What would be the perfect opening sermon for the first ever Church? Some kind of pep talk? Actually, when Peter stands up to address the first Christian community in history, he begins on a sobering note. First things first, we have to talk about… Judas. “He was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry,” Peter says. (Acts 1:17) The betrayer Judas was handpicked by Jesus himself. Even Jesus’ handpicked community was not immune for the trappings of greed! The Church cannot live out its calling as Jesus’ witnesses “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8) unless we’re willing to own up to our failures and admit that the Jesus-centered community is just as vulnerable to destructive sin as anyone else. On day one of this new adventure called the Church, the Jesus-centered community chooses to be a community that will not hide our faults. We will be transparent. If we’re going to be what Jesus has called us to be, frank and sometimes embarrassing honesty is the only way

But Peter mentions Judas for a second reason. He is to be replaced and the eleven apostles shall be twelve once again. Why is it so important for there to be exactly twelve apostles? Because the number twelve has always been the number of God’s people. The twelve sons of Jacob become the twelve tribes of Israel. Jesus handpicks twelve apostles as a way of clearing stating: you’re seeing the new Israel, now centered around myself – that is what it means to be the people of God. Peter and the remaining apostles feel that if the number twelve is that important to Jesus, it should be to us too. By becoming twelve again instead of eleven, the apostles are now clearly stating: we will be a community intentionally formed; we will not accidentally stumble into being the people Jesus has called us to be. It will only happen on purpose.

Why do we show up to worship on Sundays? Why do we sing the songs we sing? Why do we order our worship services in the ways we do? These questions, and others like them, deserve clear answers, because we will not accidentally stumble into being the people Jesus has called us to be. Faith and community must happen intentionally.

The apostles have some criteria in mind for who might qualify to become the new addition to the twelve – someone who has been present for the entire ministry of Jesus, going all the way back even to the days of John baptizing in the wilderness. Two candidates meet this criteria – Joseph and Matthias, both of whom get no mention before or after this in the whole New Testament. Apparently that’s exactly what they’re looking for in a new apostle: someone who has never claimed a single moment of spotlight for himself, someone more than happy to blend into the background and keep all the attention on Jesus himself.

The apostles pray (they don’t want the decision to be only theirs; they know this is all in God’s hands) and they cast lots (essentially they flip a coin). Matthias is chosen and we have our new twelve. In the midst of the selection process, Peter reminds us what the apostles’ job description is – to “become a witness with us to his resurrection.” (Acts 1:22) That’s the Church’s job description too, to speak of and exemplify the eternal life that was unleashed upon the world the morning Jesus walked out of the tomb. To be the witness Jesus calls us to be is to be a community intentionally formed, intentionally prayerful, intentionally missional, because none of it will happen by accident.

-Mason Puckett


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