Acts 1:15-20 (NIV)
In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) and said, “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through the mouth of David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus–he was one of our number and shared in this ministry.”
(With the reward he got for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called that field in their language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.)
“For,” said Peter, “it is written in the book of Psalms,
“‘May his place be deserted;
let there be no one to dwell in it,’
and, “‘May another take his place of leadership.’
As the days progressed, more and more people gathered with the apostles, both men and women. These were not new converts, but long-time followers of Jesus, heartened by the news of His resurrection, many of whom had seen Him in person after He rose from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:6). Some of these had been followers of Jesus from the first days of His ministry all the way to the present day (Acts 1:21-23), although they had not been selected by Jesus to be part of the twelve apostles.
As this large group prayed together and talked about their experiences with Jesus, something kept nagging Peter in the back of his mind. Jesus at one point had told the twelve, “I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Matthew 19:28 NIV)
That made perfect sense at the time, when there were twelve apostles. But now Judas was gone. After he betrayed Jesus, he was overwhelmed with grief and hanged himself (Matthew 27:5). Before long, his body decayed and fell from the noose, falling to the ground and bursting open, and was discovered in that state a short time later. A disgusting but fitting end for the one who had betrayed the Son of God.
Judas had received thirty pieces of silver from the high priests for his betrayal, fulfilling a messianic prophecy in Zechariah 11:12. He returned it, throwing it into the temple area before he killed himself, but the high priests could not take it into the temple treasury, nor would they receive it themselves, since it was tainted, blood money that had betrayed an innocent man to death.
But they hit upon what they believed was a wonderful idea. They decided to buy the potter’s field to be used as a burial ground for foreigners (Matthew 27:7) (also inadvertently fulfilling the prophecy in Zechariah 11:13), and to buy it in Judas’ name. Thus, it would be listed as his property, and the high priests’ names would not be associated with the transaction at all. But people found out that the field had been purchased with the blood money, so it acquired the nickname “Hakeldama,” or “Blood field.”
Peter knew that Judas would not occupy one of the twelve thrones Jesus had talked about due to his betrayal of Jesus, and recalled Scriptures from Psalms 69:25 and 109:8 that seemed to foretell it. But the thought of the empty throne ate at him, and he decided that something needed to be done about it.
Father, Jesus was very clear about the glorious future that lay before His closest followers if they would simply stay true to Him. But, for some reason that I can’t fathom, Judas decided that a somewhat richer present was better than the completely blessed future that Jesus had painted for them all. In the end, he didn’t even repent; he simply gave into despair and threw away the greatest give he had been given: his life. Lord, help us to continue to keep our sights high, focused on the future that You have so clearly painted for us in the words of the Scriptures, so that we never lose hope, never turn away to the baubles and trinkets of this world, and most definitely never betray You or Jesus by our thoughts, our words, or our deeds. Amen.
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