah: Betza 5.2). These myriad of restrictions are not found in Scripture but were added later. Jesus condemned the Pharisees in Matthew chapter 23 for placing so many unreasonable burdens upon God's people. The Pharisees often criticized Jesus work "working" on the Sabbath by healing the sick (Mk 3:1-6; Lk 13:10-14; 14:1-6) and by allowing his disciples to pick grain in a field when they were hungry (Matt 12:1-2; Mk 2:27; Lk 6:1-2). Jesus' response to them is found in Matthew 12:3-8 (also Mk 2:27-28; Lk 6:5).
3 The Jewish Book of Why, pages 68-69.
1. Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus, Joachim Jeremias, Fortress Press, Philadelphia, 1969.
2. The Jewish Book of Why, vol. I, Alfred J. Kolatch, Jonathan David Publishers, New York, 1981, 1995.
3. A History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ, I.ii., II.ii., Emil Schurer, Hendrickson Publishers, 1890, 2008.
4. New Jerusalem Bible, Doubleday, 1985
5. Tanach: The Stone Edition, Mesorah Publications, Ltd., second edition 1998
6. Christianity and the Roman Empire, Ralph Novak, Trinity Press, 2001.
Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2005 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.