A businessman had to make a trip to California and his wife wanted to go as well but she had a really important appointment the next day; so, he said, “Why don’t you do what you have to do and then fly out and join me.”
As soon as he arrived he thought he’d send her an e-mail and let her know what it was like so, he typed out his message but when he went to send it, he hit the wrong key and the message ended up going to the wife of a pastor who had just died the day before. Well, as she read the e-mail and she fainted because it said, “Darling, I just checked in and I’m looking forward to your arrival tomorrow. P.S. It sure is hot down here.”
12 Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a Sabbath day's journey. 13 And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alpheus, and Simon Zealots, and Judas the brother of James. 14 These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.
15 And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said, (the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty,) 16 Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus. 18 Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out. 19 And it was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch as that field is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, the field of blood.
20 For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishoprick let another take. 21 Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection.
23 And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. 24 And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen, 25 That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place. 26 And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.
I And the first thing we see is a prayer meeting that erupted into a business meeting.
So, there were two meetings and one wasn’t more important than the other both were necessary and both happened together.
In verses 12-14 we’re told the disciples had just returned from the Mount of Olives and they came to Jerusalem and you have to realize how short the distance is because although it’s described as a Sabbath day’s journey; this is only about two thirds of a mile. This term ‘Sabbath Days journey’ was used by the rabbi’s to describe how far someone was allowed to travel from their home on the Sabbath without breaking the law. So, the fact that it was called a Sabbath day’s journey had nothing to do with what day of the week it was simply used to describe how far they travelled.
And when they arrived in Jerusalem they all got together in what’s referred to as the upper room and we aren’t sure; but it may have been the same upper room they shared the last supper in with Jesus; but we aren’t sure.
And in verse 14 we see who’s there because it says, ‘These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.’ And since it doesn’t name all the women we don’t know how many or who were there other than Mary who was Jesus mother and the eleven apostles but we know there must have been a lot more because verse 15 tells us there were 120 people.
And if they were all gathered in the same room, we can assume this wasn’t the upstairs of someone’s house but had to be a very large meeting room of some sort.
And then we see what they were doing because verse 14 says, “These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer.” It says they prayed with one mind or one purpose and this is a favorite expression of Luke’s’ because he actually uses ‘praying with one mind’ ten different times and it’s only used once elsewhere in New Testament. And the emphasis here is on corporate prayer rather than private prayer.
Listen, there is a time to pray all by yourself; after all, the Lord Jesus often went by Himself for prayer but there’s also a time for corporate prayer or praying with other people. Now, having said that I also realize that not everyone is comfortable praying publicly or even praying out loud; but everyone can join the prayer of others in their hearts. So, whether it was silent or audible prayer; everyone prayed.
And what were they praying about? Well, it doesn’t say but I think we can assume they were asking God for protection from their enemies, provision of their needs, direction for their future, strength for their path and even for patience with one another. After all, they had just lost Judas and no one expected that, so, no one could be too sure about anyone else.
So, there were 120 gathered for a time of prayer and fellowship and we notice Peter speaks up and basically he begins conducting a business meeting because he and the other ten disciples decided they needed to pick a successor to Judas. After all, they decided that since Jesus began with twelve apostles they still needed twelve.
The role of apostle refers to that carefully select group of men who were the personal representatives of Jesus Christ Himself. In a sense, all Christians are to be apostles for Jesus but this particular gift only belonged to a few. An apostle had to be a witness of Jesus from His baptism all the way to His ascension. And their purpose was to bear witness to His sinless life, the things He taught, the things He suffered and the promise of His return.
And these apostles would occupy a position of unique honor because Jesus prophesied in Luke 22 that in the coming Kingdom they would "sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel" and in Revelation 21 we’re told their names will be on the twelve foundation stones of the wall of the New Jerusalem.
And it’s interesting to see what happened to all these men. James was the second recorded martyr because Stephen was the first. His death is recorded for us in Acts 12:2 where we’re told that Herod Agrippa killed him with a sword. Then Peter was crucified by the Romans and history records he witnessed his wife’s crucifixion and stood there encouraging her to stay true to the Lord. According to Eusebius, an early church leader, Peter thought himself unworthy to be crucified as his Master, and asked to be crucified “upside down.” And then Andrew who was Peter’s brother had preached Christ to the Scythians and Thracians and was also crucified for his faith.
Thomas who was known as “doubting Thomas” was thrust through with pine spears, tormented with red-hot plates, and then burned alive.
Philip evangelized a place called Phrygia where hostile Jews had him tortured and then crucified. Matthew, the tax collector, the author of the gospel of Matthew was beheaded at Nad-Davar.
Nathanael or Bartholomew whose name means “gift of God” was flayed or had the skin ripped off him and then he was crucified. James the Lesser was thrown down from the top of the temple and when he survived he was beaten to death with a club to the head.
Simon the Zealot proclaimed the good news in Egypt, Cyrene, Africa, Mauritania, Britain, Lybia, and Persia and then was crucified by a governor in Syria.
Judas Thaddeus preached in Mesopotamia and was beaten to death with sticks by a group of pagan priests.
Matthias who was the one who replaced Judas as the twelfth apostle was said to have preached in Ethiopia and died by the hands of barbarians and then another account says he went to Colchis and was crucified, while yet another says he was stoned and beheaded in Jerusalem and that his remains were eventually taken to Germany by Charlemagne’s mother Helena. So, we aren’t what happened but we know he died at the hand of unbelievers.
And then John is the only one of the twelve Apostles who died a natural death and although he didn’t die a martyr’s death, he certainly lived a martyr’s life. He was exiled to the Island of Patmos (which is nothing but rock) for preaching the gospel and it was there he wrote the book of Revelation. Some claimed he was thrown into a pot of boiling oil and lived but if that’s true he must have been scarred for the rest of his life.
And then there’s the apostle Paul who was an apostle to the gentiles but he wasn’t considered to be one of the twelve because he was neither a witness of the baptism, the ministry nor ascension of Jesus. Paul met his death at the hands of the Roman Emperor Nero when he was beheaded in Rome.
So, as we see this draw for the position of apostle, we don’t have the impression that anybody won or lost anything but these were simply men who were seeking the will of God.
The term apostle literally means ‘one sent.’ I was somewhere with Jack Wyrtzen and he handed me a penny and he said, ‘Here’s an apostle. One cent.’
So, the term has taken on all kinds of religious meanings but it simply refers to men who were sent by the Lord Jesus Christ to be His personal witnesses to the world.
II And then we turn our attention to Judas – who is the notorious betrayer.
And the reason I called him notorious is because his name is synonymous with betrayal. We refer to someone as a Judas when we can’t think of anything worse to say. I’ve heard of people calling their dogs Judas and rock bands using the name Judas to appear repulsive but no one calls their kids this and yet, before the crucifixion, Judas was a common name. Judas means, ‘God is praised’ and it comes from the land of Judah. So, this was a good name.
And Peter basically, began by saying they had to replace Judas who had been chosen by Jesus but betrayed Him for thirty pieces of silver (which was around $1900) and then he committed suicide. It’s interesting that in Matthew 27 we’re told Judas went out and hanged himself but in Acts 1:18 it says; ‘he fell and his body burst open.’ Personally, I don’t see a problem; because I think both happened. He hung himself and obviously he didn’t use very good rope because after he died, the rope broke, he fell and his body burst open.
Judas’ position as an apostle was open not only because he had died but more importantly because of why he died. He was an apostate. He had left the faith; if he had any to begin with. And this is important to see because when James was beheaded by Herod in Acts 12; the disciples didn’t look for someone to take his place him but when Judas died they did; because they needed someone to be a witness with the other eleven of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. I think, Judas would have been replaced even if he had lived.
Look at how Peter addresses the subject of his replacement in verse 16. ‘Peter said, Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus. 18 Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out. 19 And it was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch as that field is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, the field of blood. 20 For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishoprick let another take. 21 Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection.’
Verse 25 says, ‘That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell that he might go to his own place.’
My first reaction when I read this is: why was Peter so graphic? Well, remember who Luke was writing to? He was writing to Theophilus, who was a Greek and suicide was considered to be an acceptable practice in both Greek and Roman culture. They considered suicide to be an act of bravery as one would plunge themselves into the unknown but what Luke was doing was emphasizing to Theophilus was; how God was so displeased with Judas that he describes what happened to his body.
And down through the ages Judas has been described either as a victim or some kind of patsy of the devil; but the scripture portrays Him as being a willing participant in the plan to kill Jesus. Don’t forget; he had heard the message of salvation and had been on the various preaching trips with the other disciples and no doubt had even preached the gospel himself. He had seen Jesus performing miracles and may have even been the instrument God used to perform some of them.
After all, he was one of the seventy who had come back and reported about the various cases of healing and deliverance. He watched Jesus closely for three years and would later testify to the chief priests that Jesus was sinless when he said, “I have betrayed innocent blood.” But, in spite of everything he saw, heard and experienced; he knowingly rejected the Son of God.
I can’t help but think he was sitting at the table during the last supper seething with anger and trying to figure out how he could get even with Jesus because he had been rebuked over the incident of Mary’s anointing Jesus’ feet. And also because he saw the chances of getting rich were gone. Everyone else was sitting there hanging on every word Jesus said but I think Judas was trying to figure out how he could cash in on the situation.
And yet we might ask ourselves, why was he so angry? Jesus hadn’t done anything wrong? The problem was in his mind. I think his shallow approach to life had been exposed and he couldn’t take it and refused to repent.
There could be other things as well. He might’ve always resented the fact that he was not one of the inner circle. I mean, it’s obvious that Peter, James and John were chosen to go with Jesus to places and situations where the others weren’t invited, like the Mount of Transfiguration, the raising of the young girl from the dead and even into the garden of Gethsemane when Jesus went to pray. And unlike the other disciples who didn’t seem to notice; Judas might have been slighted by the attention these three were receiving.
Then again, Judas was the only disciple who wasn’t a Galilean. He was from Judea and Judea was an upper class area compared to where the rest had come from and he might have been ribbed by the other disciples for acting like he was a cut above them. And whether it was real or imagined he might have felt like he was never accepted.
And so, he may have had a poor image to start with and being different from the others would only add fuel to his fire; or his anger may have stemmed from his guilt. After all, he knew he was stealing from the funds he was in charge of and rather than assuming responsibility for his actions he projected his anger outward.
Or maybe he was frustrated because he wanted an earthly kingdom and now Jesus was making it clear that the kingdom He was offering was not of this world. And then again, it could have been that he was just rebelling against authority and let’s face it, Jesus was the ultimate authority figure.
Whatever it was that motivated him, I’m sure of this, Judas wasn’t the grotesque monster that artists have portrayed down through the ages because when Jesus prophesied about His betrayal nobody thought of Judas.
Picture of the Last Supper.
Judas is someone who is treated either like the worst person who ever lived or as someone who was simply misunderstood because he did something that turned out so horrific but I think that as we examine the scripture the evidence is obvious that Judas consciously and willfully betrayed the Lord.
Let me point out a few examples of what I mean.
First, Jesus had made an announcement to the disciples a year before His death in John 6:70-71 where it says, ‘Jesus answered them, have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve.’ Now, it’s easy to say, Judas hadn’t planned on betraying Jesus that far back but even if he hadn’t even thought of it this should have stuck in his mind because Jesus knows everything past, present and future.
Second, the seating arrangement at the last supper indicated that Judas was given a position of honor at this feast. You remember that when Jesus had made the announcement of His betrayal that John leaned over and asked Him who it was who going to betray Him and Jesus dipped the sop and handed it to Judas. So, they were dining Roman style and John was on one side and Judas on the other. And that’s important to understand because you remember how the mother of John and James came to Jesus and asked that her sons could sit one on his right hand and the other on his left when He came into His kingdom; what she was asking was that her sons be given the chief positions. And these were the two seats that were occupied by John and Judas.
We see this today as we see our parliament on TV. The Prime Minister has the deputy Prime Minister on one side and the finance minister on the other. These are the chief seats of honor. So, it may not sound like much but remember that John referred to himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved and by this seating arrangement Judas could have made the same claim.
Third, when Jesus washed the disciple’s feet in John 13 He also washed Judas’ feet even though He knew these same feet would be running to the temple authorities within the hour. This act of love and humility should have broken his heart and brought him to the point of repentance but his heart had grown as hard as stone.
Fourth, in John 13:10,11 Jesus made another announcement that one of them was unclean and that should have resulted in some soul searching but Judas seemed oblivious and yet all the other disciples seemed to think Jesus was talking about them because they were so conscious of the weakness of their flesh.
Fifth, Jesus appealed to Judas with quotes from the Old Testament scriptures. He used the verse from Psalm 41:9 that referred to David’s betrayal by Ahithophel his close friend and adviser and by this He was telling Judas that not only did He know what he was about to do but was also warning him that he would end up like Ahithophel who went out and hanged himself. And again, I think Jesus was demonstrating His love for Judas and trying to spare him the punishment due his actions.
Sixth, He used the double verily when He spoke about His betrayal and these are words He only used when He wanted to emphasize something very important. In John He uses it to announce His second coming, the necessity of the new birth, the need for everyone to accept His testimony as truth, to refer to His word as the only source of salvation, to call attention to the certainty of His resurrection, to point out how people were wrong to follow Him just for the free food after He fed the multitudes, to emphasize His pre-existence, to point to Himself as the only means of salvation, to stress the believers need to die to self, to tell them that Peter would deny Him and then to prophecy about the how and when of Peter’s death. So, when He used the terms verily, verily while speaking about His betrayal; He was emphasizing this was definitely going to happen and surely Judas would have or should have thought, ‘How did He know?’
Seventh, He identified Judas in the presence of Matthew. In Matthew 26:25 it says, ‘Then Judas, which betrayed him, answered and said, Master, is it I? He said unto him, Thou hast said.’ Which is the same as saying, ‘You’ve said it.’ So, Judas not only knew what he was going to do but he also knew that Jesus knew it too.
It’s interesting that both Matthew and John heard what Jesus said and they both saw Judas receive the sop and yet in John 13:28 it says that when Judas left the room to betray Jesus no one suspected what he was going to do. For some reason, it just didn’t register and this may have been a case of divine intervention because God knew the disciples might have done something to stop Judas if they could.
Eighth, the handing of the sop to Judas at the last supper was actually an act of honor. Basically, they had a common pot in the center of the table and the host would take a piece of pita bread and scoop some of the contents from the pot and hand it to the one he wished to honor. This was considered to be a mark of courtesy, respect and affection for the one who received it and by this act Jesus was telling the disciples that He loved Judas.
We honor people in different ways; like at a wedding where no one touches their food until the bride does or a royal dinner where no one eats until the queen begins. You remember in the story of Joseph’s dinner with his brothers how larger portions were given to Benjamin or a specific portion was given to Saul when he ate with the prophet Samuel. Different cultures have different ways of honoring their special guests and this is the way it was done in Israel.
I had a friend who was a missionary in South America where he was invited to be a guest of the chief for dinner. He thought this will be great until he realized the guest of honor had his food chewed by the chief. I’ll tell you, not everyone will do that for you. In Bolivia the guest of honor is given the eyeballs of whatever they’re eating. Every society has their way of acknowledging the guest of honor and this was the way it was done in Jesus day. So, Judas was honored by Jesus just before he went to betray Him.
Ninth, another warning for Judas was when Jesus sent him out to commit his act of betrayal He forced his hand because at this point he had to make a conscious decision as to whether or he’d actually go through with it. And what Jesus said to Judas was basically, go and get it over with.
Tenth, His final warning was in the garden where Jesus addressed Judas as His friend and this was when he was in the midst of betraying Him to His enemies. And listen, this was not a pretense on Jesus part because He had been nothing but a friend to Judas.
So, time and again, Jesus appealed to Judas to save him from his sinful ways but listen, his heart was as hard as rock to the love of God.
We learn some lessons from the life of Judas. And the first is, someone can always pull the wool over our eyes but nothing, nothing escapes the notice of God.
I’ve known several so-called Christian men who were well respected in the church and community and they turned out to be con men and ended up ripping people off for thousands of dollars. I wouldn’t have expected it but Jesus knew all about them and He’s going to deal with them in the end. The fact is, it’s hard to tell who’s who because none of us are perfect.
I remember when I was in sales I read a book called ‘Looking out for number One’ and the author gave some solid advice. He said, ‘Always be aware of the person who starts a conversation by telling you how honest they are. It’s a sure indication they’re guilty of something and want to dispel any rumors you might have heard about them. If someone tells you they can’t stand a liar then you better pay close attention to what they say because they may not know what word truth means. If someone is talking about the lack of integrity among business people today, then you can be sure someone has been accusing them of the very same thing.’
The first lesson we learn from Judas is, you can fool all of the people some of the time and you can fool some of the people all of the time but you can never fool God anytime.
And then the second thing we learn; is that even God can’t change the heart of someone who is intent on going their own way and doing their own thing. God has made us with a free will and all of us have to decide if we’ll spend eternity with Him or not. Listen, God will not violate our free will even to force us to do what’s best for us. If He did that, we would be less than human. He’s provided salvation and we must make the choice to accept or reject it.
So, get this, it’s important, never let it be said that God put Judas in hell. Judas went there of his own free will and he also went there over the objections and appeals of Jesus.
And then the last phrase in verse 25 says, ‘from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.’ This tells us that Judas went where he belongs and that’s hell which he chose by his own free will.
So, we saw the reason for the meeting which was a time of prayer followed by the decision to replace Judas, then we saw Judas as the notorious betrayer that he was who did what he did because of his own free will over the appeals and objections of Jesus and then finally we’ll see their choice of a new apostle.
III New apostle
Verse 23 describes how they made their choice and it says, ‘And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. 24 And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen, 25 That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place. 26 And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.’
This casting of lots would have been similar to the Old Testament idea of casting the Urim and Thummin which was some way of determining the will of God but later, in the New Testament we’re told to search the scriptures to know what the will of the Lord is.
Some question whether Mathias should have been chosen because he’s never mentioned again in the New Testament but then again; neither are several other of the apostles either.
So, we’ve seen in this portion; the need of the hour which was both prayer and handling God’s business God’s way; then how Judas got what Judas deserved and finally the choice of Matthias to be the twelfth apostle. And what it all comes down to is: God’s will; will be accomplished; either with us or without us and we will be either rewarded or reprimanded depending on our obedience to the will of God.