This study is part of a series that will examine the Jewishness of the original followers of Jesus. Did their belief in Jesus the Messiah and his death and resurrection lead to a subsequent abandoning of various Jewish practices? The approach taken will be to go through each book of Acts, examining relevant texts for insights into this question.
Acts 1:4 NKJV “And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem...”
Although it is clear that the disciples were instructed (Matt. 28:19-20) to spread the "good news" to the whole world, there is no hint here that the world-wide nature of the message is connected with a change towards Israel. If Israel, and Jerusalem as its capital, is meant to play a diminished role, it apparently has not yet been communicated to the disciples. At least for now, Jerusalem— and Israel— is where they focus their attentions.
What significance does Jerusalem have for us today? Perhaps the feelings that Jesus had for Jerusalem can guide us.
“And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every sideand tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”” (Luke 19:41–44 ESV)
Jesus predicted disaster for Jerusalem, but there are hints that the story does not end there— that Jerusalem will be trampled “until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled”. How does this prophetic statement relate to Paul's in Romans 11:25— “until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in”?
“They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” (Luke 21:24 ESV)
Jerusalem remains meaningful as a symbol of a restored Kingdom of God— we also find this concept in Revelation.
“For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating; for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight. I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and delight in my people; no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it, or the cry of distress.” (Isaiah 65:17–19 NRSV)
There is much about this restoration that we do not yet understand. Yet we should all be able to share in the sentiments of the Psalm— “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem”.
“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May they prosper who love you. Peace be within your walls, Prosperity within your palaces.” For the sake of my brethren and companions, I will now say, “Peace be within you.” Because of the house of the LORD our God I will seek your good.” (Psalms 122:6–9 NKJV)
Acts 1:6 NKJV “Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?””
The question “will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” gives us considerable insight into mindset of the disciples. They have been spending time over a period of forty days with Jesus and have had opportunity to discuss the meaning of what has happened. If the plan is that Israel will be replaced by the "church" or that the rules have changed, it seems that the disciples have failed to get the message. We should keep in mind that the account in Acts was written much later— probably decades later— than the events which it describes. If subsequent developments had made it clear to the Apostles that they were to abandon Torah observance and other aspects of Judaism then we could reasonably expect to read about the shock that the disciples experienced in their struggle dealing with the radical change. This question about Israel would have been a great place for Luke to insert a parenthetical comment to help us understand that big changes were happening. Instead, the narrative continues as if this is an appropriate question. It continues with a response from Jesus. He does not challenge or correct the assumptions behind the question, but rather, he simply tells them that “it is not for you to know times or seasons”— there is no suggestion in his response that big changes are happening or are planned regarding the status of Israel.
Acts 1:8 NKJV “... you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.””
As with Acts 1:4, it seems that Jerusalem and Judea— in other words, the Jewish people— are to be at the center of the work planned for the disciples.
Acts 1:12 NKJV “Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey.”
Given that the book of Acts was probably written decades after the events described in it, and for the sake of discussion assuming that the church had by then thoroughly abandoned the Torah and Jewish practice, we would reasonably expect that Luke would explain unfamiliar Jewish practices to his readers. Here, he simply mentions the distance between Olivet and Jerusalem as “a Sabbath day's journey” without explanation. He assumes that his readers will be familiar with Jewish religious practice and will have a sense of the distance without a need to express the distance in terms of Roman miles or other measure of distance.
Acts 1:16 NKJV “Men and brethren, this Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke before by the mouth of David...”
We see Peter here, in this text (also verse 20), using Scripture as the foundation for their "ministry" (verse 17)— they use the Hebrew Scriptures, the Torah, Prophets and Writings. The disciples quote these Jewish writings many times as authoritative sources for their teachings. Their teachings are grounded in Judaism. Again, there is not a hint of separation or departure from the Jewish foundations.
Acts 1:19 NKJV “And it became known to all those dwelling in Jerusalem...”
Here is the first piece of evidence that we have in the book of Acts that the “Jesus faction” within Judaism was not isolated and unknown to the larger group of people. The events described here appear to have been well known to the people.