Saturday 14 May 2016

Bible Book:

“Show us which one of these two you have chosen 25to take the place in this ministry and apostleship” (vv. 24-25)

Acts 1:15-26 Saturday 14 May 2016

Psalm: Psalm 15


Today's passage reflects the veneration, in some Christiantraditions, of Saint Matthias, the man chosen to replace Judas asone of the twelve apostles. Matthias, unlike the 12, was notpersonally called by Jesus, who has already ascended into heaven bythe time of his appointment in Acts (Acts1:6-11). Neither is Matthias mentioned in any of the Gospels,but these verses in Acts reveal that both Matthias and hisco-candidate for the vacancy (Justus) had "accompanied us fromthroughout the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us"(v. 21). This is very interesting if only in confirming that theband of disciples who travelled with Jesus was larger, and almostcertainly more diverse, than the twelve men we often visualise whenwe hear of "the disciples".

The passage from Acts also gives us an account of the fate ofJudas Iscariot after his betrayal of Jesus. Clearly there was morethan one story circulating at the time about Judas and his demise.Matthew's Gospel (Matthew 27:3-8) writes that Judas returned the30 pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders and then wentout and hanged himself. Deeming the money unfit for the treasury,as blood money, Matthew has the Jewish authorities purchasing afield for the burial of foreigners, a field which became known as"the Field of Blood". In a variant on this, Luke, in his sequel tohis Gospel, suggests that Judas used the reward to purchase a fieldwhere, whether by accident or by his own hand, he met a horribledeath. Two thousand years later we are unlikely to discover whichaccount is more accurate, but both lead to the same result - theplace of Judas in the team needs to be filled.

Several ideas can be gleaned from this passage; firstly itdemonstrates that Peter is already the accepted leader andspokesman of the group (verse 15). The detail that the crowdnumbered 120 (ie 12 x 10) (verse 15) could be related to thesignificance for the Jews of the number 12, which underlies theirreason to replace Judas, not to carry on as a band of 11. The storyalso highlights the importance of the Apostles and their calling toLuke. The detail in verse 20 with which Luke explains not just how,but also why this was done (referring to two relatively obscurequotations - Psalm 69:25: 109:8) suggests that the betrayal Judascommitted was much more than a betrayal of Jesus, but also an actwhich shook the fellowship of the disciples, leaving them hurt andbruised as well.

In Matthias and Justus they seem to have found two suitablereplacements and they leave it to God to make the choice throughthe casting of lots, a practice which has plenty of support in OldTestament times, but which has largely fallen out of favour as away of choosing religious leaders in modern times!

To Ponder

  • How might this story, with its message that Christian vocation,even a personal calling to apostleship by Jesus himself, can fail,affect the way you live out your own calling?
  • Reflect on a time when you have felt betrayed by the actions ofanother - even if those actions were not directly against you.
  • Psalm 15 isa meditation on 'walking blamelessly'. How might this psalm shedany 'guiding light' on your day, or does it sound rather smug?
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