The remaining eleven must have felt betrayed. Judas had walked alongside the disciples, slept on the ground near them, shared big bowls of soup with them, and so much more. Then he turned his back on them—not just on Jesus and the other eleven, but on the 120 who had followed Jesus for most of the last three years. He betrayed them all.
How long had Judas deceived them? How long had he plotted, snuck off, smiled through his hate? (That scene where Mary anoints Jesus’ feet comes to mind.) Not only was Jesus gone, but this band of brothers had a missing link…a powder keg in their midst that had exploded, almost destroying them all.
He was one of our number and shared in our ministry. –Acts 1:17
Long-time readers know I like those moments between the big moments, those times when it feels like nothing is happening, when waiting is the work. This is one of those moments. Jesus has gone to Heaven (Acts 1:9), Pentecost is still a few days away (Acts 2:1-4), and the apostles are waiting in Jerusalem, as Jesus instructed (Acts 1:4-5).
Peter is not good at waiting. Remember those days between Jesus’ resurrection and ascension? Peter decided to go fishing (John 21). I think he went because he was restless, needing to do something besides wait.
Ten days is a long time for someone
like Peter to sit around and wait.
There were ten days between the Ascension and Pentecost. That’s a long time for someone like Peter to wait. Maybe he spends his days searching the scriptures. Maybe he drums his fingers on the windowsill and sighs a lot. Maybe he feels an obligation, being (probably) the oldest, to lead the group forward.
At some point in the ten days, all 120 are together in the upper room where they are staying. He has a couple of verses from Psalms on his mind—verses that point him toward an action, a decision. They need to choose a replacement for Judas, putting his betrayal to bed (so to speak). But let’s step back for a second.
Regarding Judas, there was a distinct sense of betrayal among the disciples, and in some ways, I’m sure they mourned Judas’ desertion and death. But there was also a new sense of belonging to a particular place in history. For over 400 years prior to Jesus’ birth, God had been silent toward his people. No prophets and no prophecy. No miracles. No amazing victories in battle. The Pentateuch, Prophets, and Writings (what we call the Old Testament) must have felt ancient…like we might feel in a long-deserted antebellum mansion.
The Apostles have a distinct place
where they belong in God’s history.
Then Peter begins to see connections. Believing Jesus is the Messiah, he reads these ancient texts differently. He discovers verses—instructions, really—that pertain to him, to this moment, to the lives they will live moving forward. Peter, John, and the rest of the apostles have a distinct place in history! Their lives connect to prophecies made hundreds of years earlier. They belong.
A couple of observations here. (We won’t even talk about choosing Matthias today.)
It’s natural to focus on the present and what’s happening around us, but God has a bigger plan. We are not part of prophecy in the specific ways the disciples were, but we’re still part of the plan. When things get heavy around us, when we are betrayed, when we don’t know where to step next, God is already implementing His plan. Out waiting is part of what’s necessary for the plan to fall into place.
We cannot expect to endure the difficulties and betrayals of life without a strong foundation in God’s Word.
Peter knew a lot of Scripture already. From these first few chapters in Acts, it’s clear Peter’s knowledge of the scriptures combined with the Holy Spirit’s presence to produce understanding in Peter’s mind…and out of his mouth. His go-to phrases seem to be, “It is written” (e.g. Acts 1:20) and “[So-and-so prophet] said” (e.g. Acts 2:16, 3:22). We cannot expect to endure the difficulties and betrayals of life without a strong foundation in God’s Word. We must pack our brains full of individual verses and longer passages so the Holy Spirit can use them at the right times. The more specifically He can select a verse to bring to our minds, the more succinctly we will be directed and the more clearly we will speak truth.
I am so convicted about this. I lean heavily on the verses I learned as a child, which is well and good, but I should be continuing to learn new passages and review the older ones even though it’s harder to commit things to memory here in middle age.
Oh yeah, Peter was middle-aged too. Just one more way we’re alike even while he challenges me from two thousand years away.
What were the disciples feeling while they waited on the Holy Spirit (Acts 1)? Clearly, betrayal from Judas but also a sense of belonging to God’s history. More evidence that my #waiting is #NotAboutMe, via @Carole_Sparks. (click to tweet)
Has God spoken to you through his Word in a time of waiting? Do you see something else in this passage? How do you continue to memorize Scripture? My readers and I would love to hear your responses to any of these questions. Drop a note in the comments below!