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September 24, 2023


Passage: Acts 1:12-26
Service Type:


Waiting, Intestines, & Dice

Rodney Gehman – September 24, 2023 – Acts 1:12-26



Good morning, and welcome to River City Church! My name is Rodney and I’m one of the pastors around here. 

I hope you have a copy of scripture with you today, because I would like to invite you to open it to Acts chapter 1. 

Last week, we talked about how when you teach someone to drive a car, they get the seatbelt on, adjust the seat, adjust the steering wheel, and then adjust the mirrors to get a bearing on what’s behind them and around them. In the first part of chapter 1, we saw the author sort of adjusting those mirrors for us, as it were, to help us remember the important parts of the gospel of Luke before we get into the book of Acts. 

So, historically, we watched last week as Jesus took the disciples out to a hill outside of Jerusalem called the Mount of Olives, and from there, he ascended into heaven. Disappeared from sight… taken away by a cloud back to the realm where the Father lives, back to where Jesus was before all the “baby in a manger, wisemen, shepherds" kind of stuff. 

So we got the mirrors adjusted, that’s the transition from Luke into Acts… everything’s ready for the trip, and now today we put the car in drive and start to move forward. 

12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, which is near Jerusalem ​— ​a Sabbath day’s journey away. 13 When they arrived, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying: Peter, John, James, Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James. 

So, this is the list of the remaining Eleven apostles… these are the ones that Jesus chose to be his inner circle out of the larger group of people following him. 

We know from the rear view mirror look last week that Jesus suffered, that he was resurrected, that he presented himself alive, and that he appeared to his followers on and off over a period of 40 days. And then right before ascending to heaven he told them (Luke 24:49) to wait for the promised gift that the Father would send their way.



Waiting is something relatable to all of us right? It’s something we all have to do multiple times a day. So what do you do while you wait? I think this is one of the great defining features of our generation. We don’t wait very well. So we pull out our phones. Go to the airport – everyone is on a phone. What do people do as they wait in line for their coffee? Look at their phone. You see families out for dinner together waiting for their food – on their phones. We lay in our beds, waiting to be tired enough to fall asleep and we keep flicking through the same things we flicked through earlier that day.

It’s not even that we are impatient, necessarily. We can sit for hours without really complaining, as long as we have something to flick. Even when the wi-fi is down, just picking up the phone, flipping through the apps, then opening one you know doesn’t work, then putting it down again. We just don’t wait very well at all.  

But look at how the eleven apostles waited: 

14 They all were continually united in prayer, along with the women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers. 


What would River City have to change or what would we have to do, to have people say, “man, that church – the preaching is average, the music is pretty good, love the kids stuff, but you know what stands out to me… they are united in prayer… men, women, pastors, youth, families – they are united in prayer all the time.” I think that would be an incredible compliment. I don’t think anyone would imagine that this is a 240 hour prayer service with no breaks. They are probably swapping stories, asking clarifying questions, preparing and eating food, etc. But they are united in prayer. One heart. One mind. Praying for the same thing.

  1. Lord you promised that you’d send your Spirit. Lord, we don't want to miss it. If the Spirit coming to us is better than you being here, Lord, we don’t want to miss it. Help us to recognize him when he comes. Help us to be ready for it. Help us to see it. This probably included confession and repentance. No doubt the Psalms were involved, possibly some singing.
  2. Lord, we are also asking for the courage to carry out the commission you gave us. We are asking for courage, for wisdom, for the strength. Lord Jesus, would you grant us the grace to not be afraid of what could happen. You said we’d be persecuted and hated for this, yet this is what you are going to empower us to do. So help us do it the way you wanted us to.

I sometimes wonder if the reason the Lord keeps us waiting on good things is because we don’t really take prayer too seriously unless we’re a little bit desperate. What if he makes us wait for things because of the unity and fellowship that comes with waiting together?  These disciples are going to be more prepared for the Spirit after 10 days of unifying prayer and worship and fellowship than they would have been if Jesus had just given them the Spirit as they were watching him ascend. There was so much value in the waiting.

So here’s something practical we can do right away to respond to this scripture – let’s commit to getting a different perspective on waiting, and allow the Lord to use it to transform us. Let’s not be so quick to pick up our phones and ease the boredom every time we have to wait. Let’s try this for one week. 7 days. Not even as long as these guys did this. Let’s try for one week that during all of our periods of waiting – grocery store waiting for a self check out to open up; coffee shop waiting for your order; DMV, doctors office, dentist office waiting for your name to be called; in the car on the road trip to away games for your sports teams; even sitting down as you wait for your body to do it’s business – what if in all of those moments of waiting this week, we committed to prayer instead of scrolling? 

And we can be unified in prayer as we pray for the same things: 

  1. Prayer for the Spirit to fill/empower/come upon you again; that you would delight to know Jesus, that you would desire Jesus, that we would long for and love Jesus
  2. Prayers of confession of sin
  3. Prayer for the courage to act or speak when God opens the door; for the faith to open our mouths; for the wisdom to know what to say

I’m in on that this week – anyone with me? Let’s commit to wait well this week and see if God doesn’t use that prayer to transform us. So, verse 15… 


15 In those days Peter stood up among the brothers and sisters ​— ​the number of people who were together was about a hundred twenty— ​and said, 

  • 16 “Brothers and sisters, it was necessary that the Scripture be fulfilled that the Holy Spirit through the mouth of David foretold about Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. 17 For he was one of our number and shared in this ministry.” Judas, if you’re new to scripture, was one of the 12 guys Jesus picked to be closest to him, and Judas ended up betraying Jesus. 
      • Peter is making a lot of connections for us here
        • Scripture is inspired by the HS, including the OT. Peter obviously believes that the OT is not something we can just push to the side now that Jesus has come. It still matters, because…
        • It is still being fulfilled! Even if it takes 1000 years, when the Holy Spirit speaks, it will happen. 
        • It was necessary” that scripture be fulfilled. At no point was Jesus or God the Father alarmed or sick to his stomach. At no point was Judas a loose cannon of a disciple, the betrayal was not a glitch in the system because Jesus picked the wrong guy to be one of the 12, or that one of our number who shared in the ministry went rogue… IT WAS NECESSARY because the Holy Spirit told David 1000 years earlier that it would happen.
      • Then Luke plays the narrator card here and fills us in on Judas. 
  • 18 Now this man acquired a field with his unrighteous wages. He fell headfirst, his body burst open and his intestines spilled out. (Matthew 27:3-10)

Let’s close in prayer and then I’ll invite the worship team to come up and lead us out. What a horrible verse!! Why do we need to know this? Can’t you spare us the details, there Luke, and just say “he fell off a cliff and died” or something like that? 

Here’s what else we know about the story of Judas, based on Matthew 27:

  • Judas had accepted payment of 30 pieces of silver in exchange for telling the religious leaders where Jesus would be, so that they could arrest him away from the crowds. But, Matthew records, when Jesus was being led away to go see the governor, that was when Judas realized what was happening. The religious leaders didn’t just want to question Jesus, or slap him on the wrist for something he said… there is only one reason the religious leaders would drag Jesus off to a Roman governor, and that is because just like you and me, the scribes and Pharisees did not have the authority to take a life. 
  • Matt 27:3 - When Judas saw that Jesus was condemned by the leaders and they were moving toward execution, he was full of remorse and returned the money to the religious leaders, saying (v4) “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” “What’s that to us?” They said. “See to it yourself!” So Judas threw the money into the temple, departed, and went and hanged himself.
    • He fell and his intestines poured out or spilled out. That makes us all squirm a little, doesn’t it? Makes you go, ew….nasty. That’s the point. Luke includes that detail because the end for sinners who refuse to turn to Jesus is grisly and destructive. 
      • The reality is, We tend to not take sin very seriously. Ah, there’s grace. Ah, it doesn’t hurt anyone. Ah, it’s not that big of a deal – really? God’s going to get upset because I did that? Seems a little petty. 
      • But God has a far clearer picture of the end of sin than you and I do. He knows that the outworking of sin is gruesome, horrific and destructive. I believe if we could see the horrors of sin from God’s perspective, if we could really see what the cross of Jesus has rescued us from, we would never get our faces off the ground. We would be day and night weeping at the thought of what we could have been if Jesus had not stepped in. We would easily and eagerly abandon everything else in this life… take my job, my health, my money, take my house, cut my limbs off, God, take my vision, my hearing, my family, my time, my stuff, I’ll go anywhere, I’ll do anything – take my life God – anything at all. It’s all yours. 
      • If we could see the horrors of sin and the glories of heaven, we would view entertainment, possessions, wealth, etc very, very differently. And so Luke describes a very grisly end to Judas’ life, because it should discourage us from following the same path.

So, the religious leaders picked up Judas’ money and invested it in real estate. They bought a field for 30 pieces of silver, and made it a graveyard for foreigners, so that the prophecy from Jeremiah 32 and Zechariah 11 would be fulfilled about a field purchased with 30 pieces of silver.

Acts 1:19 This became known to all the residents of Jerusalem, so that in their own language that field is called 'Hakeldama' (that is, “Field of Blood”). 

And again, since Acts is written only 30 years after the fact, if Luke is telling the truth here about all the residents of Jerusalem calling that field “Hakeldama”, it shouldn’t be too difficult for Theophilus or anyone else to verify. 

Peter recalls that scripture pointed to this moment 1000 years earlier when David wrote:

20 “For it is written in the Book of Psalms: “Let his dwelling become desolate; let no one live in it;”  (Psalm 69:25) and “Let someone else take his position.”  (Psalm 109:8)

Peter and the others saw Psalm 109 as an instruction about what to do next, so here is how the 11 remaining apostles decided on who was going to be the replacement: 

21 “Therefore, 

  • from among the men who have accompanied us during the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us ​— ​22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day he was taken up from us ​— ​
  •  Someone we know and trust, someone who was with us, traveled with us, did ministry with us, someone who was there for all the stuff…
  • So this is someone who was there when Jesus was baptized and heard the voice of God from heaven, saying “This is my Son with whom I am well pleased.” This is someone who tracked with Jesus the whole time from his baptism with John all the way up to last Thursday when he ascended into heaven… gotta be someone who was there for the whole thing. And there’s one more piece… 
  • from among these, it is necessary that one become a witness with us of his resurrection. This guy has to have been one of those 500 people who saw Jesus alive. 

So, bottom line: An apostle needed to be a man who was a first-hand witness to Jesus’ entire ministry, his death, resurrection, and ascension.

Now, there is an exception or two. Paul considered himself an apostle, because the resurrected and ascended Jesus personally appeared to him, spoke to him, chose him, saved him, etc. So he knew he was called to be an Apostle for that reason. There may have been a few more – Barnabas, Silas… maybe a few others, up to a possible 20-25 total mentioned in scripture. 

But to be an apostle means you are under a very specific assignment. They are the ones assigned with a unique authority, a unique anointing if you want to use that word – They are going to be the ones who lay the foundation for the global, future Church. Some of them are going to write scripture. Some of them are going to establish churches all across the known world at the time. Some of them are going to carry a unique authority that no one else does. We’ll read in Acts 5 that when Peter came into Jerusalem one afternoon, people carried their sick friends and relatives out into the streets in the hopes that Peter’s shadow would pass over the sick person and they would be healed. 

That kind of thing is never said about anyone else. That’s not a “normal Christian experience.” There was a unique authority on these 12 Apostles that was specifically for the purpose of laying the foundation for the capital C Church. Ephesians 2:19-20 says that you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints, and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole building grows together. Then in the next chapter, he says that all the pieces work together to build up the body: The foundation of the apostles and prophets, the evangelists, the pastors, the teachers… all work together to build this building up until we reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of Jesus. 

Here in Acts 1 is the last time in scripture you read about an Apostle being replaced. You never read that anyone replaces Peter, John, Andrew, Paul, etc. Why not? Because eventually no one met the qualifications laid out by Peter here in Acts 1. Eventually anyone who was with Jesus from baptism to ascension or saw him resurrected, all died, and when they died, so did that authoritative, foundation-establishing, office of the Church. There are no biblically defined Apostles today.

All throughout the New Testament you will see Peter and Paul encouraging people to ordain pastors, but they never ordain or formally recognize more Apostles. They never ordain or formally recognize more prophets. Those were part of the foundation of the Church - specific men that had borne witness to the life, death, resurrection, ascension of Christ, those who had heard the message of Christ, accompanied him those 40 days that he explained the scriptures, taught about the kingdom of God, and provided convincing proofs. 

23 So (Out of maybe 35-40 guys in the room) they proposed two: 

  • Joseph, called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus,  (Three names!!!)
  • and Matthias. 

24 Then they prayed, “You, Lord, know everyone’s hearts; show which of these two you have chosen 25 to take the place in this apostolic ministry that Judas left to go where he belongs.” 26 Then they cast lots for them, Which means they probably would have put different colored rocks in a bowl, shook it up and gone back and forth drawing rocks until someone picked the red one or whatever. You’ll find this kind of thing a handful of times in the Bible, but the Bible does not teach that this is how you should make every decision in your life. In fact, even this same group doesn’t seem to ever do it again. But when it came to this unique situation of choosing a new Apostle – they believed Proverbs 16:33 – The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.

They trusted that Jesus Christ himself, recently ascended into heaven, was not only still alive, but that he was still able to hear their prayers and continued to have an effect here on earth - to the point that they could roll the dice, and trust that Jesus was making it land the way he wanted it to land. 

 and the lot fell to Matthias and he was added to the eleven apostles. 

So what is it that ties all the pieces together here in Acts 1? What ties together Jesus’ ascension, the promise of the Holy Spirit, the disciples being continually united in prayer as they wait, Judas’ insides spilling out, and rolling the dice to pick a new apostle? What ties this all together? 

It’s nothing less than the sovereignty of God. Even as we go through Acts that the Triune God (Father, Son, Spirit – Three persons in one divine authority) is the main actor in human history. God is orchestrating the events of human history – Everything from the exact price Judas was paid to betray Jesus being 30 pieces of silver, and the exact action of him throwing the money into the temple of the Lord – buying the field of a potter –all written under the Holy Spirit’s inspiration 550 years before it happened! The Holy Spirit had foretold about Judas’ death and replacement 1100 years before it happened. 

If that is true, then not a single thing in your story or mine, not a single thing in the story of Jesus was left up to chance. Nothing. Not betrayal. Not suicide. Not major decisions in the church or who would carry the authority. Not the amount of blood money. Not the death of his own Son. Not a single thing is left up to chance, not even the roll of a dice.

Why is that good news for you and me today? Let me give you a quick picture first, and then answer my own question. 

Back in the days of the Law of Moses, 10 Commandments, sacrifices for sin and all that, you have a lamb that you have been saving for the sacrifice. It’s spotless. Perfect in every way, it fits the criteria of the law of sacrifices, so you have it ready to go. Then one day, you find that your sacrificial lamb has been killed by a wolf. Can you use that lamb for the sacrifice anymore? No way. You can’t show up with a dead lamb and say, here’s my sacrifice. That’s not a sacrifice. It didn’t cost you anything. There’s no faith or intentionality involved. 

If everything in Acts chapter 1 is left up to chance – just so happened, one of the inner circle betrayed Jesus, just so happened that betrayal led to suffering and death by crucifixion. Just so happened Judas took his own life. Just so happened the dice landed on Matthias – if that’s how the world really works, then Jesus’ death could not atone for sinners. He would not be a sacrificial lamb. He would be the lamb who accidentally, unfortunately, came into an untimely death, leaving God to scramble to figure something out. 

That kind of lamb can never be the sacrifice for sin. That’s why we will read over and over and over in the book of Acts and throughout the New Testament “for it is written.” It points to scriptures. Prophecies. The plan for 1000s of years was that the perfectly spotless Lamb of God would walk himself into Jerusalem having chosen the one he knew would betray him, allowing himself to be arrested, tortured and killed because it was all part of the plan to be the sacrifice for sin. At no point was God on the edge of his seat, anxious, uneasy, unsure, or biting his nails with his fingers crossed. At no point was he sweating or nervous about how this would work out. 

And God raised him from the dead on the third day, not in a desperate attempt to get his Son back from his accidental death, but he raised him on the third day to prove that the cross worked! Then he ascended Jesus to the throne of heaven out of his deep joy and affection for his Son, out of his delight that his Son was obedient to the plan of redemption and that many will be saved as a result of his faithfulness. 

And so, the book of Acts is about what that same Jesus continues to do and teach! Jesus is no longer physically present here on the earth, but these Apostles are treating him as if he is. This whole section of what happened after Jesus’ ascension starts with prayer and it ends with prayer. These Apostles are speaking to Jesus through prayer as if he is still alive and well, still working, still affecting change, still making choices, still sovereign over all things…even the stuff that seems somewhat uninteresting, like which of the two highly qualified men should take Judas’ place.


I don’t know all the things you’re going through right now in your story, but I can almost guarantee that in some way you are questioning God’s sovereignty (is he really in control of everything?) or you are questioning his goodness (how could he allow or even cause such horrible things to happen?). It’s perfectly human for us to think those things, because we can’t see things from God’s vantage point. We can’t understand all of his ways. We can’t even begin to fathom his wisdom, or his understanding of how things all work together – we don’t even have the capacity to understand how much we are loved by him. So we often either question his sovereignty or his goodness. 

  1. Acknowledge God’s hand
    1. God, you are in control of all things. This is your world, not mine. This is your story, not mine. Nothing I call “mine” is really mine at all. I want to recognize you as the Sovereign Lord of All, and that everything that has happened in my past and everything happening now and everything that will happen to me in the future is all governed and allowed and directed by you – and even though I can’t always see it…
    2. You are good.  
  2. Lord, check my heart.
    1. V24, these disciples prayed, “Lord you know everyone’s heart.”
    2. Lord, you know my heart better than I do. Show me any areas of my heart that are still denying you as King. Show me any areas of my heart where I have kept a tight fist around something that you want me to release to you. Show me any sins that are still hiding in the shadows. Psalm 139:23-24 says Search me God and know my heart; test me, look at the things that make me anxious. See if there is anything idolatrous in my heart, where I’m giving my allegiance to something that isn’t you…

Let’s unite ourselves in prayer now. You are welcome to pray alone in your seat, or if you’d rather circle up with another person or two and pray out loud, please do. 



Benediction: Ephesians 3:16-21


Ben Witherington III, The Acts of the Apostles: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Erdmans, 1998) 

Darrell Bock, ACTS: Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids MI: Baker Academic, 2007)