ACTS 1:15-17, 21-26
In recent weeks, we have been reading from the middle of the Book of Acts. Today, we are whisked back to chapter one. The apostles must select a replacement for Judas.
The selection that will be read in church this Sunday is that which is shown above. I have started this commentary with verse 12, and included verses 18-20. The main thrust of today’s passage really doesn’t need these inclusions, but I am adding them for clarity.
- The ascension of Jesus into heaven is described in the verses immediately ahead of today’s reading. They return to Jerusalem. Care is taken to note that this walk was a “Sabbath’s day journey”. Since Jesus’ ascension occurred on the Sabbath, walking any more than a half a mile was not allowed. (v. 12)
- All 11 of the apostles, were present, including “women” and Jesus’ siblings. The women were presumably those present at the crucifixion. As is revealed in verse 15b, other followers of Jesus were also present, numbering 120 in all. Most notably, all were devoted to constant prayer. (vv. 13-14)
- Peter speaks, to address the problem at hand. Judas is gone. (Details are given in verses 18-20a.) They need to choose a replacement for Judas. The reason for this is given in the takeaway below. (vv. 15-20)
- The requirements for Judas’ replacement are laid down. The man must have been with us the whole time. They narrowed it down to two, and did something which might seem weird to us. They cast lots to see who would replace Judas! This was a typical practice at the time. It was felt that with prayer, God’s Will would be expressed through this selection method. Remember that the Holy Spirit had not yet arrived on the scene. They went with a tried and true method. (vv. 21-26)
- Why did the apostles feel compelled to keep the number of apostles at 12? Most believe that it was because the circle of believers, lead by the apostles, were the New Israel. Since there were 12 tribes in the original nation of Israel, this was a significant number.
- We don’t hear much about the ministry of Matthias. By contrast, the ministry of Paul is profound. Many suggest that perhaps the Holy Spirit was not involved in Matthias’ selection. Maybe, the Holy Spirit chose Paul to be #12 instead. What do you think?
1 JOHN 5:9-13
These are the closing lines to John’s first letter. He leaves his readers with a couple of parting thoughts.
- The word “testimony” appears six times in our first four verses. We should take a close look at what John means. These days, we use the word to mean our personal witness, or our faith-story. In Jesus’ day, the Ten Commandments were considered God’s testimony. In fact, the Hebrew word “eduth” used in Exodus 31:18 to describe them means both “covenant” and “testimony”. God’s Law is His covenant and testimony. John talks of Jesus’ testimony in his Gospel. Of Jesus, he says “He whom God Has sent speaks the words of God…” (John 3:34a)
- Verse 9 tells us that God’s testimony far outweighs human testimony. What is this testimony? Read on!
- The core of this testimony is that if we believe that Jesus is the Son of God, we have this testimony, this covenant, in our hearts. Not believing in this is false testimony. It will get you nowhere. (v. 10)
- A direct connection is now made between believing the testimony of God and obtaining eternal life. If you believe, eternal life is automatic. There are no ifs, ands, or buts! You either have (believe in) Jesus or you don’t. If you have him, it is life; without him is death. (vv. 11-12)
- John now explains why he is telling us all this. He wants us to believe so that we will live. (v. 13) This sounds just like the concluding lines to his Gospel. In John 20:30-31, he tells us why he wrote his Gospel; he wants us to believe and have life.
In our homes, we have incredible power in the electrical outlets. It is there day and night, ready when we need it. When we need it, we just plug an appliance into this outlet, and that power is at our fingertips. We don’t even think about it, it is so automatic. When we believe in Jesus as the Son of God, eternal life is instantly ours. It is part of the deal—if you have the Son, you have life. It is automatic.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
When does eternal life begin? Consider this. We are alive now, and that life will continue on after our bodily form perishes. This means that we are already living our eternal life. We’ve only just begun to live! How might this fact change the way you go about your daily life?
John 17 is the final prayer that Jesus prays at the Last Supper. After this, they leave the upper room, and go to the garden where Judas betrays Jesus to the Roman soldiers and police of the Pharisees. This is called his High Priestly Prayer. In verses 1-5, Jesus prays for his glorification in the events that are about to unfold. In today’s reading, Jesus prays for his disciples.
- In the first paragraph, Jesus reminds the Father that he has shared everything with his disciples. His teaching mission has been accomplished. His disciples now know everything that Jesus was sent to tell them, and they believe. They are of one mind with Jesus and the Father. The words in verse 10 sum it up very well—“All mine are yours, and yours are mine…”
- In the second paragraph, Jesus asks the Father to protect his disciples. He knows that he is going home soon, and they will need the protection of the Father. He does not ask the Father to isolate them from the world they live in. They need to be involved in the world to do the work of God. He simply asks that they are protected from “the evil one”. (vv. 11-16)
- Finally, Jesus asks God to sanctify them. Sanctify means to make holy. Since Jesus has sent them into the world, the disciples need to be made holy just as Jesus was made holy. (vv. 17-19)
We are Jesus’ disciples here in this time and place. Jesus is praying this prayer for us as well. The Lord is ours, and we are the Lord’s. God will protect us as we go about our daily lives in service to Him. We are to do the work that Jesus in the world around us, knowing that we are sanctified and protected by God as we go.