The Apostles Believed
The disciples spent over three years with Jesus. During that time, they learned two things about Jesus.
He was fully human. Among the emotions He experienced were joy, exhaustion, anger, disgust, sorrow, compassion, frustration, agony, and empathy. His disciples also witnessed him die on the cross. He was, without a doubt, fully human.
He was also fully God.
They knew He was God, but it was harder for them to fathom.
Still, Peter said, in Matthew 16:16, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
They knew Jesus was God because of His miracles, teachings, and character. Yet, after Jesus was arrested, all the disciples ran away. They were fearful that they, too, would be killed.
If Jesus had remained in the tomb, this would have been the end of the story. But He didn't; Jesus rose from the dead. Because He did, Mary Magdalene announced, "I have seen the Lord" (John 20:18); Thomas, upon seeing the risen Savior, cried out, "My Lord and my God" (John 20:28); and, after the ascension, Peter prayed to Jesus, referring to Him as Lord (Acts 1:24). The once fearful followers of Jesus were empowered and began to boldly share the Good News.
The 120 people in the upper room were there because they had experienced a dramatic change in their lives. They were certain that Jesus had risen from the dead. They knew that He was God.
What does it actually mean to be a Christ follower, to be a Christian?
It isn't about living by a high moral code, about performing more good deeds that bad ones. It isn't about asking Jesus into our heart. It isn't even about taking a certain theological stand.
The Bible teaches that Jesus paid the penalty for our sin (Romans 4:25; 1 Corinthians 15:3; Romans 8:21). He secured our redemption (1 Peter 1:18-19; Galatians 3:13). He provides freedom from slavery to sin. Jesus died on the cross, suffering the consequences of our sin, and rose victorious over sin and death.
The Apostles Obeyed
The 120 were gathered in the upper room because of what Jesus had said in Acts 1:4: "Wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, 'You heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.'"
They were waiting for the Holy Spirit. Waiting on the Lord is one of the hardest things believers must do in life—especially in today's society of instant gratification. We're living in a society where waiting for something is archaic. Yet, the Lord often tells the believer to wait.
He told His followers to wait in Jerusalem, a dangerous place for anyone who believed Jesus was the promised Messiah. It would have been safer for them to leave, humanly speaking, for them to find a quiet place to wait, somewhere far away from Jerusalem. But they chose to obey.
And they chose to pray. Verse 14 says, "All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer."
They were united, "with one accord." Men and women, fishermen, a Zealot, at least one tax collector. The resurrection of Jesus was greater than their differences.
These followers of Jesus were united—in prayer. While they may have been praying for courage, wisdom, and patience, it stands to reason that they were praying that God would send the Holy Spirit. But why pray for something they'd been promised? As it is today, God's promises often motivate our prayers.
Despite our differences, we, too, must strive for unity. Philippians 1:27 refers to believers "striving together for the faith of the gospel." As believers, we should display our dependence on Christ through our prayers, by submitting to His Word, and by obeying what we read there. The apostles did, and because of their obedience and unity, we can trust their witness about Jesus's resurrection.
The Apostles Trusted
In verse 16 of Act 1, we read Peter's words, "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."
It's likely this former fellow disciple was on their mind. Many of them couldn't understand how someone who had been chosen by Christ, who had walked with Him, who had declared the gospel to the lost, could turn against Him.
We, too, are confused by those who, at one time, seemed to be living for the Lord and then fall away. Where did the disciples go to find comfort? Where can we find comfort?
Peter declared the Scriptures had to be fulfilled. God accomplished His purposes through Judas's betrayal. The sovereign God of all creation uses even evil to accomplish His purposes. Still, those who choose to commit evil deeds are fully responsible for their choices.
Luke, the author of Acts included verses 18-19 of Acts 1 as a commentary on what became of Judas: "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."
The one who had become a stranger to the disciples, the one who had become a stranger to himself, killed himself on the plot of land that had been purchased as a burial place for strangers.
Jesus chose 12 disciples. There were 12 tribes of Israel. Plus, there are 12 gates mentioned in the book of Revelation. The remaining disciples believed it was right to choose another man to replace Judas. Not only did these men desire to do what was right according to the Scriptures but also gave model for us on how we should respond to any situation in life. No matter what we're going through, we must cling to the Word of God.
The Apostles Were Careful
As mentioned, these men weren't religious leaders. They couldn't be reasonably accused of concocting an elaborate story that lined up with the Scriptures. The qualifications Jesus used when selecting them were the same used for replacing Judas.
Acts 1:21 says, "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."
They followed the model their Master had given them. They carefully obeyed His example. Because they were, it gives added weight to the report of Jesus's resurrection, the foundation of the Christian faith. Because of this historic, life-changing event, the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the apostles spent the rest of their lives proclaiming it was true.
The Apostles Were Submissive
To this day, there are those who point to "Jesus plus" as a means to be saved or they believe their faith is an assurance of power.
But in Acts 1:24-25, we read, "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."
The apostles recognized their position as one of service. When selecting Judas's replacement, they didn't play political games. They didn't even choose the man they thought would be "the best fit." They submitted to God's sovereign will.
The qualifications? A man who had followed Jesus from early in His ministry, one who had seen the risen Savior.
Only two of the 120 qualified. While Joseph, also known as Justus, seemed like the logical choice, "They prayed and said, 'You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen'" (v. 24).
Although it seems like an odd way to choose Judas's replacement, they trusted God's sovereignty and cast lots to determine who God had chosen.
God wants us to know that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is credible, not a myth, legend, or religious speculation. It's historical fact, authenticated by credible eyewitnesses, proving that Jesus was not only raised from the dead but also God in the flesh.
These eyewitnesses didn't gain money, fame, power, or prestige from declaring the truth. Instead, they became Jesus's servants who were willing to lay down their lives so people could come to saving faith.
Today, we're given that same choice. We can be like Judas, deny the evidence before us, and follow our selfish desires, which will lead to our destruction. Or we can accept the evidence; trust in the verifiable, credible, authentic testimony of these godly men; and accept that Jesus Christ rose from the dead.
So, what will we choose today? Will we be like Judas or will we follow in the footsteps of the apostles?