Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.
In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) and said, “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. For he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.” (Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness and falling headlong he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their own language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) “For it is written in the Book of Psalms, ‘May his camp become desolate, and let there be no one to dwell in it’; and ‘Let another take his office.’
So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when He was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to His resurrection.” And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, and Matthias. And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.
When I first read this specific Scripture reading as a young person, I thought “What is the point of including this? Who cares how many Church leaders there were? How does this affect me?” The answer is in the number! There were originally 12 disciples, which included Judas. When Judas betrayed Jesus (And ultimately died), he lowered that number to 11. In our reading today, the disciples tried to pick a replacement. They cast lots (Like flipping a coin), and Matthias was the one chosen. God was really the one in control, though.
Now, that might seem like a minor detail in the history of the Church, something that does not affect us today at all. The importance of the number 12 goes back to Genesis 17:1-8. God made a promise to Abraham that he would have many descendants, and that they would be God’s chosen people. His sons’ families became the 12 tribes of Israel, the people who were saved by God’s first covenant. This covenant extended salvation to anyone who belonged to the nation of Israel as they waited for the coming Messiah.
When Jesus died on the cross, the Bible mentions a curtain in the Temple tearing. This curtain, which separated the holiest part of the temple, and represented the old covenant between God and Israel, was gone. Now, we are covered by a new covenant in Jesus’ blood, and receive it every time we receive the Lord’s Supper. This covenant is a free gift from Jesus! We do not have to do anything to earn it!
We see another illustration of the old and new covenants in Revelation 7:4. The number 144,000 is significant. The faithful of the 12 tribes of Israel times those who received the Gospel from the 12 Apostles times 1000, which was considered a number so large that it could not be counted. These are the people who will be in heaven when we get there some day.
It is the Church’s job to share this wonderful news with the world: unlike the old covenant, Jesus’ blood was shed for everyone!
Dear Heavenly Father, please help me to be an effective part of your Church. Help me to share the good news of your New Covenant with the people in our lives, and around the world. Bless our ability as a Church to serve and lead in the world. Thank you for sending your Son to die for us, and save us from our sins. Bless our ministry Lord, in Jesus name. Amen.
- Who are some people, in your life, who you could share the Gospel with?
- What are some ways that your church shares Jesus’s new Covenant with the community and world?