Daily Bible Studies & Sermon Notes

Replacing Judas
Pastor Steve Schell
Acts 1:15-26
Have you ever wondered why Jesus chose Judas? It was a choice He made after intense prayer. Luke tells us, “He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God. And when day came, He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them, whom He also named apostles (Lk 6:12-16). Eleven of these worked out very well, but one ended badly. Does that mean a mistake was made? Did Jesus miss hearing God correctly on one name? Or, did God guide Him to select Judas so there would be someone among the disciples evil enough to betray Him?

This is much more than an academic question, because who among us has not earnestly prayed for guidance and chosen someone, believing we were following God’s will, only to have that person betray us, or fail miserably in some other way? And when that happens it raises deep questions about God. If He knows the future, and He does, then why would He lead us to choose people who turn out badly? Why didn’t Jesus choose someone else? Why do we at times make such terrible mistakes? Obviously, there’s no simple answer that applies to every situation, but the example of Judas does teach us a lot about God’s guidance if we’re willing to hear it. One of the men Jesus chose appears to have been an awful choice and this gathering of believers we’re reading about here is having to go through the process of replacing him.

What does Luke say?
vs16-17: In Psalm 41:9, David lamented that, “Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.” Jesus quoted this verse in the upper room while Judas was still present (Jn 13:18). Peter is explaining here that this lament was prophetic. It described Judas. He was a close friend, and sat at Jesus’ table and ate His bread. Taken literally Peter’s statement, “…he was counted among us and received his portion (lit) in this ministry,” may mean that there was a financial aspect to being one of the Twelve. It seems to indicate that the Lord had set a precedent of dividing among the Twelve some of the revenue that came in, to support their families since, at His invitation, they had stopped working to travel with Him. If so, then Judas’ “portion” was now unused.

vs18-20 see: Daily Bible Study

vs21-22: Now the process of selecting a replacement begins. Peter lists thee qualifications for someone to be considered as a nominee. First, the nominee must be a man. Second, he must be someone who traveled with Jesus over the entire course of His three and a half year ministry, beginning the day He arrived at the Jordan River where John was baptizing (Jn 1:29-37) until the day He ascended into heaven (Lk 24:50, 51; Ac 1:9-11). And third, he must be an eyewitness of the resurrected Jesus. He must be someone who actually saw Him alive after the crucifixion.

What is surprising is that there were numerous people present who fit that criteria. Obviously, many more traveled with Jesus than just the Twelve. There were others who had been with Him the whole time. This passage lets us know how little of the picture we’ve seen.

v23: Luke doesn’t tell us how the two nominees were chosen, but it appears they were selected by the larger gathering after they evaluated those among them who met Peter’s qualifications. Joseph Barsabbas (son of the Sabbath), who also had a Roman name, Justus (just, righteous) is the first one mentioned. The other was Matthias, whom the church historian Eusebuis (AD 260-340) said was one of the 70 disciples Jesus sent out, two by two (Lk 10:1) (F.F. Bruce, Acts, Eerdmans, 1954, pp 50, 51).

vs24-25: After choosing two nominees the entire gathering prayed, addressing God as the “heart-knower” and asking Him to “lift up” the one whom He had already chosen, to take the place in this “ministry and apostleship” from which Judas had “turned aside to go into his own place.” The act of replacing one of the Twelve is a unique event, and it’s important to note that he’s not being replaced because he died. All but one of the remaining Eleven would die a martyr’s death, but no one would be nominated to replace them. Jesus left no instructions for there to be a perpetual Twelve. Judas is being replaced because he has been disqualified, his place is empty. Yet, there must be twelve because the Lord said they would have a role to play in the future Messianic Age (Millennium) (Lk 22:30; Mt 19:28).

v26: After the nominees were selected, and after the Lord was asked to reveal His choice, “they gave lots for them and the lot fell on Matthias…” A common Jewish way of casting lots was to inscribe a name on a small stone or piece of wood, these were placed into a jar, or another container of some kind, and shaken. The lot that fell out first was the one chosen (W.E.Vine, Expository Dictionary of the N.T). Much has been said about their method of selection. Some consider it an immature form of decision-making which showed that the disciples were not yet baptized in the Holy Spirit and therefore unable to discern God’s choice in a more mature way. Some have said they should not have nominated any replacement because Paul would become the true Twelfth Apostle (1Co 15:8-11). But the process of casting lots has deep roots in Judaism. This is how the land of Israel was divided among the tribes and families. It should also be noted that, if indeed, the person chosen was to receive Judas’ financial allotment, the process of casting lots, after the whole gathering nominated the candidates, prevented any accusation of favoritism. It was actually a very wise and righteous way of replacing that position. And based on the criteria Peter gave for being one of the Twelve, Paul didn’t qualify. He hadn’t observed Jesus during His ministry, but there were many more than twelve who were designated as apostles in the early church. And Paul was certainly an apostle. Clearly, the Holy Spirit led these disciples to replace Judas before the Day of Pentecost, and to do so in a way that left no doubt that God alone made the final choice. By the way, later tradition says Matthias carried the gospel to Ethiopia (F.F. Bruce, Acts, p. 51).

The “heart-knower”
Jesus prayed, chose twelve, and one betrayed Him. How do we explain this? There is only one truth that I can see that makes sense of this: I believe Judas proves that God deals with us based on who we are at the moment, not on what He knows we’ll do (negatively) in the future. He does not hold us responsible for things we haven’t done yet. This means Judas was not hopelessly destined to betray Jesus. When Jesus invited him to be His disciple, it was a genuine invitation, but as time passed the challenges of following Jesus soured Judas rather than refined him (Mt 13:21). It appears Judas particularly grew bitter over money. He was willing to be poor for a while, so long as he still believed he would become rich as a king in the near future. But once it became apparent this wasn’t going to happen—Jesus seemed determined to go to the cross— then Judas took matters into his own hands (alabaster jar, Jn 12:3-6). In other words, as a disciple he was still free to choose, and he made bad choices. Yes, God knows our hearts, and He knows the future. He knew the betrayal would happen, but please notice He did not disqualify Judas because of a sin he hadn’t committed yet. This teaches us something very important about God’s personality: Because He is completely just He does not hold the future against us.

The “Sop” (Jn 13:21-27)
Jesus offered Judas a piece of unleavened bread dipped in bitter herbs which were in a bowl in front of them as part of the Passover meal. They symbolize the bitterness of sin and bondage. So by handing Judas a piece of bread dipped in bitter herbs, Jesus was warning Judas to repent or there would be great sorrow ahead for him. This is Jesus’ last attempt to reach Judas, but Judas’ temper flares, a demonic presence enters him, and he leaves to report Jesus’ location to the religious authorities.

Healing truths
When I seek the will of God, and the person I choose turns out badly, there are only two options:
1) It leads me to question my ability to hear from God. Did I miss God on this?
2) And this is the more dangerous of the two: It leads me to doubt God’s love for me. If He knew this would happen, why didn’t He stop me?

If we have the courage to look honestly at Judas Iscariot, painful, but very healing truths come to light:
1) He deals with people based on where their heart is at the moment, not based on His foreknowledge of future failure.
2) God’s guidance isn’t a guarantee that a person He chooses won’t make bad choices in the future.
• Good decisions can end badly
• Good hearts can become bitter
• Someone else’s failure doesn’t mean I failed to listen

What must I do?
In light of these truths:
1) I must let go of second-guessing myself. (“I must have missed God.”)
2) I must not blame God. People aren’t robots, they can foul up God’s plans.
3) I may need to grieve the fact that someone failed their assignment, and pray that they will repent before it’s too late.
4) I can be strengthened by the knowledge that because I love God and have sought His will, something good will come out of this (Ro 8:28).

Have you sought God’s will and felt sure you were obeying Him only to have the situation turn out badly? How do you see that choice now? 

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