“When we reached Jerusalem, the brothers and sisters welcomed us warmly. The following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present. After greeting them, he reported in detail what God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry” (Acts 21:17–19).
Two things are missing from this abbreviated account. Where are the Apostles? And did Paul deliver the benevolent gift?
“James (the half-brother if Jesus), and all the elders were present” but where were the original twelve Apostles? James, the son of Zebedee, had been beheaded (Acts 12:1-2). Where was Peter? John? Matthew? The answer is simple. We don’t know. The Bible is silent, but here’s my guess… they were away on business. Faithful to the Great Commission, they had been scattered across the Roman Empire.
Tradition says the Peter was crucified in Rome. Before they nailed him to the cross, he pleaded with the executioner to be hung upside down because, he said, he was unworthy to die in the same way the Jesus had died.
Andrew, the first to be called as a follower of Jesus, may have traveled north into modern-day Russia. One account says that he led the wife of a high-ranking Roman official to saving faith in Christ. When the angry husband was powerless in his attempt to get his wife to recant, he had Andrew crucified on an X-shaped cross.
Thomas may have taken the Gospel to India, while Philip may have been stoned to death in Asia Minor. John, the last Apostle to die, and the only one to live into old age, suffered as an exile on the Island of Patmos.
There is something else that is missing at Paul’s warm welcome to Jerusalem. There is no mention of the benevolent gift given by the Gentile churches in Macedonia and Achaia.
Paul had given clear instructions to the Gentile churches. “On the first day of the week, each of you is to set something aside and save in keeping with how he is prospering” (1 Corinthians 16:2). While on the final leg of his third missionary journey, he visited the church to collect the money and wrote, “I am traveling to Jerusalem to serve the saints, because Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. Yes, they were pleased, and indeed are indebted to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in their spiritual benefits, then they are obligated to minister to them in material needs. So when I have finished this and safely delivered the funds to them, I will visit you on the way to Spain” (Romans 15:25–28).
Paul did deliver the funds (Acts 24:17), but he did so with no fanfare. He must have quietly and humbly brought the extravagant gift. He took no personal credit for administering the gift, but humbly reported that the Gentiles, “according to their ability and even beyond their ability, of their own accord, they begged us earnestly for the privilege of sharing in the ministry to the saints” (2 Corinthians 8:3–4).