What a week! What a roller coaster ride! Something unbelievably successful happened and created one of the most exciting moments in your life! There was an adrenaline rush that created a fantastic, natural high. It felt so good, so right that you floated above the every day world. It was one of those, "Yes! I did it!" days.

Then, one week to the day, you had one of the "downest" downers you ever experienced. Everything crashed, and it devastated you. You plummeted into the darkest depths of the pit of pessimism. You were so depressed--and so confused! You thought nothing good could ever happen to you again.

Have you ever experienced a week like that? The people who followed Jesus did. It happened the week that he was executed. It started when Jesus entered Jerusalem while thousands and thousands of people cheered. Passover was a few days away, Jerusalem was splitting at the seams with people, and everybody was talking about Lazarus' resurrection. Jesus was welcomed into Jerusalem in the same way Israel traditionally welcomed a new king. The public was hysterical--people even took their clothes off and laid them in the road for Jesus' donkey to walk on! It was bigger than a super bowl victory party!

That week Jesus was untouchable. His enemies could do nothing to him. Passover, the most important day in the Jewish year, was coming Saturday. What a time to put Jesus in charge of the nation!

Had anyone suggested that Jesus would be dead before sundown on Friday, people would have laughed at their stupidity. Kill the man who raises the dead! Don't be ridiculous!

But it happened. Thursday night one of his own disciples betrayed him, and Friday afternoon he was dead. Roman soldiers executed him at the insistence of the Jewish public. Jesus was not only executed; he was also publicly disgraced.

The multitudes that followed Jesus for the past three years evaporated. The cheers died; an eerie silence lived. The miracle worker was dead. Sure, he had been raised from the dead, but that caused no major stir. Lazarus was alive and there for everyone to see doing everyday things everyday. But Jesus' resurrection was different. It was real. His flesh lived again. He still had the wounds in his body. He was not a ghost. But he would appear, and then be gone. And that lasted for only 40 days (Acts 1:3) When he ascended into heaven, they realized that his frequent, unexpected appearances were over.

  1. After Jesus' ascension, one hundred twenty disciples remained together as a group in Jerusalem (Acts 1:15).
    1. This group included eleven of Jesus' special disciples, a number of the women who cooked and cared for Jesus and the twelve as they traveled from place to place, Jesus' mother Mary, and his physical brothers.
      1. It was such a confusing time.
      2. After the ascension, the eleven disciples stayed in an upper room in Jerusalem.
        1. Before he ascended, Jesus told them to stay in Jerusalem.
        2. He told them that the Holy Spirit would come on them.
        3. When the Holy Spirit came, they would receive power.
      3. The group remained together the ten days between Jesus' ascension and the day the Holy Spirit came.
        1. It says that they spent the time in prayer.
    2. These ten days were such an awkward, strange, confusing time.
      1. Throughout Israel's history, the only saviors the Jewish nation had known were military leaders.
        1. Moses, their first leader, wasn't, but he was so unique that there had been only one Moses.
        2. But Joshua was, and the judges were, and King David was, and in recent history the Maccabeans were.
      2. The nation never had a nonmilitary, resurrected Savior.
        1. They never had a Savior who would not fight.
        2. They never had a Savior who surrendered to the enemy peacefully.
        3. They never had a Savior who refused to destroy the enemy.
      3. They had had military leaders, and prophets, and high priests, and Rabbis.
        1. These were natural, flesh-and-blood, living leaders.
        2. They never had a leader who had been killed and was alive again.
      4. They had absolutely no idea about:
        1. What God had in mind.
        2. What Jesus had in mind.
        3. What was going to happen.
        4. Or how it would work when it happened.
      5. Jesus just said, "Stay in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit comes"--whatever that meant.
        1. "Know that you will have power when the Holy Spirit comes"--whatever that meant. (They used the power to do miracles, so what was different about this power?)
        2. "You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Samaria, and the whole world."
          1. Witnesses of what?
          2. Witnesses about what?
          3. Surely, he was resurrected, but what did that mean? How could God use that?
          4. And what was this business of being witnesses to the world? Jesus rarely left Israel's borders when he was alive. What world?
      6. In 40 days of resurrection appearances, Jesus talked a lot about the kingdom of God (Acts 1:3).
        1. They didn't understand--in fact, it really didn't make sense.
        2. How can you have a kingdom if you don't have a king?
        3. How can Jesus be king even if he is resurrected, but just makes occasional appearances?
        4. Very confusing!

  2. One day Peter told the whole group that they needed to replace Judas.
    1. He had been a part of the twelve's ministry, and his vacancy needed to be filled.
      1. Peter cited Psalms 69:25 and Psalms 109:8 as proof that Judas had disgraced himself by betraying Jesus, and that he needed to be replaced.
      2. But there was a certain kind of man who was qualified to replace Judas.
        1. This man followed Jesus full time just as had the other eleven--and there is evidence that a number of people followed Jesus full time.
        2. He witnessed the work, deeds, and teachings of Jesus daily--he saw everything with his own eyes and heard it with his own ears.
        3. He started following Jesus when John baptized Jesus--the beginning point of Jesus' ministry.
        4. He personally saw the resurrected Jesus.
    2. What happened then was very different, so different that it is astounding.
      1. Someone says, "I know what was so different."
        1. "I read that Acts 1 would be in your sermon, so I read Acts 1."
        2. "The astounding thing is that they cast lots to select the man."
        3. I am so glad that you read Acts 1. That is wonderful. Casting lots does seem strange to us, that was not at all strange to them.
      2. What was casting or drawing lots? It was the kind of act we do when we draw straws, or draw a name out of a bowl, or something similar.
      3. Our immediate response is, "That certainly was a strange way to make an important religious decision."
      4. Actually, that is the only thing about this decision that was not strange; in the Old Testament God often used lots to make known His decision.
        1. In Leviticus 16:8, on the second most important holy day in Israel, two goats were selected to be used on the day of atonement.
          1. One goat was given to the Lord by sacrifice.
          2. One goat was to be a scapegoat used to carry Israel's sins away.
          3. Lots were cast to allow God to select which goat was to be used for what.
        2. Joshua 14:2 and 18:10 states that God was allowed to determine which section of land was given to what Israelite tribe by casting lots.
        3. Nehemiah 10:34 states God was allowed to determine which group of priest served in the temple by casting lots.
        4. Proverbs 16:33 states, "The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord."
      5. I find it noteworthy to realize that this is the last time casting lots was used by the followers of Christ to involve God in the decision.
        1. From the next chapter (Acts 2) forward, such decisions were made in cooperation with the Holy Spirit.
        2. A clear example is Acts 13:2 when the Holy Spirit told the prophets and teachers in the Antioch congregation to separate Paul and Barnabas for the work that the Spirit wanted them to do.
    3. "Then what is it about this decision that you consider to be astounding?"
      1. Peter did not pick the man.
        1. He obviously was in charge of that meeting.
        2. From Acts 2 through Acts 9 he would be the most popular and influential leader in the congregation at Jerusalem.
        3. In Jesus' earthly ministry, he was one of Jesus' closest disciples.
        4. But Peter did not pick the man.
      2. The eleven did not pick the man.
        1. They did not say, "We need to be sure to select someone who is compatible and meets our personal approval."
        2. They did not declare, "We know better than anyone else who is needed to take Judas' place."
        3. They did not say, "Jesus told us that the Holy Spirit is coming on us and giving us power, so we should be the ones to make the choice."
      3. Had Peter said that he would pick the man, or, had the eleven said that they should make the choice, I sincerely doubt that anyone would have objected.
        1. That was consistent with the way things were done then.
        2. It would have been appropriate.
        3. But it is not what happened.
      4. The 120, the whole group, including both men and women, selected two men who fit the profile Peter presented them.
        1. From their human perspective, both men were equally qualified to take Judas' place.
        2. From their knowledge, either Joseph or Matthias would be fine.
      5. But the apostles did not even make the final choice between the two men.
        1. They, the group, prayed.
        2. "You, Lord, know the hearts of all people."
        3. "Show us which one you have chosen."
      6. Please carefully note and remember this: The final, most important qualification was the qualification of the heart--and only God knew hearts.
        1. Does that mean Joseph, who was not selected, had a bad heart, and Matthias, who was selected, had a good heart?
        2. Absolutely not! It in no way means that Joseph had less faith or was less spiritual.
        3. It meant that Matthias had the heart best suited for the work of an apostle.
    4. "David, what is it that is strikingly different about this decision?"
      1. The number one thing is that the whole group participated in making the decision.
      2. Peter practiced what we now call participatory leadership.
        1. Peter, as the leader, set the boundaries of the decision.
        2. The whole group, working within those boundaries, made a decision.
        3. Both men and women in the group had a part in doing this.
      3. The leader led, but the whole group participated.
      4. And this is not the last time this happened.

A brand new kingdom would come into existence in days. No kingdom had ever been like this new one. It would function in a new and different way. It would be led in a new and different way. But why should that be surprising? A new people in a new kingdom who existed for a new purpose needed a new kind of leadership.

Don't forget the declaration that Jesus is alive and He is coming back!

If you are a Christian, you are alive because God put life in you, just as He put life into the dead body of Christ. You are alive because He is alive. You are alive when you are in Him. The power is from God to give you a new life, to make you a new person. When He gives you life, you share in Jesus' resurrection.

If you are not a Christian, are you willing to be baptized so you can get life? We would love to help you find the life that only God can provide.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 12 October 1997
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