12] Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey. 13] And when they had entered, they went up into the upper room where they were staying: Peter, James, John, and Andrew; Philip and Thomas; Bartholomew and Matthew; James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot. 14] These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.
15] And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples (altogether the number of names was about a hundred and twenty), and said, 16] “Men and brethren, this Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke before by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus; 17] for he was numbered with us and had obtained a part in this ministry.”
18] (Now this man purchased a field with the wages of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his entrails gushed out; 19] And it became known to all those dwelling in Jerusalem; so that field is called in their own language, Akel Dama, that is, Field of Blood.)
20] “For it is written in the Book of Psalms:
‘Let his dwelling place be desolate,
And let no one live in it’;
and ‘let another take his office.’
21] “Therefore, of these men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22] beginning from the baptism of John to that day when He was taken up from us, one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.”
23] And they proposed two: Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. 24] And they prayed and said, “You, O Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which of these two You have chosen 25] to take part in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.” 26] And they cast their lots, and the lot fell on Matthias. And he was numbered with the eleven apostles.
Our Lord’s earthly ministry had ended. He told His disciples to stay in Jerusalem until they received the Promise of the Father, v. 4. There had been a question about the re-establishing of the Davidic kingdom, and He had replied that it wasn’t time for that, such was up to the Father, and that in the meantime there were things for them to do, namely being His witnesses world-wide, vs. 6-8. Then He ascended, but not with sending an angel with the wonderful promise that He would return “in like manner as you saw Him go into Heaven.” He didn’t tell them to look for signs or wonders, to check the news for evidence that “the end” was near, or to expect that folks would listen to them. He simply told them to wait, after which they would be busy.
“To wait.” That didn’t mean to be idle. The eleven along with some women, Mary the mother of Jesus, and His brothers, continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, v. 14. It’s interesting that nothing is said about them praying to Mary or through her. She held no place of importance among them. There was no “veneration” of her. She was just there as one of them. And, evidently, His brothers had been converted after first rejecting Him, cf John 7:1-5.
It’s a shame prayer doesn’t have a greater place in our lives. I’m guilty, too. We get so busy with lesser things that we forget the important thing. And I don’t mean just some repetitive formula, or a few words hastily uttered before bedtime, but real communication with and intercession before God. And it isn’t just about “asking and receiving,” as one author wrote. That is certainly part of it, but God is not some heavenly Concierge just waiting around to tell Him what to do. No, no, if we are believers, we are His children and as children love to be with their father – if he’s the right kind of father – so God’s children love to be around Him. God is the right “kind” of Father! If we remember who He is and what He has done and is doing and will do, we have a lot to thank and praise Him for.
There was something to be done while they waited. One of their number had perished. Now we don’t exactly what was going through Peter’s mind at this time. He does say in v. 22 that someone must be chosen to “become a witness with us of His resurrection.” Again, the importance of our Lord’s resurrection. If Peter had been a modern preacher, he probably would have talked about witnessing of His love. But the early church in the book of Acts never once mentioned the love of God. In fact, the one occurrence of any Greek word for “love” is found in Acts 28:2, where the inhabitants of the island the shipwrecked survivors landed on showed them “unusual kindness.”
Perhaps Peter had in mind the Lord’s promise that the time was coming when the apostles would “sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel,” Matthew 19:28; Luke 22:30. Since there were only eleven apostles at the time, one more was necessary.
Some have criticized Peter for not praying before making this statement. However, those in the room had been in constant prayer, and it is possible, though not stated, that the lack of an apostle was part of that prayer.
There is a solemn thought in all this. For three years, Judas had been an active member of The Twelve. They had no inkling that he was any different from them; indeed they made him the treasurer. True, Scripture tells us he was a thief and stole from their treasury, but they didn’t know that until afterward. There was nothing outwardly to mark him as different. As Peter put it, Judas had “obtained a part in this ministry.”
But he was lost.
In Matthew 7, our Lord made a sobering statement:
“Many will say to Me in that day [the Day of Judgment], ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?” And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ “ vs. 22, 23.
It’s a solemn thought. Many in our time “prophesy” or “cast out demons” or do “wonders” or make much of “the Lord’s name.” But our Lord rejects such things! Why?? Read Matthew 7 again. It’s all about what they have done! Nothing about what He has done. Cf. Paul in Romans 15:18, For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ has not accomplished through me…, emphasis added. Not once did Paul take the credit for his ministry. Christ used him, yes, and He uses others, but it is God who gives the increase, 1 Corinthians 3:7.
Oh, that we would remember this. No one praises the paint brush of a great artist or the chisel and hammer of a sculptor.
We are only tools in the hand of that One who designed the ages and brings His work to pass. After all, He doesn’t need us. He simply spoke the worlds into existence. But He’s pleased to use us, imperfect though we are, not because of us, but because of His great mercy.
Thank you, Lord.