God Running is a place for anyone who wants to (or even anyone who wants to want to) love Jesus more deeply, follow Jesus more closely, and love people the way Jesus wants us to.
In our last post from the book of Acts we looked at what Peter said — and what Luke wrote — about Judas Iscariot. And, in that post I shared a little about why I fear God the way I do. (see previous post Why I Fear God)
In today’s post we’ll explore how Peter and the disciples went about choosing Judas’s replacement.
Choosing the 12th Disciple: Acts 1:15-26
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’;
“‘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.Acts 1:15-26
What the Disciples Did
I’m so impressed with the disciples in this passage. After Jesus instructed them to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit, we saw in Acts1:12-14 how they devoted themselves to prayer with one accord. Now we see that’s not all they were doing. Apparently they had also been searching the scriptures for direction after Jesus’ ascension. Because in our text, Peter quotes Psalm 69 and Psalm 109. “Let another take his office,” Peter said, quoting Psalm 109:8. They recognize something Paul would expound on later, that the church is built on the foundation of the apostles with Jesus as the cornerstone. (Ephesians 2:19-22, Hebrews 3:1)
And we see in Revelation “the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel.” And there were twelve gates around the holy city, each gate named after a tribe of Israel. (From this it would seem that God is not yet done with the Jewish people.) And also, “the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” [emphasis mine]
So there had to be 12 apostles. And the disciples recognized this. So they prayed, they searched the scriptures, and they chose a 12th. They had two criteria: The man had to be someone who had been with Jesus from the beginning, and he had to be someone who witnessed the resurrection. That’s how they communicated the life of Jesus. That’s how they communicated the gospel to the world. What they shared was based on observation and factual information. So they chose someone who saw what they saw and experienced what they experienced. They chose someone who experienced Jesus’ life and resurrection first hand.
But What About Paul?
It’s at this point in some Bible studies some Bible teachers bring up Paul. Paul was undeniably important to the growth of the Christian faith, especially to the Gentiles. And we don’t hear about anything concerning Matthias other than what we see in Acts chapter 1. So could it be the disciples were wrong? Could it be Paul was the 12th disciple?
I think it’s worth noting that for the first 1,800 years or so, this wasn’t the position of the church. The position of the church has been Matthias was the 12th.
So if you’re asking me what I think, (for what little it’s worth), I used to believe that yes, Paul may well have been the 12th disciple. But the more I learn about early church history, the more I lean toward the disciples accurately following God’s will and choosing the one He wanted to replace Judas.
How Important is the Question: Questions and Distractions
I think it’s an important question. But I also think there’s another question that’s even more important. So here’s the thing: I’m drawn to these questions. I enjoy these discussions. It’s fun to talk about the meaning of scripture and the interpretation of God’s word and the implications. Right?
Of course it is. But I think it can be a trap too. Because talking about such questions (or writing about such questions) is so much easier than actually following Jesus. Questions of theology and Biblical interpretation can be a snare.
“Ha, the disciples missed it,” we might say.
Or, if we disagree with that interpretation: “Those people who say the 12th disciple is Paul, they’re really missing it. After all, they’re disagreeing with Peter and ten of Jesus’ disciples. Men who learned from Jesus first hand, for three years.”
Or maybe our distractions come from our attention to the shortcomings of the people around us: “Can you believe the way my middle child dawdles!” Or, “My husband doesn’t listen to me.” Or, “My wife complains all the time!” Or, “He doesn’t get how hard I work around here.”
Or maybe it’s politics that has captured our attention. We might become a slave to the algorithms producing our news feeds. Those algorithms are designed with a very specific purpose in mind. They’re designed to light up our brain stems.
Outrage for Profit
A few years ago I had occasion to spend some time on Craigslist. A guy ran a red light and t-boned my mom. She’s fine but her car was totaled. So I found her a used car on Craigslist. It was also a few years ago I sold my boat to a man who lives four hours away from me in Pasco, Washington. I used Craigslist to do it. I’m guessing you’ve used Craigslist a time or two too. Craig Newmark is the “Craig” in Craigslist. He’s the founder. And he knows a thing or two about how the internet works and about media in general. Around the same time I was buying and selling on Craigslist, I read that Craig Newmark made this statement:
“I’m guessing that the purpose of many Twitter wars is to polarize people and, in fact, we’ve seen that happen because you can often trace some of the fighting groups to the same location. Most of the outrage I’ve seen in the online world – I would guess 80% – someone’s faking it for profit.”
After reading his remarks I did a little research. One of the best articles I found was this 17 minute read: This is how your fear and outrage are being sold for profit, by Tobias Rose-Stockwell. I hope you’ll read it for yourself. Another great article on this topic is from one of my favorite podcasters, Carey Nieuwhof: Why Every Good Leader Should Escape The Algorithm Before You Can’t Or Won’t.
It turns out moral outrage is big business. In a moment of candor, I heard one talking head say there are political show hosts out there who don’t even believe half of what they say. The truth isn’t the top priority for them or for the companies they work for. According to Google design ethicist Tristan Harris everybody out there is in “a race to the bottom of the brain stem.” Your brain stem.
So the top priority isn’t the truth.
The top priority is to trigger your base emotions.
In other words the top priority is to say something that will evoke outrage or fear in you or in me because that’s the cheapest most effective way to get your attention. And those who are best at it are those who make the most money. Those who win the race to the bottom of your brain stem get the most advertisers and subscriptions. We’re talking about billions of dollars. On the internet, on the radio, on TV, there are wolves fleecing sheep for profit this way.
I implore you, don’t be one of those sheep. Because when we’re sucked into expressing our moral outrage, our big opinions get in the way of loving like Jesus. We become known for what we’re against instead of being known for what Jesus said his disciples would be known for: their love.
The Other Disciple
The truth is, when I turn a critical eye toward others, I feel better about myself.
“They’re so fill-in-the-blank. I would never be like that.”
Or, “I would never vote for a guy who would do that!”
Or, “How could he vote for a guy who would do that!”
Our focus on others, the disciples in the case of whether or not they were wrong when they chose Matthias, or the people in our own family, or the politicians in the news, can serve as a powerful distraction from a more important question. Rather than asking about the 12th disciple, I can ask God about another disciple. I can ask God about the only disciple I have any control over.
I can ask God about me.
I can ask God how I can become a better disciple.
Rather than complaining about how much my spouse is complaining, I can ask God how I can follow Jesus more closely.
Rather than asking about the bad behavior of people in my news feed, I can ask God how I can live in the way that pleases Him most. And His way is love.
Bob Goff said it well. We Jesus followers can know we’re following Jesus the way He wants us to when our love dwarfs our opinions. (see How to tell if you’re growing as a Jesus follower.)
“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Ignatius, The Epistle of Ignatius to the Romans, New Advent, written between 50 and 117 AD
Cohen Coberly, Craigslist founder: ‘Most’ online outrage is faked for profit, Techspot, July 15, 2019
David Smith interview with Craig Newmark, Craigslist’s Craig Newmark: ‘Outrage is profitable. Most online outrage is faked for profit’, The Guardian, July 14, 2019
Tobias Rose-Stockwell, This is how your fear and outrage are being sold for profit, Medium Media, July 14, 2017
Ruth Tam, Wrath of the talking heads: How the ‘Outrage Industry’ affects politics, PBS, February 28, 2014
Newly released book by Kurt Bennett, now available on Amazon!
Love Like Jesus: How Jesus Loved People (and how you can love like Jesus)
Love Like Jesus begins with the story of how after a life of regular church attendance and Bible study, Bennett was challenged by a pastor to study Jesus. That led to an obsessive seven year deep dive. After pouring over Jesus’ every interaction with another human being, he realized he was doing a much better job of studying Jesus’ words than he was following Jesus’ words and example. The honest and fearless revelations of Bennett’s own moral failures affirm he wrote this book for himself as much as for others.
Love Like Jesus examines a variety of stories, examples, and research, including:
- Specific examples of how Jesus communicated God’s love to others.
- How Jesus demonstrated all five of Gary Chapman’s love languages (and how you can too).
- The story of how Billy Graham extended Christ’s extraordinary love and grace toward a man who misrepresented Jesus to millions.
- How to respond to critics the way Jesus did.
- How to love unlovable people the way Jesus did.
- How to survive a life of loving like Jesus (or how not to become a Christian doormat).
- How Jesus didn’t love everyone the same (and why you shouldn’t either).
- How Jesus guarded his heart by taking care of himself–he even napped–and why you should do the same.
- How Jesus loved his betrayer Judas, even to the very end.
With genuine unfiltered honesty, Love Like Jesus, shows you how to live a life according to God’s definition of success: A life of loving God well, and loving the people around you well too.
A life of loving like Jesus.
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Powerful one. I’ve been guilty of outrage lately. I see so many Christians that I respect that fail to show the fruits of the spirit. Thank you Kurt for writing this!
Yeah, it’s a real challenge during this weird time in history. I think we all know people who are behaving out of character right now.