Lesson: Acts 1:15-17, 21-26
15 In those days Peter stood up among the believers (together the crowd numbered about one hundred twenty persons) and said, 16 “Friends, the scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit through David foretold concerning Judas, who became a guide for those who arrested Jesus – 17 for he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.
21 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us — one of these must become a witness with us to his resurrection.” 23 So they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias. 24 Then they prayed and said, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which one of these two you have chosen 25 to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” 26 And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles
The book called “The Acts of the Apostles” was written around 85 to 90 CE by the anonymous author of the Gospel According to Luke. The first 15 chapters of Acts are a didactic “history” of the early Jesus Follower Movement starting with the Ascension of the Christ and ending at the so-called Council of Jerusalem where it was agreed that Gentiles did not have to be circumcised and keep all the Kosher dietary laws to become Jesus Followers.
Chapters 16 to 28 of Acts are an account of Paul’s Missionary Journeys, his arrest, and his transfer to Rome – and the stories are not always consistent with Paul’s letters.
The Gospel According to Luke and Acts of the Apostles see the Holy Spirit as the driving force for all that happens. The events surrounding today’s reading exemplify this.
Today’s reading takes place after the description of the Ascension and the disciples’ return to Jerusalem. It is the first of Peter’s four speeches in the first four chapters of Acts.
Peter stated that the Holy Spirit (through David – the traditional author of the Psalms) foretold Judas’ betrayal. (The verses omitted from today’s reading (18-20) describe Judas’ death and give the Aramaic name for the place of Judas’ death – the Field of Blood.)
Peter’s speech continued with a call to replace Judas. Because there were 12 Tribes of Israel, 12 was regarded as a sacred number, and the disciples decided to elect a successor to Judas. The “requirement” that the person to be selected needed to have been with the apostles during all of Jesus’ public ministry eliminated Paul as a candidate to be one of the 12 apostles. Paul elsewhere referred to himself as a “apostle.” 1 Cor. 15:9.
The use of “lots” (a form of dice) was a common Biblical way to make choices on the theory that God would control the lots to choose the correct person. The lot fell upon Matthias and he was added to the 11 remaining apostles. Nothing else is known about either Matthias or the other candidate, Joseph called Barsabbas, also known as Justus.
In another reference to lots, and using Psalm 22:18 as a model, the Synoptic Gospels said that soldiers cast lots for Jesus’ clothing at the Crucifixion (Mark 15:24; Matt 27:35; Luke 23:34).
Epistle: 1 John 5:9-13
9 If we receive human testimony, the testimony of God is greater; for this is the testimony of God that he has testified to his Son. 10 Those who believe in the Son of God have the testimony in their hearts. Those who do not believe in God have made him a liar by not believing in the testimony that God has given concerning his Son. 11 And this is the testimony: God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.
13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.
There are three letters attributed to “John” – an attribution given in the late 2nd Century about the same time that the four canonical Gospels were attributed to Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John. (We do not know the actual authors of any of the Gospels.)
Scholars also conclude that the three letters attributed to “John” were written after 100 CE because they do not reflect the tense relationships found in the Fourth Gospel between the Jesus Followers and the Temple Authorities (in Jesus’ lifetime and until 70 CE) and the Pharisees (from 70 CE until the “parting of the ways” around 100 CE).
The author of 1 John was likely an individual speaking on behalf of a community of followers of the author of the Fourth Gospel.
Today’s reading is from the concluding chapter of the letter, and repeated themes from the Fourth Gospel. True faith is testified to by not only humans, but also by the Son and by God (v. 9). This is a theme in the Fourth Gospel (John 5:31-38) in which Jesus said he was speaking for the Father.
The statement that belief in the Son will bring eternal life (v.13) parallels the last verse of the Fourth Gospel – “and that through believing [that Jesus is the Messiah] you may have life in his name” (John 20:31).
Gospel: John 17:6-19
6 [Jesus prayed for his disciples,] “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; 8 for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9 I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. 11 And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. 13 But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. 14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 15 I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. 16 They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.”
The Fourth Gospel is different in many ways from the Synoptic Gospels. The “signs” (miracles) and many of the stories in the Fourth Gospel are unique to it, such as the Wedding at Cana, Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well, and the Raising of Lazarus.
The chronology of events is also different in the Fourth Gospel. For example, the Temple Event (“cleansing of the Temple”) occurred early in Jesus’ Ministry in the Fourth Gospel, rather than late as in the Synoptic Gospels. In the Synoptic Gospels, the Last Supper was a Passover Seder, but in the Fourth Gospel, it occurred the day before the first day of Passover so that Jesus (who is described as “the Lamb of God”) died at the time lambs were being sacrificed at the Temple for the Passover Seder to be held that night.
Today’s reading is also unique to the Fourth Gospel and is part of “Jesus’ Final Prayer” (Chapter 17) which follows the “Farewell Discourse” (13:31 to the end of Chapter 16). The first five verses of Chapter 17 are a prayer Jesus offered for himself, and today’s reading is his prayer to God for the disciples. (The introductory words “Jesus prayed for his disciples” are not in the canonical text.)
In the prayer, “you” and “your” refer to God the Father, not to the disciples. In the prayer, references to “the world” are not references to the earth as such but are references to the values of the world (or “the System”), including striving for power, wealth, control, self-interest.
In this prayer, there are some “echoes” of the Our Father as it appears in Matthew and in Luke, but in those passages, Jesus was presented as teaching his disciples how to pray. Here, Jesus was praying to the Father on their behalf.
The one “destined to be lost” (v.12) was Judas Iscariot, and the “evil one” (v.15) is Satan.