The apostles must choose Judas’ replacement | Acts 1:15-26

“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,) 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. For he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry. 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. 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. 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. Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 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. And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen, That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place. And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.”

Peter presides in front of 120 disciples (with the other 10 apostles nearby most likely). As Peter presides, note his oratory here, as he speaks with confidence “Men and brethren.” He knows that God has brought them together to work together, so already he has dropped any leadership quirks such as titles, authority, etc. This is actually quite surprising due to Peter’s history of lacking understanding while a disciple of Jesus Christ. Peter told them that the Holy Ghost spoke through David that Judas would betray Jesus (Psalm 4:19).

Judas guided the law enforcement to where Jesus was. This was to bring forth the trials upon Jesus. Judas Iscariot was one of twelve disciples under Jesus, and received ministry from Jesus directly. Judas as well preached, did miracles with the others, and carried the bag as the treasurer stewarding God’s family in Christ. Of course, what Judas did not know was that even though people considered him untrustworthy (and it was already stated by Luke and Matthew well before of his untrustworthy behavior), Jesus had the knowledge of God and knew if Judas would mishandle what he had been placed steward over. It’s just that Judas’ heart was weak and easy to sway, which caused him to sin.

The original thirty pieces of silver? Judas gave that back. Good thing too, because just as Balsam with his soothsaying, such wages gained for wrong activities was called “wages of unrighteousness”. The chief priests felt they should take those wages of unrighteousness and buy a field that they could bury Judas (at a later time, it became a cemetery for the Gentiles). Just a little later… Judas hung himself and died. Upon dying, he eventually was reported to have fallen through the roof of a man’s house or have fallen from a branch, to which his belly had opened due to its putrefication (in a graphic way). Luke notes here that the field purchased by the chief priests to bury Judas was called the field of blood (Aceldama or Akeldama). This has been known traditionally to be located on the southern side of the Kidron Valley.

Judas’ place as an apostle has become vacant, and another person is to fill that by being called to do so. Peter thinks that the man chosen to fill Judas’ place as replacement apostle should be among the 120 before them. The someone chosen to fill Judas’ place must have been someone who would have witnessed most of Jesus’ Life from His Baptism from John the Baptist up until His Resurrection from the dead.

Joseph was first chosen and given the name Barsabas (a pseudonym or ministerial name), and Matthias was second chosen. Most Bible scholars agree that Joseph has three names total: Joses (translates to Joseph), Barsabas as shown here, and Barnabas. Therefore, when referencing the same person, you may read one of these three names (such as in Acts 4:36). Other references note, that similar to Simon Barjona, “son of Jona” (Matthew 16:17), Barsabas can be referred to as “son of Sabas.” Matthias’ name means, “gift of Yahweh.” Matthias had been known for a while, scholars suggest, since Luke references him in Luke 10:1.

The Lord God is the complete and noblest of all in knowledge, who looks at the heart and understands it fully. He sees everything, such as sin, disease, hurt, pain, joy, peace, laughter, anger, sadness, wealth, poverty, humility, pride, love, lust, and so many more things — nothing is hidden from the understanding of our Father God.

These two, Barsabas and Matthias, have been shortlisted by the apostles, and the apostles are praying to ask the Lord who it is to be chosen to take the place of Judas Iscariot. The ideal one selected should be given issue to ministry and apostleship – and believe it, it is not fortune and fame that is at stake here. The man chosen would not be given a special title or authority; rather, he would be given servant leadership and responsibility to help lead disciples and conduct ministry journeys to commit evangelism unto the Jews and eventually unto the Gentiles. A servant leader is to set an example for other disciples to follow.

The apostles drew lots, a common way of election in especially antiquity. They intended to find the man who would be called to be the next apostle. It seems that the lot fell on Matthias after probably receiving the most votes, as God likely laid upon the apostles’ hearts the man of His Choice. Matthias is then given the designation of twelfth apostle numbered, and now there are once again twelve apostles. Now they shall prepare for a special celebration… Err, well, maybe an impartation would be better wording.

Also in antiquity, people tended to discern God’s Will by three different methods that have been usually or unusually noticed: 1. Drawing lots; 2. Dream incubating; or 3. Inspiration (such as prophetic). Oracles were frequently sought by the pagans, but the Jews knew this taboo method was risky – especially due to idolatrous behaviors. Proverb 16:33 had great confidence in the lots method, because Solomon and other wise men were confident that God had every decision of the lots. It is not unlike God to impress upon the heart His Will, in which this may be true. Pagans always thought lots were the best method, so their eyes were smiling when the Jews regarded lots – incidentally, there were times the Jews were tricked by pagans in this (see Jonah 1:7 and context; 1 Samuel 14:41; Isaiah 34:17; etc.).

Historical notes: The Jewish Diaspora

The type of Jews that were living outside of Israel were known as the Jewish Diaspora, also called Dispersion (see James 1:1; 1 Peter 1:1). They were not discriminated, as some might assume, for Peter and James thought highly of them. It was hard to imagine why the Jews were pushed to outside of Israel; however, we look at 722 BC where the first dispersion occurred under the Assyrian capture of the northern Kingdom of Israel, sending many Jews into exile in Mesopotamia (2 Kings 17:6). Then, also notice the Babylonians’ southern kingdom capture to deport Jews to Babylon (2 Kings 25:21). Otherwise, some Jews emigrated to Egypt (2 Kings 25:26), and others relocated to avoid circumstances under the three grave generals who submitted unto Alexander the Great. Some ancient scholars reported the relocation of 2,000 Jewish families around 210 BC under Antiochus III’s reign.