14All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.
In English the presence of the word ‘certain’ suggests that only certain women were present, but Luke will tell us later that there were 120 gathered together on Pentecost when the sound of a mighty rushing wind came. What Luke is telling us is that the leadership circle from the very beginning included women. The church will not be built on a foundation of twelve men. It will be built on a foundation of prayer and the Holy Spirit. The number twelve will matter because it corresponds to the twelve tribes of Israel. So twelve apostles will represent the twelve sons of Jacob. The followers of Jesus are the legitimate extension of Israel’s ancient faith. Jesus is the anointed of God. So there are twelve men we call apostles; but the community gathered in prayer is men and women.
The fact that it is men and women tells us that the church is a household. Public gatherings would be segregated, but the community of believers is a household. God is our Father. Jesus is our elder brother. We are sisters and brothers.
A household doesn’t mean nuclear family. Clan might even be a better word, certainly an extended family. But the defining character of these relationships is the solidarity of kin not the agonistic relationships of the public square. We are for one another not competing with one another. In the market we are trying to take advantage of one another to our own profit (measured in wealth in the U.S. and honor in the ancient Mediterranean). In the household we are seeking to defend, support and sustain one another. This latter is the meaning of the word ‘love’ in the first century.
So the community of believers is united in solidarity. They seek the welfare of all. They build one another up. They provide for all who have need. They are a household where women share in the leadership and children are welcome.
And on their unity, love and prayer, the church is built, the Spirit poured out, and the message of Christ crucified, risen and ascended bears its rich and abundant fruit.