20 June 2022Acts 1:15-26
‘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.' (vs 24-25)
In this passage, Jesus’ followers are reeling in the aftermath of a major scandal. Judas has betrayed Jesus for money, and then died. Exactly what has happened is not very clear here; in Matthew’s account, we read that Judas hanged himself in remorse (Matthew 27.3-5). But in case we are tempted to dismiss the scandal as the actions of one bad apple, notice who is speaking: it is Peter, who denied Jesus three times on the night of his arrest. Even Jesus’ closest friends, his earliest followers, the leaders of the Early Church, were not immune from human weakness.
A replacement for Judas is needed, and it needs to be someone who has witnessed the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. They are not seeking to appoint someone to a position, but instead recruiting someone for a mission. Metaphorically speaking, they are lacing up their running shoes and getting ready for a marathon: the mammoth journey to Jerusalem, to all of Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).
Luke calls Jesus’ 12 closest followers ‘Apostles’; an Apostle is ‘one who is sent’. It is clear that the 12 (now 11) are being sent to bear witness to what they have seen. For this reason, they need a 12th eyewitness. This witness will be a man – but notice that the women who followed Jesus are around too (see Acts 1:14). Soon the leadership of the Early Church will include women, such as the apostle Junia, mentioned in Romans 16:7.
The process of choosing the 12th Apostle is interesting to observe, as both human and divine choice is involved. The believers propose two men, Justus and Matthias; then they pray, asking God which man they should choose; and finally they cast lots. They ask God to influence the process of casting lots at random so that God’s choice might be discerned. Now their team is complete, ready for the journey of their lives.
- Jesus calls us, too, to bear witness to what we have experienced of God. How does that make you feel? Excited? Nervous? A bit of both?
- What might you, your church or your circuit need to do differently, in order to free up time, energy and resources to be witnesses in God’s world?
Lord Jesus, thank you for the honour of being one of your Apostles. Though we are not worthy, we look to you to give us all we need for the journey. In your name we pray, Amen.