Weekly Bible Reflection
Mark's Alternative Economy
Seventh Sunday of Easter
Acts 1: 15-17, 21-end . "Difficult Choices "
Begin by using the Bible Study method as outlined
Share some of your experiences of choosing people for leadership roles in your church or in local community or interest groups. How did you make your choice and did you ever experience a dilemma when there were two equally suitable candidates for a role?
A Window on the Text
Luke provides us with a little window into the choosing process to replace Judas Iscariot who, after betraying Jesus and realizing the enormity of his actions, committed suicide (v 18-20). It is clear that one of the essential criteria for his replacement was that the candidate needed to have been with Jesus throughout the period of his public ministry and be a witness to the resurrection.
It seems that two people qualified: Joseph known as Barsabbas also called Justus and Matthias. It is quite likely they were among the 70 that Jesus sent out in Luke 10V1f. After praying together, the disciples chose to ‘cast lots’, the modern equivalent of tossing a coin. Perhaps there was nothing between the two in terms of qualification or their capacity to fulfil the role. Little is known about the actual lots cast. Flat stones, sticks of varying lengths, coins or dice could have been used. We need not necessarily interpret this as a lack of discernment or some kind of superstition. Life often presents difficult choices like this where two people are equally able to take on a job or role. The issue is not whether it is God’s will, for God has left the choosing to us as his partners to continue and complete the work of creation and further the reign of God on earth.
This event has been understood by some as the beginning of apostolic succession and that it set the pattern for later transfer of apostolic authority. Others would go so far as to say the succession was male not female. Yet others say that the disciples should have waited until Pentecost and then made their choice as they lacked the Holy Spirit’s presence in their choosing. Maybe these lines of argument miss the whole point of the story, that is, the importance of the resurrection in the life of the church. To this day, it remains central to apostolic faith.
Responding as a community
- Some say that God doesn’t have a predetermined detailed plan or will for our lives or churches but provides us a broad framework of his will which is contained in the teaching of Jesus. He then leaves it to us to make our own choices and decisions within that framework. If we walk in the way and spirit of Jesus then the choices we make are most likely to be consistent with God’s will. Do you agree with this way of understanding how God works when it comes to us making choices? What are the difficulties with the view that God’s will is set in stone and we have to find it for the fine detail of our lives?
- What criteria are used in choosing people for leadership roles in your church community? How prominent is a person’s belief in the resurrection of Jesus and their personal experience of resurrection in that choosing?
- How does your church community go about identifying and calling people for specific ministry roles in the life and mission of the church? Do you have a discernment process and if so what is it?
- How can we as Christians show our identity as believers in the resurrection? What songs, movies or books best illustrate for you the triumph of good over evil?
Pray for all who are called to leadership roles in church and society.
- Pray for serving politicians and candidates for election, locally and nationally, that they may see all their work as a calling and seek to be servants of the people, upholding the highest of standards and personal integrity in public life, rather than pursuing personal selfish ends.
- Pray for church leaders that they too might act in kingdom shaped ways and so model an alternative pattern to much that we are seeing among politicians.
Further Background material
Note the link between twelve apostles and the twelve tribes of Israel (see Ephesians 2 v20 and Revelation 21 v 14).
Little is known of Matthias but fourth-century historian Eusebius said that he preached in Ethiopia and was later stoned while hanging on a cross. Others say he was stoned in Jerusalem and then beheaded.
Nothing is known of Joseph, or Justus, except that Eusebius refers to a legend that he "drank poison but by the Lord's grace suffered no harm."
Some scholars suggest that the word "lot" had a metaphorical significance and that it was the whole community that selected Matthias. The will of God was manifested through the community's vote.
N.T. Wright observes, “Part of Christian obedience, right from the beginning, was the call to play (apparently) great parts without pride and (apparently) small parts without shame. There are, of course, no passengers in the kingdom of God, and actually no ‘great’ and ‘small’ parts either. The different tasks and roles to which God assigns us are His business, not ours.” (source unknown)
Mark's Alternative Economy - Discussion