Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, a distance of half a mile. When they arrived, they went to the upstairs room of the house where they were staying. Here are the names of those who were present: Peter, John, James, Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, James (son of Alphaeus), Simon (the Zealot), and Judas (son of James). They all met together and were constantly united in prayer, along with Mary the mother of Jesus, several other women, and the brothers of Jesus.Acts 1:12-14
During this time, when about 120 believers were together in one place, Peter stood up and addressed them. “Brothers,” He said, “the Scriptures had to be fulfilled concerning Judas, who guided those who arrested Jesus. This was predicted long ago by the Holy Spirit, speaking through King David. Judas was one of us and shared in the ministry with us.” (Judas had bought a field with the money he received for his treachery. Falling headfirst there, his body split open, spilling out all his intestines. The news of his death spread to all the people of Jerusalem, and they gave the place the Aramaic name Akeldama, which means “Field of Blood.”) Peter continued, “This was written in the book of Psalms, where it says, ‘Let his home become desolate, with no one living in it.’ It also says, ‘Let someone else take his position.’ So now we must choose a replacement for Judas from among the men who were with us the entire time we were traveling with the Lord Jesus from the time He was baptized by John until the day He was taken from us. Whoever is chosen will join us as a witness of Jesus’ resurrection.” So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. Then they all prayed, “O Lord, You know every heart. Show us which of these men You have chosen as an apostle to replace Judas in this ministry, for he has deserted us and gone where he belongs.” Then they cast lots, and Matthias was selected to become an apostle with the other eleven.Acts 1:15-26
Although we could be tempted to think these two segments are in sequence that is not the case. The first segment ends with habitual prayer taking place. On one of the occasions during such habitual prayer Peter stood up and addressed the people who were gathered together, unified in prayer. This is a typical manner in which Luke introduces a speech to come. At a certain point in time, for which Luke has set the scene, we have someone standing up or coming forward, coming into prominence and then uttering an important statement. It marks the beginning of a new division or major segment. Notice the double emphasis on unity in verse 14 and then again in verse 15. Given that context Peter brings up the issue of the prediction of Judas demise and the need to find someone who will take his place – according to Scripture. The idea is not that the matter is written in Scripture so therefore we have to work it out. Rather the matter has already occurred as predicted so the consequence of it is to find a replacement. There is much debate over verses 18 and 19 as to whether they were part of Peter’s speech or not. Are they original words from Peter or are they a bracketed couplet which has been added by way of explanation?
As I have told you before, you will get the most out of a passage when you learn to ask questions pertinent to the passage. There are a number of questions that flow out of this passage before us but I will refrain from telling you mine until you have had some time to come up with your own. I will leave my questions for the next Gems day so you have some time to look for yourself and determine what you would want to know from this passage. Are there matters that are unclear to you? Do you see some issues in these verses which require clarifying? Are there questions which spring to mind? As I have done at other times I will make you an offer. If you share you questions with me I will include any good questions from you with the following Gems and address the issues you raise.
Now while you take time to ponder your questions I will draw your attention to some higher level matters that are worthy of comment.
Why does Luke place a significant break here. Would it not be more natural to allow the opening segment related to the Ascension to flow on to the return to the Upper Room and prayer, unity and then the selection of the new disciple? Why not just have them move back to the Upper Room and then make the selection of the replacement disciple? No because Luke is paying careful attention to the matters he wants to highlight in this second book. To understand how Luke uses the speeches and the way he sections off his book we need to pay attention to Luke’s use of these things and not read what someone else says about it. Once we have paid attention to Luke’s use of these things then we are in a position to make informed conclusions about Luke’s use of speeches and section breaks etc. I find it interesting that Luke spends a great deal of time focusing on unity, prayer and the selection of the new disciple. Jesus approached His selection of the original twelve with a night in prayer. These disciples and the other 110 others who join them are in an habitual prayer meeting. A good way to start the process of selecting the replacement for Judas. One could also say that Jesus all-night time of prayer before selecting The Twelve was not successful because look what happened – there was a dud in the group. No, nothing is left to chance in the economy of God. Jesus knew of Judas’ shortcomings way before they surfaced into full blown betrayal and still he was selected as a part of the group.
Note the refrain occurring here with Luke inclusion of the focus on Judas in this segment. Notice verse 17 sitting there all alone in the midst of the other things Peter said about Judas. “Judas was one of us and shared in the ministry with us.” This reminds me of something I wrote when covering Luke 22 and Judas’ betrayal of Jesus. The same refrain is used there in 22:47 – “Judas, one of the twelve disciples”. It is not a throw-away comment. All three synoptic gospels focus on the same thing. Matt 26:47 and Mark 14:43. Our attention is being drawn to the fact that Judas was one of The Twelve. Peter and Luke are doing the same thing here with his inclusion of “Judas was one of us and shared in the ministry with us.” Furthermore it is highly significant that it is Peter who originally made the statement given his betrayal.
Read what I wrote in Bible Gem 1225 – The extent of the betrayal – One of the TWELVE (Luke 22:47)
The conclusion we must draw from the account at the moment for each of us is that temptation and threat can come upon us at any moment. Even when we least expect it. When we are in the middle of prayer it can come. Or even more likely when we are in middle of sleeping it WILL come. Wake up sleeper and prepare. We must all take note of the fact that temptation can come upon any one of us. Especially on those who don’t think temptation will impact them. They are the ones who are most susceptible. [See Bible Gem 1197 – Betrayal: It could happen to anyone of us].
Luke is putting together this account with similar focus on the nature of Judas betrayal and the fact that he was part of the original Twelve. I detect the same kind of focus in this segment as I noticed was present in Luke 22. Luke is giving it to us again. I suspect he is doing this partly by setting up a segment that entirely focus on Judas and marks it in the way that he marks other segments throughout his second book. But having said that I will reserve final judgement on it until I have looked at the whole book and seen exactly how and why Luke structures his book as he does and in deciding for myself how he is using the sections breaks as I have drawn attention to and in the way Luke uses the speeches throughout the book. Pay careful attention to the structure of Acts and how it is used to highlight certain things.
But for now your task is to gather together your questions and if you dare, let me know what you have come up with.
If we are not actively doing what is right it becomes very easy for the devil to get us to do what is wrong.Joyce Meyer
Are you looking for a sign that Jesus still wants to do wonders? The cross is the sign and you are His wonder.Lisa Bevere
Be the person who God intended you to be and you will set the world on fire.Catherine de Sienna
Don’t worry about moving earth. Move heaven, if you move heaven, heaven will move earth.Anon