Summary: We are going to look at the church’s first business meeting if you will. We are introduced to the remaining eleven apostles tonight. We are going to look at the replacing and the replacement for number twelve, and why this is significant.
The early church had a vacancy. Jesus had named twelve apostles to carry out the ministry of being His witnesses. Now there was only eleven. There was one position left to fill. That was a big opening to fill. In the past two weeks, we have studied the Great Commission and the Ascension of Christ and how these events helped to shape the early church.
Tonight though, we are going to look at the church’s first business meeting if you will. We are introduced to the remaining eleven apostles tonight. We are going to look at the replacing and the replacement for number twelve, and why this is significant.
Many people think that the way in which the replacement apostle was chosen was wrong. Some others think that the wrong choice was made in who was selected to fill the vacancy in the twelve.
We also saw last week that the apostles and other disciples of Christ were gathered together in one accord in prayer and supplication. They were commanded to wait for the coming Holy Spirit.
The choosing of the new apostle was an important event in the early church at Jerusalem. In the previous weeks, we looked at the promise of the coming Holy Spirit, and next week, we will look at the fulfillment of that promise on the day of Pentecost. Now stuck in between these two events is the choosing of the new apostle. The question that naturally comes to mind is why? Why is this here?
It has to do with God’s Will being done on the earth no matter what the circumstances. Obviously, the other eleven apostles were shocked and surprised at Judas’ betrayal, even though Jesus wasn’t.
So after Jesus ascended into heaven, the disciples did as Jesus told them. They returned to Jerusalem, went back to the upper room. We are given a list of the eleven disciples that were there. They continued in prayer along with some women and the brothers of Jesus.
The first point we are going to look at is the spokesman. Peter stood and began giving a study of the Scriptures. So, this is the scene, about 120 disciples were gathered together in the upper room. They were probably packed in there pretty tight, by our standards.
Peter stands up and starts addressing these 120 people. Scholars tell us that there was between half a million and 4 million people in Palestine at the time of Christ. We also know that there are about 4 or 500 disciples of Christ. In this verse we see 120 gathered together. The Christians make up a small minority of the local population at the time. But, as we will see, from this small group gathered here, the whole world will be changed in a few hundred years.
Peter then begins a discourse on why they should replace Judas in the twelve apostles. He says that in order to fulfill prophecy written by David in the Psalms, they must fill the position. Peter goes on to tell them that this prophecy was concerning Judas Iscariot, the apostle who betrayed Jesus, and guided those who would arrest Jesus, and later have him crucified. Peter’s reasoning was that Judas was numbered with them and that he obtained a part in this ministry.
It is clear that from verse 16 Peter was well intentioned, and that he was sincere about fulfilling scripture concerning Jesus’ betrayer. One of the reasons people cite in saying that the apostles made the wrong choice here is that the guy that is chosen is never heard about again. But that can be said about the majority of the eleven and certainly the majority of the 120 gathered. We don’t hear about most of these others in the rest of the New Testament. Does that mean that they weren’t used of God as well?
So, why did they want to replace Judas anyway? Well, besides the two scriptures Peter cites, we have a few clues. The first is that 12 is a complete number in scripture. Eleven is not. There were 12 tribes of Israel. The woman who touched Jesus with the flow of blood, had her problem twelve years. The apostles took up twelve basketfuls of crumbs after the 5000 were fed. In Revelation, we see the New Jerusalem having 12 foundations, on each was written a name of the twelve apostles. We also see in scripture that there will be twelve thrones, on which the twelve apostles will judge the nation of Israel.
So, the number twelve has a significant role in the Bible. It made sense in a Biblical sense to replace Judas. But, in vv. 18-19, Dr. Luke feels it’s important to give a description of the events surrounding Judas’ death, and we will look at this in the next two verses, 18-19. Right off, we notice that these two verses are in parentheses. Luke is making a side comment from his historical account to enlighten his readers as to the circumstances around Judas’ death.