Witnesses to the resurrection. 1:15-26


The appointment of Matthias to replace Judas the betrayer, demonstrates that the believers have finally come to see themselves as the new Israel. Peter takes the lead and does so with a firm reliance on the testimonies of scripture. The community responds in faith, showing itself clearly committed to Christ's commission to witness to all Israel and beyond. As an expression of their faith, they set about restoring the twelve to their full number.

The passage

v15-17. Luke tells us that the Christian community in Jerusalem (or possibly all believers) numbered around one hundred and twenty. At a gathering of the disciples, Peter takes the lead and calls for the replacement of Judas the betrayer. The betrayal of the messiah was all part of God's plan, long revealed in the scriptures. Sadly, Judas, one of the twelve apostles, had chosen to play the part. Peter mentions the Psalms as the main source of the testimonies concerning Jesus' betrayal.

v18-19. Luke introduces an editorial aside to tell us what happened to Judas. Luke's account differs somewhat from Matthew's. When the two accounts are compared, Luke's account is less generous.

v20. The aside concluded, the texts concerning Judas are quoted. The testimonies come from Psalm 69:25 and 109:8. The point is that because of his wickedness, Judas rightly has no place numbered among the apostles and his position of authority should now be offered to another.

v21-22. Peter outlines the qualifications and job description for the new apostle. He must be someone who has journeyed with Jesus from the time when John the Baptist was preaching and all the way through to the resurrection. The idea of travelling with Jesus implies that the candidate has been taught by Jesus. The job description defines an apostle as a "witness" to the "resurrection." Not just an eye witness, but someone who declares the truth of the resurrection - the message of new life in Christ, the gospel. An apostle is a preacher of the resurrection.

v23. Two candidates are put forward: Joseph, whose surname is "son of the Sabbath" and who also has a Roman name, and Matthias whom Eusebius says was one of the seventy disciples. In tradition, Matthias was the missionary apostle to the Ethiopians.

v24-26. Having selected the two candidates, the gathering prayed, placed the names in a hat and drew out Matthias. Judas had abandoned his apostolic authority, sold it as it were, and left this life for a place known only by God. The twelve were again restored to head messiah's mission to all the tribes of Israel and beyond.


So was Judas saved? Present the arguments fore and against.

Judas the traitor

In our passage for study Luke recounts the demise of Judas, but interestingly, what he says is not quite what Matthew says. Matthew says that Judas regretted his betrayal of Jesus, returned the money to the Jewish authorities and went and hanged himself. As the money was blood money, the authorities purchased the potter's field as a cemetery for aliens. Luke says that Judas purchased the field and came to grief on it somehow. We are actually not quite sure what the Greek word, translated in the NIV as "fell headlong", actually means. In the first centuries of the Christian church it was understood as "swelled up". So, it was commonly believed that Judas' stomach swelled up and burst open. Not a nice image! Christian scholars down the ages have tried to align the two stories. For example, many have suggested that the authorities purchased the field in Judas' name, so it was his, although he didn't sign the papers. Augustine suggested that when Judas hung himself, the rope broke and he fell headlong, bursting open his stomach in the fall. Well, who knows!

What we actually have in the two stories is a generous description of Judas' end and a less generous description. Is Luke keeping in with the leaders of the Jerusalem church by playing down the more generous aspects of Judas' end? Even so, Luke records Peter's (the apostles?) words that "Judas left to go where he belongs." Some suggest that Peter is implying the place of weeping and gnashing of teeth, but that's not what Peter says. He is non committal, for he doesn't know where Judas has ended up, either heaven or hell, for that is between the Lord and Judas. Yes, it is true that Judas is called "the son of perdition", and that the word perdition is used of the Antichrist, but the word means loss, destruction, or ruin and that well describes the end of the Antichrist as it does of Judas, but it does not say whether he is in heaven or hell.

Even more fascinating is the use of a word in Matthew's description of Judas' end, translated in the NIV as "was seized with remorse." It actually means "repent", to change one's mind for the better. Again, some will counter with the reference to his suicide and argue that a person who commits suicide cannot be forgiven and share in eternity, but there is no scripture to support this argument.

So, there it is, do with it as you will. Was Judas saved? There is little evidence that the apostles forgave him, but then God has a bigger heart than any of us. His grace is boundless; He forgives beyond measure. If Judas did actually repent, did turn to God and ask forgiveness for turning on Jesus, what do you think, is God big enough to forgive? And what of all our garbage, is he big enough to forgive our many sins?

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