Signpost for Sunday 17 May 2015: Acts 1:15-17, 21-26; Ps 1; 1 John 5:9-13; John 17:6-19
I discovered an interesting take on the reading form Acts this week, and since I’m filling in for George at short notice I hope you won’t mind me summarising some interesting thoughts by Jacob Myers that I came across here http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1295
The main thought is that Acts 1:15-17 shows us the first recorded crisis in the Early Church, and that crisis was what to do about Judas.
What are we to make of the fact that Jesus handpicked Judas to be his disciple in light of the reality that this same Judas betrayed Jesus to his death? Then, now there are only eleven chosen disciples, what happens to the symbolic unity of Israel without twelve? We must not underestimate this crisis for the early believers, almost all of whom would have been Jews (1:15).
The big question posed in our reading is, what’s the significance of who is chosen to replace Judas?
Before the arrival of the Holy Spirit, the community is markedly inward focused and radically homogeneous. The coming of the Holy Spirit shifts their focus, revealing how big Jesus’ vision really is. God is not concerned with the restoration of Israel unless that also involves the restoration of all of creation. The author of John suggests that through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, Israel has been empowered to realise the power of its chosen status and its mission to the world.
Even though Matthias is finally elected by the eleven apostles through the casting of lots, the Holy Spirit opposes their choice. Peter’s assertion that the one to replace Judas ought to have been witness to the entire ministry of Jesus from the beginning is ignored by the Holy Spirit (and notice that Luke only ever mentions Matthias here in the Book of Acts). The Spirit chooses Paul as the twelfth apostle, to carry the mantle left vacant by Judas.
Maybe Jesus did know what he was doing when he selected Judas as one of the twelve, then. The apostolic hole left by Judas led the previously homogeneous community to accept a Jew of the diaspora, and its mission was transformed.
As one scholar has put it, “… in order for Paul to ground Christianity from the outside, as the one who was not a member of Christ’s inner circle, this circle had to be broken from within by means of an act of terrifying betrayal.”1
1Slavoj Žižek, The Puppet and the Dwarf: The Perverse Core of Christianity (Cambridge, MA & London: The MIT Press, 2003), 17-8.