Acts 1 v 12 - 20

Jesus has left His followers and Peter now takes the lead, the natural person to take charge. He has experienced the shame of denying his Lord and the joy of His forgiveness in the 'Do you love me more than these?' conversation with Jesus. Like all good leaders, he has natural abilities and he has been broken and been transformed.

There were about one hundred and twenty people gathered in what must have been a substantial upper room. This number included Mary, mother of Jesus and His brothers. There had been times during His ministry when Jesus' brothers and mother had seemed to oppose it, they didn't understand His calling. However, now they were fully committed. It appears a large number, but we must recognise that with that group the call to evangelise the world was rooted. The total of Christians today now numbers 2.38 billion, just under one third of the world population!

The great interest of this passage is the fate of Judas Iscariot. In Matthew's Gospel it is recorded that Judas committed suicide-chapter 27 v 3-5-and it appears that the rather flowery words here are probably describing that action.

However, why did he betray Jesus? Various suggestions have been put forward:

1. 'Iscariot' means 'man of Kerioth' and that would imply that he was the only non-Galilaean in the Twelve. He may have felt an outsider and this was a cruel act of revenge.

2. Commonly, it is thought that Judas betrayed Jesus to save his own life, that he alone of the Twelve understood what was about to happen and ensured that he was on the more powerful side.

3. He may have committed this heinous crime because of love of money. He was given a little under six months' pay for his work.

4. It could well be that Judas came to detest Jesus. He had to destroy the One who could see who he truly was.

5. 'Iscariot' could also mean 'dagger-bearer' and there was a band of violent nationalists who gave themselves this title. He got involved with Jesus, because he saw the possibilities of insurrection and when Jesus made it clear that He was not interested in following that path, he had Him killed in bitter disappointment.

6. It is most likely that Judas never meant for Jesus to die, but betrayed Him with the intention of forcing His hand. This confirms that Judas, although misunderstanding the true reason why Jesus was on earth, believed that Jesus had the power to conquer whatever the size of the contingent of soldiers come to arrest Him. We have evidence that this was the way Judas thought in that he received a paltry sum of money for his betrayal and when he saw his plan go awry, threw the money away before killing himself.

What a sad ending for a man who had the privilege to walk with Jesus for three years!

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