Rejoiced! Worshipped! Devotional Commentary for April 22-28
12Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day's journey away.
13When they had entered the city, they went up to the upper room where they were staying; that is, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James.
14These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.
When Jesus told them about His forthcoming suffering and ultimate return to His Father in heaven, the disciples were shocked and deeply saddened. However, once their understanding was opened by Christ's divine touch; once the angels explained to them about Jesus' ascension and His return; once they were assured of the coming of the indwelling Spirit of God to lead them into all truths; the disciples returned to Jerusalem refresh with true Joy. Their sorrow turned to joy and their withdrawal into worship.
The disciples walked some distance back to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives near Bethany and returned to the upper room of a house where they stayed together. This was probably the familiar upper room where they had eaten the last Passover meal with Jesus the Christ the night before He was crucified. All eleven of the disciples, Mary the mother of Jesus, the Lord's brothers, and other men and women were together. Judas Iscariot was no longer with them. His guilt drove him to commit suicide.
The disciples, so frightened on the night of Jesus’ arrest and trial, were now gathered in a spirit of unity and in the joy of the risen Lord waiting for the coming of the Holy Spirit as promised by Jesus. They continually prayed in such a spirit of unity. They waited. They prayed. They believed. They were in one accord as they continually prayed and worshipped. They had faith in the risen Lord as they waited.
15At this time Peter stood up in the midst of the brethren (a gathering of about one hundred and twenty persons was there together), and said,
16"Brethren, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit foretold by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus.
17"For he was counted among us and received his share in this ministry."
18(Now this man acquired a field with the price of his wickedness, and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his intestines gushed out.
19And it became known to all who were living in Jerusalem; so that in their own language that field was called Hakeldama, that is, Field of Blood.)
20"For it is written in the book of Psalms, 'LET HIS HOMESTEAD BE MADE DESOLATE, AND LET NO ONE DWELL IN IT'; and, 'LET ANOTHER MAN TAKE HIS OFFICE.'
21"Therefore it is necessary that of the men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us
22beginning with the baptism of John until the day that He was taken up from us--one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection."
Besides the eleven apostles, Jesus' mother, and His brothers, there were more men and women who were gathered in the upper room bringing the total headcount of the assembly to One Hundred and Twenty disciples. These were the people who prayed, worshipped, and waited for Jesus' promise with singleness of mind. At some point during the waiting period, Peter stood up and addressed the gathering. Being guided by the Holy Spirit, Peter assumed the leadership of the assembly and reviewed recent events that brought them to this time and place. He opened his address by affirming the inescapable certainty and the inevitable timeliness of the prophetic fulfillment concerning the one who would "lift up his heel" against the hand that fed him as foretold by the Psalmist.
It was known only to God that the prophecy was about Judas until it was revealed when he actually became the guide to those who arrested Jesus. It was an appointment contemplated in the supreme counsel of the sovereign God which came to pass in keeping with the prophecy foretold about Judas' role in the capture of Jesus. Even though the situation seems somewhat odious to our rational mind and to our natural sentiments, Judas did what he was appointed to do. To be sure, Judas followed his own conscience and acted upon his own convictions. His action was not an instance of conscious obedience to God. He did what seemed right to him according to his own thoughts and convictions.
Nothing was withheld from Judas. He was a fully integrated member of the Lord’s disciples. He was one of the chosen Twelve, sent out by Jesus to proclaim His Word, heal the sick, and cast out demons in the Name of Jesus.
Peter reminded the assembly with vivid description that Judas plummeted to his death on the rocks below the tree where he hung himself. Judas realized what he had done and regretted his act of betrayal; and with the pay-off money he returned, the priests bought the potter’s field as a burial ground for indigents and strangers. The field is known as "Hakeldama" in the native tongue, meaning the Field of Blood or valued with blood.
Quoting from the Psalms, Peter affirmed Judas' end to be appropriate to what he did according to his own conscience. As such, he was judged by God. Then Peter recommended that Judas' office should be taken by someone else who fulfilled certain prerequisite criteria. Anyone taking the apostolic office must have been following Jesus Christ along with the rest of the apostles from the time when John the Baptizer acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah; the Lamb of God Who came to take away the sins of the world. That is, the replacing apostle should have been with Jesus from the time when John's disciples began to follow Jesus, and also became the witness of the Lord's suffering, resurrection, and His ascension.
23So they put forward two men, Joseph called Barsabbas (who was also called Justus), and Matthias.
24And they prayed and said, "You, Lord, who know the hearts of all men, show which one of these two You have chosen
25to occupy this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place."
26And they drew lots for them, and the lot fell to Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles.
Following Peter's brief review of recent events and his recommendation regarding Judas' vacated office, the disciples thoroughly canvassed the assembly and identified Joseph and Matthias as the two men who met the qualifying criteria. However, the disciples recognized that their mere decision to replace Judas by selecting one of these two men was insufficient in and of itself. They looked to God for direction.
They prayed. They acknowledged the Lord’s sovereignty in all things. They confessed that everyone’s thoughts are known to God. They trusted God and acted in one accord.
The disciples cast lots, believing that the results were in the hands of God. The choice fell on Matthias and he was numbered among the twelve apostles. The disciples felt the need. They prayed. They acted. They accepted God's Will; and rejoiced in His sovereign election.
We can hardly imagine the intense emotion that may have gripped these eleven men as they watched their Master disappear into the clouds, ascending to His Father in heaven. Probably a deeply rooted sense of loss and grief; still doubting everything the Lord had said and promised. However, the Lord did not leave them in this condition. Two angels sent by God to the scene assured them that Jesus will return in the clouds again just as He left. Armed with this assurance, hope and confidence flooded their souls. They returned to Jerusalem with joy, committed to waiting for the promised Holy Spirit.
It was during this waiting period that Peter was moved to address his comrades in faith regarding the replacement for Judas' apostolic office. Quoting from the Psalms, Peter convinced the gathering to consider, pray, and act upon his recommendation, resulting in the inclusion of Matthias among the Twelve.
Peter's words to the assembly give us a hint that the disciples were beginning to understand God’s sovereignty in engaging people, events, and circumstances to execute His Plan, accomplish His Purpose, and fulfill His Will. The Scriptures tell us that the Ways and the Wisdom of our sovereign God are "past finding out." But once the understanding of the disciples was opened by the Lord Himself, their sorrows turned to joy and their confusion to certainty and to faith.
There were One Hundred and Twenty of them; they prayed, worshipped, and waited together with one accord. They were of a single mind. They were one in Christ. When Peter spoke to them about replacing Judas, they prayed, cast lots, and collectively looked to God for the result as a single body of believers.
They did not walk away for individual contemplation. They did not break up into groups to form debating factions. They worked together in perfect harmony. They spoke and acted with one voice. They were united-as-one by the Spirit of God that Jesus breathed on them.
The same uniting Spirit and the same Power still works in the Church of Jesus Christ, calling the redeemed to the oneness we share in our Savior. There is one body, one Spirit, one hope, one calling, one Lord, one Savior, one faith, one baptism, one God, and one Father. We are called to the unity of Spirit in the bond of peace. Christ our Savior is one. We are called to be one in Him.
They waited. They prayed. They acted as one. They trusted. They obeyed. They responded to the Truth that was revealed to them. The same Lord is our Lord. The same Spirit dwells in us. The same Word is given to us. Should our response be any different? God forbid!