Friday, January 25
What’s One More?
15 During these days Peter stood up among the brothers-- the number of people who were together was about 120-- and said: 16 "Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled that the Holy Spirit through the mouth of David spoke in advance about Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. 17 For he was one of our number and was allotted a share in this ministry." 18 Now this man acquired a field with his unrighteous wages. He fell headfirst and burst open in the middle, and all his insides spilled out. 19 This became known to all the residents of Jerusalem, so that in their own language that field is called Hakeldama (that is, Field of Blood). 20 "For it is written in the Book of Psalms: Let his dwelling become desolate; let no one live in it; and Let someone else take his position. 21 "Therefore, from among the men who have accompanied us during the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us-- 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day He was taken up from us-- from among these, it is necessary that one become a witness with us of His resurrection." 23 So they proposed two: Joseph, called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias. 24 Then they prayed, "You, Lord, know the hearts of all; show which of these two You have chosen 25 to take the place in this apostolic service that Judas left to go to his own place." 26 Then they cast lots for them, and the lot fell to Matthias. So he was numbered with the 11 apostles. (Act 1:15-26)
After Jesus’ ascension, the first order of business for the apostles was not church planting, fundraising or a book deal. It was appointing a replacement to the leadership team. Peter reminds the remaining group of 120 believers that Judas’s betrayal was both necessary and predicted (while Luke fills in the grisly details), and then Peter recalls the prophecy that while this wicked man’s house (his legacy) was to remain vacant, his position was not.
Why was a replacement necessary though? Eleven disciples still remained, and the small band of Jesus followers had recently experienced a sharp decline, not increase, in numbers. The 12 apostles (the term Luke generally reserves for the original 12 disciples) had to be twelve because their importance went far beyond teaching and leading; in fact, their number might have been the most important thing about the 12 apostles. To a modern, Western audience the significance is not immediately obvious, but to a Jewish audience the significance was so obvious it need not be stated. Jews were awaiting the restoration of their nation, Israel, which took its name from the patriarch Israel—whose 12 sons formed the 12 tribes of Israel. Israel had split into two kingdoms, and both fell to conquerors between roughly 700-600 BC. The new powers dispersed the defeated Israelites throughout the known world. In exile, Jeremiah 31, became one of the most beautiful promises of restoration: “At that time. . .I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they will be my people.” In the Old Testament books of Ezra and Nehemiah, small groups of Jews do return from Babylon and even build a new Temple, but Israel was still ruled by foreign power, the new Temple paled in comparison to the splendor of the old one, and, perhaps most importantly, people from all the tribes had not returned. Exile was not truly over.
Jesus’ choice of 12 apostles signaled not just the restoration of Israel and the fulfillment of God’s promises to His chosen nation, but the beginning of a new Israel. Peter later uses God’s words for Israel to describe the Church: a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his possession (1 Peter 2:9a). The book of Acts is simultaneously something entirely new that the Spirit of God is doing—and the fulfillment of God’s oldest promises. In selecting a replacement apostle, the original 11 weren’t merely filling board seats, but acting in faith that this Jesus-movement they had signed up for was just beginning.
How right they were, because God was about to show up, fulfill His promises, and restore His people.
Why is it still important to us today that Jesus chose 12 disciples to build His Church? How might the Church’s identity as the new Israel change the way we view our calling and mission, both as individuals and as a collective body?
O Yahweh God, You are a faithful God and not one of your promises will fail. You promised your servant Abraham that you would make him into a great nation. You promised to bless all the nations through him. You promised to restore your exiled people. Not only are You faithful to those promises, but Your answers are bigger than we could ask or imagine. Through Jesus, You have included me in Your chosen race, Your holy nation. I am Your possession, so may I declare Your praises for calling me out of darkness into Your marvelous light. Into Your Church. Into Your family. Amen.
Pick Four More Activities
Listen and Worship.
Pray a Psalm.
Read a Book.
Retell the Gospel to Yourself.
Take Some Notes on Today's Devotional.
Pray for Yourself, Your Family, Your Church, and the Lost.
Memorize a Verse.
List Five Things You're Thankful For.