Acts 1:12–26 (NKJV)
After Jesus’ ascension to Heaven, the disciples followed His instructions and went back to the upper room where they had been staying. They did a role call, began to pray as they tarried, and then felt the need to replace the fallen Judas Iscariot as the twelfth disciple.
12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey. 13 And when they had entered, they went up into the upper room where they were staying: Peter, James, John, and Andrew; Philip and Thomas; Bartholomew and Matthew; James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot; and Judas the son of James. 14 These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.Acts 1:12-14
When they returned to the upper room, the roll call includes the remaining eleven disciples, unnamed “women,” Mary the mother of Jesus, and His brothers. While the number of people in the upper room on the day of Pentecost was about 120, this roll call is surprising specific and vague at the same time. The women is a non-descriptive term, while the disciples were called by name. Women obviously did not have an exalted place in society in the days of Christ. However, Jesus Himself seemed to honor and include several women in the accounts of His dealings with people. It would be interesting to know the exact composition of the group, but Luke deems it unnecessary at this point.
15 And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples (altogether the number of names was about a hundred and twenty), and said, 16 “Men and brethren, this Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke before by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus; 17 for he was numbered with us and obtained a part in this ministry.”Acts 1:15-26
18 (Now this man purchased a field with the wages of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his entrails gushed out. 19 And it became known to all those dwelling in Jerusalem; so that field is called in their own language, Akel Dama, that is, Field of Blood.)
20 “For it is written in the Book of Psalms: ‘Let his dwelling place be desolate, and let no one live in it’; and, ‘Let another take his office.’ 21 “Therefore, of these men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John to that day when He was taken up from us, one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.”
23 And they proposed two: Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. 24 And they prayed and said, “You, O Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which of these two You have chosen 25 to take part in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.” 26 And they cast their lots, and the lot fell on Matthias. And he was numbered with the eleven apostles.
Peter here begins to establish himself as a leader among the disciples. He stood and addressed the group concerning the vacant position among the twelve disciples. He briefly recounts the fate of Judas Iscariot, including his unfortunate demise, and then quotes Psalms 69:25 and 109:8 to justify replacing Judas among them. They determined the appropriate qualifications for an apostle (having traveled with the 12 and seen Jesus’ ministry as a whole), and then proceeded to nominate two men, Joseph and Matthias. They prayed for the Lord to reveal the one He had chosen, and when they voted, Matthias was chosen.
While Jesus told the disciples to tarry in the upper room until the promise came, He did not give them specific instructions as to what they should do while they waited. They likely prayed together, speculated as to the nature of the promised Holy Spirit baptism of which Jesus spoke, and then–as recorded in this passage–took care of some housekeeping matters. The business of the kingdom was one of the things they addressed. Who will take Judas’ place? Some would say this was unnecessary. Some say that Paul, a “man born out of time,” would eventually be the replacement for Judas. However, the organizational structure of the embryonic team seemed to call for a twelfth apostle at this moment, and they made the choice. What can this tell us about this group? They took care of business.
This business could have been omitted, but instead they did what they felt would be of best benefit to the team. When tragedy struck in the form of Jesus’ crucifixion, they rebounded and started the journey forward. Jesus’ resurrection gave them untold hope for the future, but when He left to ascend back to heaven, they had another emotional setback. Jesus’ instructions, though, gave them a place to gather and a promise of power. They sought to carry out the ministry of Christ and become what He had trained them to be over the previous three years. For what has God prepared you? Answer the call and take care of business for the glory of God!
Artwork from https://www.seetheholyland.net/cenacle/