13 April 2015

Acts 1:15-26

“Then they prayed and said, ‘Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.’ And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias.” (vv. 24-26a)

Psalm: Psalm 135:1-7


A number of appearances of the risen Christ are recorded in the New Testament over the course of 40 days (Acts 1:3) during which Jesus continued to speak about the kingdom of God and to prepare the disciples. He ordered them not to leave Jerusalem but to wait there until the Holy Spirit came upon them, equipping them to become his witnesses "in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8). At the end of the 40 days another mysterious post-resurrection event occurred as Jesus ascended into heaven: "as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight" (Acts 1:9).

So it is that we find the disciples (less Judas Iscariot), with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus and his brothers, assembled and waiting, as instructed, in Jerusalem. The treacherous act of Judas, subsequently followed by his death, had provided a dark sub-plot to the dramatic events of those days and now the disciples addressed the task of appointing his successor. It was an interesting process.

The successful candidate needed to have accompanied the disciples throughout the time Jesus had been with them, from the Baptism of John until the Ascension. Primarily they were to be a witness to the Resurrection of Jesus. The field was narrowed down to two and the gathered community sought God's guidance in prayer. Then, in this prayerful environment, they cast lots (eg drew straws, rolled dice) and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was added to the 11 apostles.

So the group had drawn up selection criteria, allowing them to propose two suitable candidates; they had immersed the process in prayer and then sought a sign from God. The early Church was taking its first few precarious steps - methodical and prayerful - but a new reality was about to encompass this fledgling community.

To Ponder

  • The disciples were waiting in Jerusalem "for the promise of the Father" (Acts 1:4). What part does waiting play in your relationship with God?
  • What aspects of leadership were displayed by Peter in this time of uncertainty and waiting? What does good leadership look like?
  • What do you make of the selection process for Judas' successor? What do you like about it and what might you have done differently?

Bible notes author

The Revd Graham Jones

Graham Jones is a Methodist presbyter serving as a member of the Discipleship and Ministries Learning Network in the Yorkshire Plus region of the Methodist Church, with particular responsibility for ministry development. Graham is committed to developing ministry in its broadest sense, enabling both lay and ordained to live out their vocations, and to share in God's mission in the most fulfilling and effective ways.