So there might have been an advertisement for Judas’s replacement that might have gone something like this:
Vacancy for self supporting outreach worker
Essential qualities and experience:
- Must have been with Jesus from baptism to ascension;
- must be fully conversant with the teachings of Jesus;
- must be prayerful;
- must have a keen ear and heart for the Word of the Lord and be prepared to speak it out;
- must be a team player but capable of working on his/her own initiative as required;
- must be prepared to travel
Working hours and location of work: Exact working hours and place of work to be determined with other team members and their supporters through prayer, and as needs arise.
Salary: must be self supporting, or have some independent means of income.
Occasional payments may made by supporters to help with expenses from time to time.
Responsible to: God, and other members of the outreach team and supporters.
Applications to be submitted by the 15th, shortlisting to be completed by 30th, interviews on 5th of the following month. Full DBS check required. Further details and all communication to The Secretary, Apostles of Jesus, Jerusalem.
But of course it wasn’t quite like that! No newspapers, no formal structure with expert HR department to draw up a precise job description, no set hours, no set income, no DBS check, no interview, but still a choice had to be made. Cast your mind back to sermons over the past few months, what did Daniel and his friends do when faced with making a decision? Of course! They prayed.
At this point in the lives of the apostles and other followers of Jesus, we read in vv 13-15 that the apostles, Jesus’ Mother and other women, along with 120 other believers met at their base in Jerusalem. Most importantly in v14 we are told they joined together constantly in prayer.
And it is within this setting that Peter sets them the task of choosing a replacement for Judas. There were apostles 12 initially, and they sought to make the team back up to its full number, a number that had special significance for the Jews, being the number of the original 12 tribes of Israel in Old Testament times.
In the passage, it says “they” proposed two men, it tells us who the two were, but not who “they” were. It may be shorthand for “There was a discussion, and out of several people proposed, it was agreed that either of two men would be a worthy replacement for Judas.” We aren’t given any detail, but we are told the names of the two finally proposed, Barsabbas (also known as Justus), and Matthias. All we know from what was previously said is that they had been with Jesus and the apostles from his baptism to his ascension. They might have been two of the 70 who were sent out by Jesus to teach and heal who we hear of in Luke 10, but there is nothing to say that either, it’s just that we make the assumption that the 70 were especially close to Jesus, and that it would be expected that the two would be chosen from this close group. So no written references, their references were the word of the people who proposed them.
But the final decision was made by casting lots. Not an interview panel having a discussion about the scores the men had achieved while answering the set interview questions. That may seem odd to us, it can sound primitive, or even associated with gambling. But this practice was common in OT times. Sometimes stones or sticks were used, with one being different to indicate the one chosen, sometimes names were written on them. The priests used urim and thummin, which were part of their priestly regalia, used to determine who was to attend to priestly duties, or even allocate land among people. And of course we hear of the Roman soldiers casing lots at Jesus’ crucifixion for his clothes.
One of the reasons for casting lots is that the people felt there is no way to influence which lot would win, it was down to the simple physical action of casting the lots … well, yes, there could have been someone who could corrupt the system, if one was determined enough … but we have to assume that didn’t happen. In Proverbs 16.33 we read “The lost is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.” So it was felt to be the Lord’s decision in the end.
But don’t forget, all those gathered people had prayed this prayer: “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry..”. Matthais and Barsabbas had both been put forward as satisfactory candidates, the people were steeped in prayer to find the Word of the Lord, and the lots were cast. Matthais was chosen and was added to make up the twelve.
Following our service this morning, and hopefully following our prayers over the past days and weeks, we will be using our own system for determining who will take up roles on our PCC. After the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost, the casting of lots was no longer used, as it was felt that the Holy Spirit dwelling in each person would guide them in making decisions. We will have nominations and then each will cast his or her vote. In doing so, we must trust God in the outcome of our combined votes.
Peter prayed immediately before the lots were cast, the people had prayed before that, and continued meeting for prayer after. So I commend that pattern of prayer, for PCC members and for Ben’s replacement, that the Word of God may be determined in our place here in Amington, as it was in the days of the apostles two thousand years ago in Jerusalem.
Let us pray as Peter did: “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these you have chosen to take over these ministries.” Amen.