Zis-N-Zat From Pastor Asher

God is my conscience, Jesus lives in my heart… this blog is about what I see, what I think, what I do and how I serve God

Approximate Notes for Sunday’s Message; April 17, 2016; Acts 1:12-26

Acts 1:12-26 NIV2010 Matthias Chosen to Replace Judas

12 Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city. 13 When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. 14 They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.

15 In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) 16 and said, “Brothers and sisters, the Scripture had to be fulfilled in which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus. 17 He was one of our number and shared in our ministry.”

18 (With the payment he received for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. 19 Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called that field in their language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.)

20 “For,” said Peter, “it is written in the Book of Psalms: “‘May his place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in it,’ and, “‘May another take his place of leadership.’

21 Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us, 22 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.”

23 So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. 24 Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen 25 to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” 26 Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.

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Have you ever asked yourself, “How did we get here?” We tend to think that this question is asked when we are trying to figure out how something terrible happened in our lives, but it is a great question to ask when something good happens as well. I have very little doubt in my mind that the Disciples and the Followers of Jesus were asking this and similar questions between the First Easter and the First Pentecost.

As much as all of us like to dislike Judas Iscariot, we cannot answer this question {“What happened?” or “How did we get here?”} without talking about Judas Iscariot. He is the disciple who betrayed Jesus and helped the Jerusalem authorities to arrest him.

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Matthew and Mark portray Judas as being motivated by greed (Mark 14, Matthew 27). Luke and John assert that Judas was led astray by Satan (John 13:27). As much as we want to dislike him, his story can be described with three words and these words are, “it is complicated.”

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Nobody would disagree with me if I were to say that Jesus was a good judge of character. The Gospels are clear that Jesus personally called Judas Iscariot to be his disciple (Matt 10:4; Mark 3:19; Luke 6:16). We know that Judas was the treasurer for the disciples (John 13:29). As a disciple and the treasurer for the group, Jesus and Judas had to spend extra time together. As a treasurer, Judas had special trust bestowed upon him by Jesus and by his colleagues. Knowing Jesus, it seems implausible that a thief would have been invited to join the Disciples, or that Jesus would have made a thief their treasurer. Nevertheless, the Scriptures assert that Judas stole from the group (John 12:4-6) and I suspect that these details surfaced as the Disciples struggled to answer “what happened?” and “how did we get here?” during the time between the First Easter and the First Pentecost.

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Judas is best remembered for his betrayal of Jesus to those who sought to harm Him (Matthew 26:14-47; Mark 14:10-46; Luke 22:3-48; John 18:2-5). In Matthew 26:15 we learn that Judas was paid “thirty pieces of silver” for his betrayal. We also learn that after the betrayal, Judas felt remorse and tried unsuccessfully to return the money that he had been paid to betray Jesus (Matthew 27:3-4). We also learn that he was unable to live with himself and the gravity of his actions; Judas took his own life (Matthew 27:5; Acts 1:18).

I struggle with Judas Iscariot. For example, why did Jesus allow Judas to betray him (John 13:21-30)? In John 13:27, Jesus actually told Judas to go and “do it quickly.” Could it be that Jesus was unable to prevent the betrayal?

On the other hand, could it be that Jesus actively tried to cause the betrayal to happen? If that is the case, could it be that Judas had no free will, and therefore was acting as God’s puppet? If that is true, why is he so disliked? If that is true, Judas is punished for being an instrument of our salvation, and the God that I know would not do something like that.

To make things more complicated, when Judas left Jesus and the Disciples, they were in the Upper Room eating the Passover Meal. Judas brought the detachment of soldiers to the Garden of Gethsemane. Although I personally was never in Jerusalem, my understanding is that Garden of Gethsemane is approximately one mile from the traditional location of the Upper Room (John 18:1, across the Kidron Valley). How did Judas know to go to the Garden of Gethsemane?

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What happened in the Garden of Gethsemane also raises multiple questions. According to Matthew and Mark, Judas identified Jesus to the Romans with a kiss (Matthew 26:47–50; Mark 14:43–45). According to John, Judas did not really need to identify Jesus out because Jesus came forward himself. We know that Jesus was not trying to hide. I suspect that Jesus’ humanness dreaded the upcoming suffering, but his divine nature was prepared for the necessary work of Redemption.

We know the rest of the story. Judas tried to return the money, and was not able to live with the severity of his betrayal and took his own life.

So far today’s message is a snoozer. All I have done is reiterate things that you already know. So what’s in it for us? What is the “so what” in all of this?

I think that Judas Iscariot was a Zealot. From the writings of secular historians (Josephus in particular) we know that the Zealots were a political party in First Century Judea which sought to incite the people of Judea to rebel against the Roman Empire. Zealots were convinced that God of Israel would not allow infidels and pagans (Romans) to get the upper hand in the armed conflict for political freedom. The reason I think this is because we read in Matthew 10:1-4:

Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

As you can see, Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot are grouped together.

Was Judas trying to create a situation that would force God to act on behalf of the oppressed nation? Was Judas trying to incite the revolt by trying to force the hand of Jesus to defend himself against the Romans?

I think that the most important lesson that all of us can take from Judas is that we cannot force God to act on our behalf. When we incite a social or political change, there will always be unexpected consequences because God is not in the favoritism business. In First Century Judea, God was not only with the Hebrew Children, but also with Romans and Greeks and Egyptians, and with Native Americans who lived in the lands that were not re-“discovered” by the Europeans yet. I think that when Jesus went on the Cross instead of putting up a fight, Judas was deeply disappointed. There was no room in Judas’ heart for God’s love and grace, and because there was no room in his heart for God he could not recognize or even accept the miracle that was Jesus’ Resurrection and the promise of our redemption.

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If we want miracles, we need to make space for God in our lives and that means opening ourselves to the possibility that God is doing something different than what we want to happen.

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