After the death and resurrection of Jesus, He appeared to many persons and then was taken up to be in the presence of His Father. And one of the first stories we see of the disciples afterward is their discussion over who is worthy to take the place of Judas as one of the twelve.
Because there had to be twelve disciples.
This story is recorded in the early chapters of Acts, and the disciples take great care in choosing a replacement. It has to be someone who has been there from the beginning, someone who knows the testimony of Jesus as well as they do. It has to be someone who has heard His words just the same way. Someone who sat at His table with them. Someone who heard His parables, who was privy to His preaching, someone who witnessed His miracles. It has to be someone not only who knows all these things, but someone who is of good moral character.
And most importantly, it must be someone who won't sell the Teacher out. We just can't have another Judas.
It's easy for us to read this story and commend the disciples. They seem to be trying to do the right thing here, and to do it the right way. Jesus called twelve. They looked around and counted only eleven. Jesus isn't here any more, so it's up to us to figure out who the twelfth is and restore things to the way that Jesus intended them to be. Peter (of course it would be Peter) even presents this idea as being consistent with the Scriptures, citing a verse in Psalms that says "Let someone else take his position." (Acts 1:20)
The problem is: this may or may not have been Jesus' idea.
Jesus was always very clear with His disciples about what He wanted, about what needed to happen, about how things would occur. He took every opportunity to teach them, every chance He had to explain to them what the Old Testament Scriptures meant - as related to Him and even as not related to Him. And He even told them that one of them, one of the very twelve sitting around that table with Him in that Upper Room, would betray Him. Yet even here, He spoke only of what would happen to that betrayer; He never said, "And then you all must come together and replace him."
We know how easy it is to read the Old Testament christologically, to read the story of Jesus back into the Scriptures. We know, too, how easy it is to read all of the Scriptures in the light of our own stories, trying to find all the secret messages God might have left in His Word for a people like us. These are the sorts of things Peter seems to be doing here. He's found this verse in the Psalms, he knows it well, and he's applying it to his present situation. He's trying, in earnest, to figure out what Jesus would have them do.
But let's not forget that they had forty days with the resurrected Jesus. He was hanging around for awhile after the resurrection. This little situation they found themselves in - being eleven when they were once twelve - could have come up at any time. They could have plainly asked Him, "Hey, Jesus. What do we do about the Judas thing?" Jesus Himself could have instructed them to replace Judas without their asking the question. (If He had, I believe this would have been preserved as part of this story in Acts, but it is not, so I do not believe Jesus issued such an instruction.) Jesus could have chosen a replacement disciple Himself and avoided this whole messy issue. Then we'd just have some small verse - "And Jesus chose Matthias to replace Judas among the twelve." But we have none of this.
Because, I think, Judas is still one of the twelve.
It's hard for us to wrap our heads around. To most of us, we easily say that Judas gave up his spot, gave up his privilege, gave up his appointment when He sold Jesus out. He betrayed the Son of God, for crying out loud. He sold Him into the hands of the enemy. He no longer gets to be a part of this whole thing. But that's our own human perspective talking. Not God's.
God's perspective is quite different. And what becomes of Judas is a powerful lesson for all of us.
More to come, tomorrow.