9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
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,’
“‘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.
The Betrayer and His Replacement
Judas has become the model of every betrayer. We hate him in the text and cheer at his downfall. At least that is how I used to feel. I think that Jesus loved him and I am beginning to love him too. I look sadly at his fate because I do think it is just, but it is also tragic. Judas lusted after money and he probably wanted to see Jesus rise to power. In the opening of Acts we see the disciples are still thinking that the Kingdom is limited to themselves and Israel. The Holy Spirit will transform their hearts, but at this point their hearts are not so far from Judas as we often think. They wanted power and influence just like he did – just like we do. We would often like more money to pay the bills and provide a little comfort. It’s easy to condemn a thief when we speak from positions of privilege and comfort. Judas and the other disciples had lived a life of nomads relying on the generosity of the people.
Do you have sympathy yet? Do you see why I do? Evil is not always as alien to us as we would want to think. Evil seems like a necessary good but it turns the world upside down and breaks it. In the case of Judas, God used the evil in his heart to turn the world upside down, but it was already the wrong way up. God has used the evil in our own lives to teach us good. The emptiness and grief that are released bring about good.
So, Judas represents something of hell on earth. He knew the King of Heaven and he deposed him. The grief that Judas felt at knowing Jesus and condemning him to death drove him to suicide. Some think that cutting Judas down caused his bloated stomach to burst. Others think that he threw himself on a spear or sword and hanged himself on the instrument of his death rather than from a tree. Either way, his ending is a window into the torment of those who can not escape the lure of their own definition of right and wrong before that of Jesus.
In our own age Christians are seen as defenders of prejudice and evil because they uphold a view of the world laid out in the Bible. It would be the path of least resistance to celebrate a broader idea of sexuality than that laid down in the Bible. We read of Christians who embrace a more open view as more loving and caring. However, we already see how a breakdown of societal norms leads to more freedom to explore exciting horizons. We can treat each other as mutual resources for maximum pleasure. We cease to condemn each others actions. However, we are free, like Judas, to choose paths that seem right in our eyes. However, in killing our consciences we are killing the word of God. We are free to redefine marriage, to multiply consensual partners and we may even lower the legal age. Why not? Where should the new lines be drawn? We are not free from the consequences. We will encounter grief, but will we repent? Will we see how we are using each other rather than serving each other?
God, I am concerned about how America is progressing past the Judeo-Christian values. The west has been walking to new horizons for a while but now it crosses boundaries that could redefine conservative Christians as law-breakers. We do not celebrate the new sexuality because we believe that you have a better way. Is religious freedom going to be curbed by the state here? It may be. Give us strength Father, to face into an era where people may be judged because of a biblical stance on sexuality.
- How did Judas become a disciple of Jesus?
- What do you think led to his betrayal?
- How do people usually view Judas?
- How are we today like Judas?
- How can we avoid walking the same path as Judas?