Acts 1:12-26

 The last words of Jesus were a command to return to Jerusalem and to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit. This section tells us what happened while they were waiting.

Acts 1:1-11

Acts 1:12-14

Acts 1:15-26

The Church's Work

The Church's Workers

Jesus Identifies the Task

The Church Prepares for the Task

The Apostles choose a Worker




Period of 40 days

Period of 10 days

The events recorded in this section took place during the 10 day interval between the ascension of Jesus into heaven and the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost.



Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day's journey away. (Acts 1:12).

The ascension of Jesus had taken place within full view of the city of Jerusalem. The Mount of Olives is located on the east side of the city and is only separated from the city by the narrow Kidron Valley.

"A Sabbath's days journey" does not mean that the Ascension took place on a Sabbath, but only that it happened near Jerusalem.

The rabbis had taken the command of Exodus 16:29 - that no one was to "go out of his place on the Sabbath day" with Numbers 35:5 which designated that the border of a town extended outward a distance of 2000 cubits (3000 feet or a little over half a mile) and concluded that if you limit your travel to this particular distance, then you haven't really gone out.



When they had entered the city, they went up to the upper room where they were staying; that is, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James.

These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers. (Acts 1:13-14).

1. The Upper Room.

An upper room was usually quieter, larger and more private with better ventilation. Notice that this was THE upper room. It was the same upper room where Jesus had sat with His disciples at their last supper. It was the same upper room where Jesus had appeared to His disciples after the resurrection. This room had now become the headquarters for the disciples.

It is possible that this room is the same room mentioned in Acts 12:12 - a room which belonged to Mary, the mother of John Mark. The disciples did not spend all of their time in the upper room. Luke 24:53 adds that they were continually in the Temple, praising God.

2. The Disciples.

The last time that all of the disciples had been listed by name had been when Jesus commissioned them. Things had been fresh and exciting. Now there is going to be a new beginning. Once again, there is an expectancy in the air.

Matthew 10

Mark 3

Luke 6

Acts 1

First Group

Simon Peter




Simon Peter




Simon Peter








Second Group

















Third Group




Judas Iscariot




Judas Iscariot




Judas Iscariot




It has been suggested that each of these three groups had a natural leader. We know that Peter tended to lead his group and, in fact, provided leadership for all of the disciples.

a. Simon Peter.

There is no disciple of Jesus with whom we are more familiar than the person of Simon. We are told here that Jesus gave him a nickname - Peter (Petros), "Rock."

b. John.

John describes himself elsewhere as "the disciple whom Jesus loved." Jesus had a special nickname for these two brothers. It was Bo-anerges, "Sons of thunder." This might have been because they were so rowdy. Or it might have been because of a time when they had asked Jesus to strike a city with a bolt of lightning.

c. James.

James is never mentioned in the gospels apart from his brother, John. Of the two, James is usually mentioned first. This is the one exception.

d. Andrew.

Andrew was a Greek name. It is the common Greek word for "man." Andrew's claim to fame was that he was Peter's brother.

e. Philip.

This is also a Greek name. It was the same name as the father of Alexander the Great. It means "horse-lover." Philip may have also had a Hebrew name, but we don't know what it was. For some reason, Philip always went by his Greek name. It is noteworthy that when some Greeks wanted to come and speak to Jesus, they first went to Philip (John 12:20-22).

f. Thomas.

Thomas has gotten a lot of bad press over the years. He has been labeled "Doubting Thomas" because of his reaction to the news of the resurrection of Jesus. But Doubting Thomas had now become Believing Thomas after seeing the risen Lord.

g. Bartholomew.

The name "Bartholomew" is made up of two Hebrew words. Bar is the Hebrew word for "son." This man was the son of Tolmai (Ptolemy). He is known elsewhere as Nathaniel Bar Tolmai.

h. Matthew.

This is the Greek name of Levi whose call we read of in Mark 2:14.

He had been a tax-collector; a turn-coat traitor who sold out his country for money. But he had given it all up to follow Jesus.

i. James the son of Alphaeus.

In Mark 15:40 he will be called "James the Less." That is an unfortunate translation. He was known as "Little James."

My younger brother is named Dennis. My older brother's son is also named Dennis. For many years, it was the custom within our family to refer to them as "Little Dennis" and "Big Dennis." The problem is that Little Dennis eventually grew up to be bigger and taller and heavier than Big Dennis. But the designation has managed to stick through the years, much to the chagrin of Little Dennis.

I think that is what happened among the disciples. It became inconvenient to distinguish between James the son of Zebedee versus James the son of Alphaeus, so the other disciples took to calling them Big James and Little James.

j. Simon the Zealot.

The Zealots were a political party within Judaism. They were the nationalist party. They were intent on driving the Romans from the land and restoring an independent state.

A revolt had been organized under a Galilean Zealot named Judas (Acts 5:37). Judas had been killed and his followers scattered, but the Zealots lived on.

They would finally bring about another revolt in 66 A.D. which would slaughter the Roman garrison in Jerusalem and defeat a Roman legion from Syria. The Romans would respond by sending a total of four Roman legions and Jerusalem would be destroyed and her temple burned.

Simon was from this movement. He had looked earnestly for the coming of a military Messiah who would lead the Jews to revolt against Rome. Perhaps he initially came to Jesus for this reason. But somewhere along the line, he would fall in love with Jesus.

k. Judas the son of James.

This was the Greek form of the Hebrew name "Judah." It was a common name among the Jews. Judas also went by several different nick-names.

(1) Thaddaeus: "Breast baby."

This might have been a term of endearment given to the baby of a family.

(2) Lebbaeus: "Heart child."

It is a nickname for someone who is courageous.

3. The Women.

There women had remained faithful. They had helped to finance the ministry of Jesus. They had been present at the crucifixion.

4. Mary the mother of Jesus.

Mary had a special place of honor. She was with the disciples and those who counted themselves as followers of Jesus. She had also become a follower. And she was with them in prayer.

But notice, the disciples were praying WITH her, not TO her. Both the Roman Catholic as well as the Eastern Orthodox Church have instituted prayers to Mary. But the Scriptures never condone this.

5. His Brothers.

They had not originally believed in Jesus (John 7:5). They had thought Him to be not operating on all thrusters. But something had happened to change their minds. They had seen the resurrected Christ - and that made all the difference. It is wrong to elevate Mary to the status of divinity.

6. With One Mind.

This was the strength of this infant church. This is why there is going to be a Pentecost experience in chapter 2. If we would see revival in the church, it will come as we are in prayer and fellowship with one mind.



At this time Peter stood up in the midst of the brethren (a gathering of about one hundred and twenty persons was there together), and said,

"Brethren, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit foretold by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus.

"For he was counted among us and received his share in this ministry." (Acts 1:15-17).

Notice that the total number given for those who had gathered in the Upper Room is 120. Is this number significant? I think that it is. When the assembly gathered to the dedication of Solomon's Temple and the Spirit of God moved into the Temple as manifested by the cloud, there were 120 priests blowing trumpets (2 Chronicles 5:12). And when the Spirit of God moves into His church as manifested through the speaking of tongues, there will be 120 voices raised in praise.

Peter stands and speaks. He is using the keys of the kingdom. He recognizes that an Old Testament prophecy has been fulfilled in the events which have just taken place.

Do not miss this! The cross was no accident. It had been foretold hundreds of years before the coming of Jesus. This was central to God's grand design for the human race. And it took place exactly according to plan. This point will be made again and again throughout the book of Acts.

"This Man, delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death." (Acts 2:23).

"But all the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ should suffer, He has thus fulfilled" (Acts 3:18).

"For truly in this city there were gathered together against Thy holy servant Jesus, whom Thou didst anoint, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever Thy hand and Thy purpose predestined to occur. (Acts 4:27-28).

Not only was the cross no accident, the part that Judas played in this drama was also no accident. It was a part of the plan of God. This does not alleviate the responsibility of Judas. His motivation was not to fulfill the plan of God. His heart was one of rebellion and deceit and greed.

There is a lesson here. God is able to continue His work in spite of our failing and our sins. There is none who can thwart the will of God.

Peter is going to speak of a replacement for Judas. There is an interesting contrast to be found between Peter and Judas. They were both disciples of Jesus. They were both present at Gethsemane. And they both sinned on the night of Jesus' arrest.



Betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.

Denied three times that he knew Jesus.

Returned the 30 pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders.

Cut off the ear of the servant of the high priest.

Was filled with remorse over his deed and hung himself.

Repented over his denial and was forgiven by Jesus.

What made the difference between these two men? It was simply that one turned in faith to Jesus for forgiveness and the other did not.



(Now this man acquired a field with the price of his wickedness, and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his intestines gushed out.

"And it became known to all who were living in Jerusalem; so that in their own language that field was called Hakeldama, that is, Field of Blood) . (Acts 1:18-19).

The Gospel accounts state that Judas went out and hung himself. They make no mention of falling and bursting and gushing. But Acts is telling us the rest of the story. The rest of the story is that he who hung himself eventually fell to the ground. The place where he hung himself was purchased with the 30 pieces of silver and became known by this name: Hakeldama - Field of Blood.

a. Khelkah: Field.

b. Dam: Blood.

You can go to Jerusalem today and find the place which still carries the name Ha-Akel-dama. It is located about a half a mile south of the Old City at the place where the Hinnom Valley meets the Kidron Valley (See Biblical Archaeology Review, Nov/Dec 1994). There are a number of tombs on the site which date to the period of Herod's Temple, the entrances of each facing north toward the Temple Mount. Some of these tombs are elegantly decorated. One seems to have belonged to the high priest, Annas.



"For it is written in the book of Psalms, 'Let his homestead be made desolate, and let no one dwell in it', and, 'Let another man take his office.' (Acts 1:20).

There are actually two different Psalms quoted here. Both are Imprecatory Psalms - those which ask God for vengeance against enemies.

Psalm 69:25

Psalm 109:8

May their camp be desolate;

May none dwell in their tents.

Let his days be few;

Let another take his office.

The word translated "office" is episkopen. It is a compound word made up from the joining of two Greek words.

a. Epi: Over.

b. Skopeo: To watch.

The compound describes an overseership - the office of an overseer.



1. The Qualifications for the Replacement.

"Therefore it is necessary that of the men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us -- 22 beginning with the baptism of John until the day that He was taken up from us -- one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection." (Acts 1:21-22).

The last words of Jesus had been a promise that the apostles would receive power and that they would be witnesses (Acts 1:8). A witness is someone who has seen and who then describes to others what he has seen. For this reason, it is necessary that the replacement apostle be one who had seen Jesus - who had been a witness of all that had taken place.

Why was it important that there be 12 apostles? The number 12 was important. There were 12 tribes of Israel. The people of God were numbered from these 12 tribes. And in the New Testament, the people of God are represented by these 12 apostles. These 12 were the church in a representative form. The 12 were the church in microcosm.

There are a great many ways in which the Twelve reflected the nature of the church.

There was another way in which the Twelve were representative of the church of Christ. There was a traitor among them that no one else recognized and that only time revealed to be insincere in his profession of faith in Christ.

This has always been the case. The church has always been composed of a mixture of the true and the false. There have always been the wheat and the tares.

Think for a moment about Judas. He saw all that Jesus did -- the wonders! He heard all of the Lord's sermons. He worked miracles and preached powerful sermons that changed the lives of those who heard him! But, all the while, he was not a real believer. He fooled everyone - perhaps even himself. Only time and events would prove that his loyalty to Jesus was founded on natural things and not on a supernaturally changed heart and a true and living faith.

This happens a lot. Not all Israel is Israel. And not everyone who is in the church is really of the church. Many will say to Jesus in the end, "Lord, Lord, look at all of the things that we did for you!" But the only thing that counts is a lasting relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.

2. The Choosing of the Replacement.

So they put forward two men, Joseph called Barsabbas (who was also called Justus), and Matthias.

And they prayed and said, "You, Lord, who know the hearts of all men, show which one of these two You have chosen 25 to occupy this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place."

And they drew lots for them, and the lot fell to Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles. (Acts 1:23-26).

The 120 seem to have been unanimous in their decision to appoint a replacement. Their decision was covered in prayer and it was made on the basis of the words of the Scriptures. As such, it was a proper decision.

The drawing of lots was also based upon the words of the Scripture.

The lot is cast into the lap,

But its every decision is from the Lord. (Proverbs 16:33).

This is the principle under which they were operating. It was that the Lord would make the final decision.

This is the last time that the casting of lots is used in the Bible. After this, decisions will be made by the CHURCH.

A great deal has been made of the fact that we never again hear about Matthias in the rest of the book of Acts. There is some truth to that. But then again, we never hear individually from most of the apostles throughout the rest of the book of Acts. This in no way invalidates their apostleship.

Were Peter and the apostles and the 120 right in choosing Matthias to be a replacement for Judas? I believe that they WERE. There are several reasons for this:

Matthias continued to be numbered as one of the Apostles throughout the rest of his life. How do I know this? Because the Apostles continued to be known as the "Twelve" (Acts 6:2).

This in no way invalidates the apostleship of Paul. Paul was indeed an apostle, chosen by God and commissioned to take the gospel to the Gentiles. But his apostleship was different. He was never one of the Twelve and never claimed to be. He spoke of the Twelve as a group apart from himself (1 Corinthians 15:5). He described himself as one untimely born (1 Corinthians 15:8).

In closing, there are three lessons that I want to point out from this passage:

      1. The people God empowers are not perfect performers, but dependent believers.
      2. God takes that which is weak and gives it His wisdom. He takes a bunch of fishermen, a tax-collector, a revolutionary and a few women and with them changes the world.

      3. The people that God empowers are of one mind and of one heart. The infant church was unified. There were no denominational distinctives.
      4. The people that God empowers are not disorganized. They have careful planning. It is okay to plan and to organize. God is not the author of confusion. He is the great Organizer of the Universe. And those who speak against organized religion should take care that they do not speak against the Lord.

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