The Lord Has His Twelve! (Acts 1:12-26) Easter 7B
Seventh Sunday of Easter Trinity Lutheran Church
20 May 2012 Murdock, NE
+ Jesu Juva +
Did you do the numbers? Crunch the count? A list of apostles! Peter, John, James, Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. How many? Eleven! One short of twelve!
Weren’t there twelve men? Didn’t Jesus have twelve male apostles? He chose twelve didn’t he? Corresponding to the twelve tribes of Israel? Twelve: corresponding to His people Israel? Yes, of course! He did have His twelve! He was having Himself an Israel! The Church of the New Testament redeemed by His Blood! And an apostolic office of the holy ministry in His New Testament-Israel-Church to be His witnesses, ambassadors and heralds!
But someone is missing from the list of apostles! Who is he and what’s happened to him? Apostle Peter tells us: Judas Iscariot is missing! He’s the infamous apostle! He was put into the office of the holy ministry to be a servant, that is, to say, the Lord’s servant in order to preach the Gospel of Jesus! To forgive sins in Jesus’ Name! To baptize in Jesus’ Name! To give out the Lord’s most holy Body and Blood in the Lord’s Supper according to His institution with the promise that all sin is absolved for Jesus’ sake!
Peter declares, in the midst of First Christian Church of Jerusalem comprised of “about a hundred and twenty … believers” including “the women … Mary the mother of Jesus, and … his brothers,” that Judas “was one of our number and shared in this ministry.”
But Judas isn’t there anymore! He’s missing! Why? Because he betrayed the Lord Jesus, despaired of the Lord’s forgiveness, and then tragically committed suicide! He hung himself with a rope and somewhere along the line his dead body slipped through the rope, and falling “headfirst, his body burst open and all his innards, all his bowels, his intestines spilled out all over the ground!” Just like road kill! A carcass for the vultures and wolves! Consequently, the field in which Judas killed himself is called in Aramaic: “Akeldama, which is translated as ‘Field of Blood’!” And this field was only used as a cemetery (see Matthew’s Gospel).
This took place in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. Peter declares: “Brethren, the Scripture had to be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through the mouth of David concerning Judas who served as a guide for those who arrested Jesus.” And then he quotes Psalm 69:25, “May his place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in it.”
Eleven! One short of twelve, the number of God’s people, the digit of God’s New Testament church! The Lord will have His church. And the Lord will have men serve in the office of the holy ministry as His apostles, literally “sent ones.” And so Peter, then quotes Psalm 109:8, “May another take his [Judas’] leadership.” The word used here that is translated as “leadership” is the same word in the New Testament that is used for the pastoral office, the office of the holy ministry: episkopos! Jesus Himself called and put Judas Isacariot into the apostolic office of the holy ministry. Judas was one of the original twelve.
Now, since his suicide, the apostolic office that Judas was given is vacant! The first apostolic vacancy, if you will! The Lord will have His twelve, His church and ministers! His apostles, like all pastors, are His sent ones to serve His people Israel with the Lord’s forgiveness, life and salvation!
So, “may another be put into the apostolic office,” as Psalm 109:8 proclaims! Therefore, Peter leads this little congregation, First Christian Church of Jerusalem, in her call meeting. “Therefore,” Peter announces, “it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.”
Did you notice the requirements here for this apostolic office? Not just any man can be chosen! Not just any Joe Blow from off the street can be put into the apostolic office. He’s had to be with the apostles and Jesus since John’s the Baptist’s baptism all the way through to Jesus’ Ascension! In other words, this man has to be one who has seen the entire ministry of Jesus! In addition, he must be a man who had witnessed the fact that Jesus did indeed rise bodily from the dead!
Who would be the perfect candidate for this apostolic office? The name is listed right in the text! Of whom am I speaking? Mary! And not just any Mary but Mary the blessed Virgin, the mother of Jesus Himself! She is more than qualified! She’s been with Jesus the whole time – even before John’s baptism! Jesus as conceived in her body by the Holy Spirit in the words preached into her ears by the archangel Gabriel! She carried Jesus for nine months, gave birth to Him, raised Him, and witnessed His entire ministry!
But she is not even considered to be an apostle or be put into the office of the holy ministry! Why? The answer is quite simple: only qualified men are to be put into the office of the holy ministry! Only qualified men are given to be apostles! Again, only men are given to be pastors in the church!
Therefore, the congregation proposes two men for the apostolic office: “Joseph called Barsabbas (also known by his Latin name Justus) and Matthias.” And then the congregation prays to Jesus! “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. You know that when we consider men for the office of the holy ministry we only look at outward things like a man’s personality, his stellar good looks, and performance standards. But Lord, you know a man’s heart! You know who you want to be your apostolic minister! So we beg you, Jesus, show us which of these two YOU HAVE CHOSEN to take over this apostolic ministry of service, which Judas abandoned and is now where he belongs.” Did you catch that? The congregation is not in charge! Jesus is. It’s His choice! He will choose! And He will do it by using His church as His means of choosing another apostle!
That’s what the casting of lots together with the church’s prayer is all about here. It is the last time it is ever done in Scripture. The Lord can even use dice or something like that! Prior to this Proverbs 16:33 says: “The lot is cast into the lap, but every decision is from the Lord.” Various offices and functions in the Old Testament temple were determined by casting lots (1 Chronicles 24:5, 31; 25:8-9; 26:13-16). The entire point here in Acts 1 is that in choosing another apostle it is the Lord Jesus’ choice! His call! His putting a man into the office! To be His apostle and minister in the church! The twelve apostles are pastors!
“Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.” The Lord provided for His church!
The eleven are now twelve! Twelve tribes in the Old Testament! Now twelve apostles in the New Testament! Why? To preach the Gospel to God’s Israel, His people! And you too are the New Testament Israel, God’s people! Such apostolic preaching has come to you in the pastors sent by the Lord over the last 120 years here at Trinity.
We hear nothing more of apostle Matthias in the New Testament. And that’s OK. His job was to bear witness to Jesus! Jesus must increase! Matthias must decrease. Matthias, like all pastors, are only the Lord’s servants. To proclaim Christ crucified and risen for the forgiveness of your sins! To deliver the promise of salvation that Jesus won in His Good Friday dying!
Pastors come and pastors go. That’s the way it’s been here at Trinity for 120 years. The preaching of the Gospel and your Baptism into Christ has borne much fruit here and in your lives. After all, you’re here, gathered around the Lord Himself clinging to His words and trusting His promises!
The Lord still has His twelve: His ministry and His church! All for you! You are His died for Israel! You are His redeemed people through His sacrificial most holy Body and most holy Blood offered and shed on the cross! And that very same Body and Blood of the crucified, risen, and ascended Jesus is put into your mouths with Jesus’ most precious promise: With my Body and Blood in the Sacrament I proclaim to you that I died for you! That I alone made satisfaction for all your sin! Therefore you are forgiven! And you have peace with God!”
In the Name of Jesus.
Compare 1 Corinthians 9:1f.; 15:8-10; Galatians 1:16f.; 1 Timothy 3; Titus 1.
See also 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and 1 Timothy 2:11-12.