In those days, Peter stood up among the brothers - a group numbering a hundred and twenty... (Acts of the Apostles 1:15).
Ascension to Pentecost
Prior to Jesus’ ascension to the Father, he instructed his apostles to return to Jerusalem, to pray, and to wait for the promise of the Father. As Jesus ascended to the Father, his apostles looked intently into the sky and waited. Suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them, “Men of Galilee,” they said, “Why do you stand there looking into the sky? This same Jesus who has been taken from you into heaven will come back to you in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).
And so these “Men of Galilee,” return to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, which was a Sabbath day’s walk from the city of Jerusalem. When they arrive in Jerusalem, they then go up stairs to a room where they were staying – a room large enough to hold 120 brethren. This room is the large upper room in which Jesus and the apostles gathered on Holy Thursday to celebrate together the Passover (Last Supper) and the room in which the Eucharist was instituted by Jesus Christ.
“As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters and say to the owner of the house. ‘The teacher asks: Where is the guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large upper room, all furnished, Make preparation there” (Luke 22: 7-12).
It is from this large upper room that the apostles and Jesus walked to the Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethsemane on Holy Thursday. There was a very young lad who followed them to the garden wearing nothing but a linen garment. And when he was grabbed by a guard, the lad ran off naked leaving only the linen cloth (Mark 14:51). Some speculate that this young lad was Mark the human author of the Gospel - who is the only one who records the embarrassing event.
Of these “Men of Galilee” there were the remaining 11 apostles:
• Simon, son of John, who was given the name of Cephas (Aramaic) by Jesus. Cephas which means rock is translated as Petros in Koine Greek. The English rendering of Petros is Peter. In the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles, St. Paul addresses Simon as Cephas and not Petros, which I believe maintains the true significance and meaning (ROCK not stone or pebble) as derived from the Aramaic expression and as intended by Jesus Christ. You wouldn’t know that from the English translations.
• James and John the sons of Zebedee both identified by Jesus as the “sons of thunder.”
• Andrew the brother of Peter.
• Philip who was from the town of Bethsaida as were Andrew and Peter.
• Thomas also known as Didymus (the twin).
• Bartholomew also known as Nathaniel and who was identified by Jesus to be a true Israelite without guile.
• Matthew also known as Levi and the son of Alphaeus.
• Simon the Zealot.
• James the son of Alphaeus.
• Judas (Jude) son of James and also known as Thaddaeus (from which we get St. Jude Thaddaeus).
There was also present a man identified as Joseph also known as Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and there was Matthias. The person missing was of course Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus and subsequently hung himself and did not write a gospel as certain Gnostics profess.
Jesus by choosing the twelve apostles to his inner circle of disciples demonstrated that his mission was to shepherd all of Israel. The twelve apostles represented the twelve tribes of Israel. In fact, the symbolism is so much so, that when the twelve tribes of Israel are identified in the Book of Revelation (Revelation 7: 5-8), the original tribe of Dan – one of the 12 sons of Jacob – is missing and is replaced by Manasseh, a son of Joseph. The tribe of Dan persecuted the tribe of Judah. Here in the large upper room, Judas - one of the original twelve - is replaced by Matthias.
Of all the many women that were present, St. Luke specifically identifies Mary, the Mother of Jesus. I believe in doing so Luke is not minimizing the other women but emphasizing Mary for the following reasons:
1. Mary is an integral character within the diptych that he is painting which shows on the one side the dedication of the New Testament Temple (the Church) and on the other side the dedication of Old Testament King Solomon Temple.
2. Mary is a source for the Pentecost story (birth and infancy narrative of the Church) as she is a source for Jesus’ birth and infancy narrative.
In the realm of speculation, the other women could have been Mary Magdalene, Martha and Mary the sisters of Lazarus, Joanna, and Mary, the Mother of James the younger and Salome, and Mary the wife of Clopas, and maybe Rhoda the servant girl.
Since I am sticking my neck out, the other brethren may have been Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea, Zaccheus, Bartimaeus the Son of Timaeus, James the younger and Joseph and brothers to Salome and possible John (Mark).
For nine days leading up to Pentecost, the apostles constantly prayed together in accord (as with one voice) with the women and Mary the Mother of Jesus and his brothers which St. Luke says was about 120.
I asked myself a number of times, what is St. Luke attempting to signify by this number 120?
120 Priests and Solomon’s Temple
King David wanted to build a Temple so God would no longer dwell in a tent but in a great and magnificent building of stone. I suppose there was an element of self-importance in King David’s words since God gently reminded him that everything even his very life was given and preserved by God and that He (God) had no need of a house. Still, in absolute humility, God tells King David that he was not to build a temple for his hands were covered in blood but that his son would build the Temple. I suppose this should be a quick reminder that while God permitted King David to execute wars to defend his people Israel, eternal piece is not gained by the shedding of another man’s blood. In that sense the blood of all men is like Abel’s blood calling out to God for justice from the earth. Jesus’ blood speaks with more eloquence than Abel's. And Jesus' blood brings justice and mercy together to embrace and to kiss.
King Solomon at this point represents a “type” of Christ in that King Solomon (a son of David) builds an earthly temple made by human hands, and Jesus (a son of David) builds a heavenly temple not made by human hands (Hebrews 8:1). This brings me to my first understanding of the number 120.
In the second Book of Chronicles (Paralipimonen), the temple in Jerusalem is constructed and the young King Solomon is overseeing the dedication of the temple and there is assigned 120 Priests to perform the required rituals of purification. Into the temple and the inner sanctuary of the Holy of Holies comes the Arc of the Covenant. The only thing which remains in the Arc of the Covenant are the two tables of Moses, seemingly representing the Laws of Moses. (It once contained manna and the rod of Aaron)
As the assembled are singing God’s praises with cymbals, lutes and harps, the 120 leave the Holy of Holies and the cloud of the Glory of the Lord (the presence of God) fills it,
and the priests can no longer minister in the inner sanctuary lest they die touching God's presence in the cloud of glory (2 Chronicles 6: 1-18).
After a long prayer, King Solomon then asked the following question to the people assembled: “Will God indeed dwell with men upon the earth? If the heaven and heavens above the heavens will not suffice thee, what then is this house that I have built?” (II Chronicles 6:18).
The answer is YES and much more!
Couple of things to correlate: Solomon’s Temple and the Large Upper Room
In the Temple there were 120 priests leading the people and praising God while waiting for God to dwell in the Holy of Holies. In the Upper Room there are 120 brethren praising God and waiting for the Promise of the Father, The Holy Spirit to come down upon them.
In the Temple 120 priests are trumpeting, singing, praising God with one voice. In the Upper Room the 120 brethren are praying with one voice (one accord).
In the Holy of Holies is the Ark of the Covenant which is a “type” in the Old Testament. In the Upper Room there is Mary, the Mother of Jesus, the “anti-type” of the Ark of the Covenant. An "anti-type" is a theological expression meaning not the "type" but the real thing.
In the Temple, the Glory of the Lord fills the Holy of Holies.
In the upper room, the Glory of the Lord (the Holy Spirit) rests upon each of the 120 brethren in the form of tongues of flame.
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them (Acts 2:1).
Note to the perplexed: Jesus promised to send the Paracletos, the Comforter, and the Gift of the Father upon his disciples. This promise was fulfilled by the descent of God’s Holy Spirit upon the 120 Jews in the upper room on Pentecost in Jerusalem. This remains the Church’s infallible experience and God’s historical fulfillment. The Islamic argument that this promise was later fulfilled by the person of Mohamed is another lamentable demonstration of complete ignorance of the Gospels and church history.
In the Old Testament, the priests could not minister while the Glory of the Lord was in the room. Only one priest, once a year could enter the Holy of Holies. With the death of Jesus on the Cross, the curtain in the Holy of Holies is torn asunder making way for God’s Cloud of Glory to rest upon the 120 brethren in the upper room. With the descent of the Holy Spirit upon those present in the upper room, they become the temple of the Holy Spirit, members of the Mystical Body of Christ and through them Christ’s Universal (Catholic) Church is manifested to all of humanity.
As you come to him (Jesus) the living stone rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to Him, you also, like living stones are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:4).
With this said, it is possible that St. Luke under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit identifies these 120 Jews with the dedication of a New Temple (the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ) not made by human hands but by the Person of Jesus Christ? A wider Diaspora (Dispersion and Exile of the Jews from their homeland) is coming to an end. Now both Jew and Gentile are being gathered by Jesus Christ into one place to fulfill the prophecy of Ezekiel:
I shall pour clean water over you and you will be cleansed. I shall cleanse you of all your defilement and all your idols. I shall give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you. I shall remove the heart of stone from your bodies and give you a new heart of flesh instead. I shall put my spirit in you and make you keep my laws and sincerely respect my observances (Ezekiel 36:25-27)
Mary, the Mother of Jesus and the Ark of the Covenant
St. Luke - who is painting a picture of these events on Pentecost - is picking up from where he left off when he wrote the orderly accounts in the Gospel. Going all the way back to chapter one, there are several events which have their pattern in the Old Testament (which I believe he assumes the reader knows) and which completes the painting of the Pentecost story.
St. Luke in the Gospel recounts the words of the Angel Gabriel to Mary that God’s Holy Spirit would come upon her and the power of the most high God would overshadow her and she would conceive in her womb the Son of God (Luke 1:35).
Jesus, who is the Living Law of God, the Bread of Life which came down from Heaven, and the new High Priest, would be conceived and be carried in Mary’s womb for nine months. And even after giving birth, the Spirit of Jesus would remain in her mind, heart, and soul as a pattern for her whole life. When Mary pondered the words of Jesus and treasured them in her heart, Jesus was carried in her womb.
In the Old Testament, when King David recovered the Ark of God from the house of Aminadab, he thought to bring it to his own house. But since one of the bearers of the ark dies after touching the ark (He tried to prevent it from falling off the cart), David is afraid to bring it home. King David -- taken back by the event -- asked: “How does the ark of the Lord come to me?” He decides instead to take the Ark into the House of Abeddara (variation on Obededom) the Gethite. And the Ark remains in the House of Abeddara the Gethite for three months (2 Kings 6: 1-12). David identifies the Ark as “the Ark of the Lord” and not “the Ark of the Covenant.”
Mary -- carrying the Incarnated Word in her womb -- approaches the house of Zacharias. Elizabeth hears her voice. The babe leaps in Elizabeth’s womb and she is filled with the Holy Spirit and says to Mary: “How is it that the Mother of my Lord should come to me?” “For the moment your voice reached my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed the words spoken to her by the Lord would be accomplished in her” (Luke 1:41-45). Elizabeth addresses Mary as “the Mother of my Lord” and not “my relative.” Mary enters the House of Zachariah and stays for three months (Luke 1:56).
The New Ark of the Covenant: Mary, Mother of Jesus
In the Old Testament, God overshadows the Sanctuary and the Ark of the Covenant which contains the two tablets, God’s Word written on stone. In the New Testament, God the Holy Spirit overshadows Mary and she conceives in her womb the living and eternal Word of God.
King David filled with a natural fear of the Lord that day speaks to the Ark of God with the words: “How does the Ark of the Lord come to me?” Elizabeth filled with Holy Spirit rejoices and speaks to Mary who is carrying the Word of God, “How does the Mother of my Lord come to me?”
King David dances (leaps) before the Lord who dwells in the Ark of God. John the Baptist leaps (dances) in Elizabeth's womb as Elizabeth hears Mary’s voice.
The Ark of the Lord stayed in the House of House of Abeddara the Gethite for three months. Mary stayed in the House of Zachariah for three months.
Mary as Source
But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.(Luke 2:19).
St. Luke when addressing the Most Excellent Theophilus records in Luke Chapter 1:1:
Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things which have been fulfilled amongst us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the WORD. Therefore since, I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly
account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.
St. Luke states that he carefully investigated everything. St. Luke twice mentions that Mary treasured and pondered events surrounding the life of Jesus (2:19, 2:51). I believe this is meant to say something about the veracity of the infancy stories and that Mary is his source. For how else would St. Luke know that Mary pondered and treasured these things unless Mary told him? Besides, who else was an eyewitness from the beginning except Mary?
St. Luke was not present during the events of Pentecost but records in some detail the events surrounding the infancy of the Church. When he is an actual witness to an event such as when he accompanied St. Paul he uses the first person plural, "we," unlike the infancy narrative of Jesus and Pentecost.
Looking at Luke's language, we can conclude that Mary was a source for the Pentecost story (the birth and infancy narrative for the Church) as she was a source for Jesus’ birth and infancy narrative. This explains why the apostles and Mary are named. Mary identifies the apostles and St. Luke identifies Mary to the reader.
I recognized one other event in Sacred Scripture in which someone is identified as pondering mysteries and that is Jacob, who is pondering the words of Joseph, his son. Joseph revealed his dream of the moon and the stars bowing down before him to Jacob and his brothers, and Jacob was a little perturbed that his son would have a dream in which even his father bowed down to him. But his father pondered the saying (Genesis 37:11). I conclude there that Jacob is the oral source of Joseph’s dreams as captured in the Old Testament.
• New Testament Quotes: Revised and New International Version (NIV).
• Old Testament Quotes: Septuagint as translated by Sir Lancelot C. L.