A Witness to the Resurrection
Dear Congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ,
It never happened in my family, but it happened once in Robin’s family: they had gone to church together, and at the end of the service, after visiting and talking for a while and allowing the children to play with friends and amuse themselves, the parents called for everyone to get in the car, and they drove back home. It wasn’t until they got home and gathered the family at the table to pray and eat that they looked around and realized that they were missing a child. Someone had been left behind.
You get a bit of the same sense in reading Acts 1. After watching Jesus ascend into heaven, the apostles return to the place where they were staying in Jerusalem to wait until the Holy Spirit came upon them as Jesus had promised. As they gathered for prayer, they noticed that there was someone missing: Judas. They miss him because he was part of their ministry under Jesus.
Oh, it is appropriate that he is gone – he betrayed Jesus and did not repent of his sin. He did not share in the grace and mercy of God – he died a brutal death in the field he had bought – this is the sort of detail my mother left out when we were kids. His actions are roundly condemned. He was no hero. He had betrayed Jesus and had not looked for forgiveness.
The phrases Peter quotes from two of David’s psalms demonstrate the way the apostles viewed Judas’ betrayal.
[Quote Psalms 69 and 109]
Because of his wickedness and refusal to repent, Judas had no place among them any longer. His death has the ring of poetic justice about it – he could not remain alive after the wickedness.
Yet he left a hole in the circle. Without him they do not feel complete. He has fallen, but his seat among the apostle must not remain empty.
They needed someone who had experience with the whole ministry of Jesus, who could bear witness to all the events “beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us.”
We also need to fill some positions of leadership. No one has fallen out of our number, but our practise as a congregation – as agreed within our denomination – after a certain period of service elders and deacons step down and others fill their place.
In this process of selecting people to take a place of leadership we depend on God’s guidance and chose wisely among the believers who will be appointed to become a witness with the other elders and deacons to be a “witness with us of [Jesus’] resurrection.” Next year we will follow the pattern outlined here and use lots to select the officebearers from those nominated within the congregation.
Yet, with either election or before casting lots, the congregation of believers still has a responsibility to choose a person who knows the history of salvation, who knows the story of God’s covenant promises and how those promises have been fulfilled through Jesus Christ – it is knowing and believing these promises and historical events that makes a person eligible to serve in this ministry.
As the members of the church have been doing for many generations then, we pray for God’s guidance and discernment that people of God’s choosing may be selected to share in this ministry.
a That is, about 3|4 mile (about 1,100 meters)
b Greek brothers
c Psalm 69:25
d Psalm 109:8