The connection of authority lies completely in the role Jesus assigns to 12 of His followers- apostolos- which literally means “sent one” or one who is sent. What were these men sent to do? They were to be witnesses, a legal term which was associated with bearing testimony in an event or of a person. Therefore the apostles were to the ones who would bear witness of Jesus’ life, His death, and most importantly, His resurrection. In Jewish law, an apostle (shaliach in Aramaic) was a person who had the full authority of the one they represented in business or legal transactions (see Jn. 13:16, 20 or Jn. 20:21 as examples). Luke recorded this selection in Lk. 6:12-16 as Jesus began His most intimate and intensive training program with them. Now, within the first verses of Acts, Luke makes note that Jesus has passed on both His mission (establishing the Kingdom of God) and His power to accomplish it on to the “sent ones” (vv. 1-8). The number 12 is not unusual. It harkens back to the 12 tribes of Israel whose patriarchs became the initial subset of leadership under Joshua when the nation settled in the Promised Land. And like those 12 “heads of state”, the apostles would also be entrusted with guiding the new community of believers after Christ’s Ascension. Talk about tough shoes to fill! But the apostles are not left blowing about in the wind like a hapless flag. Jesus promises them the additional help of the Holy Spirit which will come upon them while they are in Jerusalem (v. 5) another aspect of this event which is connected to the Old Testament (Is. 44:3; Joel 2:28-32).
But there is a slight problem- the apostles are one man short! Peter takes the initiative to address those who are gathered together and suggests a replacement be named for Judas. Luke points out that the number of people equaled the number required by Jewish law to establish a community with its own ruling council. In essence Luke is demonstrating that Jesus has both personally and legally passed on His purpose and mission to this newly formed community. Peter begins by recalling the somewhat gruesome end of Judas. Note that Peter does not say Judas is no longer an apostle. He cannot do that since it was Jesus who appointed that role to Judas. But in what seems to be a rather unusual process, Matthias is “elected” to fill the vacant spot. The method of casting lots (rolling dice) to determine God’s will concerning a decision was common in Old Testament times (1 Chr. 26:13 for example). Prov. 16:33 sums up the mindset behind this stating that God is the one who determines how the dice will fall, not chance. However the passage is the only time casting lots in mentioned in the New Testament which emphasizes the unique situation but not necessarily endorsing this method as the way to determine what God wants you to do! Prayer remains the same, but it is the Spirit who guides us now.
It is important to take note of the historical sequence of the events in the Book of Acts. While the first chapter has some fascinating glimpses into the early believer’s connections to the Old Testament as seen in the casting of lots and the fulfillment of Scripture, it also has an exciting dose of anticipation with the promise of the Spirit yet to be fulfilled. How are we connected to this transitional time? We are the beneficiaries of what is about to happen in Chapter 2- the empowering of the Holy Spirit. And the work that began under Jesus’ earthly ministry which He passed on to those early believers now falls into our hands. We too are sent into our homes, our neighborhoods and anywhere else we find ourselves to be a witness as to what Jesus has done in our lives. Jesus has given you a mission. How are you measuring up as a witness?
Ann H. LeFevre, M. Div.
https://www.annhlefevre.com; Olivetreeann@mail.com; https://www.linkedin.com/in/annhlefevre; https://www.facebook.com/ann.h.lefevre