May 13, 2018

Pastor Bernt P. Tweit




Gospel Lesson; John 17:11b-19       

Epistle Lesson; 1 John 4:13-21

Sermon Text; Acts 1:15-26


Our sermon text for today is taken from Acts chapter one.  God's Word says:


In those days, when the group there numbered about 120 people, Peter stood up among the brothers and said, “Gentlemen, brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through the mouth of David about Judas, who became a guide for those who arrested Jesus.  Judas was counted as one of us and was given a share in this ministry.

“Now this man acquired a field with what he was paid for his wicked act.  When he fell headfirst, his middle burst open, and all his intestines spilled out.  This became known to all the residents of Jerusalem, and so in their own language that field was called Akeldema, which means Field of Blood.  Indeed, it is written in the book of Psalms:

May his residence be deserted.

Let there be no one dwelling in it.

And, let someone else take his position.

“Therefore it is necessary that one of the men who accompanied us during the entire time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from his baptism by John until the day Jesus was taken up from us, become a witness with us of His resurrection.”

They proposed two:  Joseph called Barsabbas (who was also called Justus) and Matthias.  Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone's heart.  Show us which of these two you have chosen to take the place in the apostolic ministry from which Judas turned away to go to is own place.”
Then they assigned lots for them and the lot fell to Matthias.  So he was counted with the eleven apostles. 


This is God's Word.


Right now, we are between two, big days in The Church Year.  We are between Ascension Day and Pentecost Day.  This last Thursday was Ascension Day.  It was forty days after Jesus rose from the dead.  And, next Sunday is going to be Pentecost Sunday, which is fifty days after Easter.  And so, here we are between those two, big days in the Church Year – Ascension and Pentecost.

That is exactly when our text took place.  Our text took place between Ascension and Pentecost.  Jesus had already left the disciples.  He had ascended into Heaven.  The Holy Spirit had not yet come to fill them with His Spirit.  And so, they were in this in between stage, this in between time. 

And, right before our text is when all of the disciples were listed by name.  They were listed by name for this reason.  They had a share in this ministry.  They had a share in this ministry with Jesus, or of Jesus.

Scripture tells us 120 people were gathered there.  (I meant to do this before the service, but I forgot to ask our ushers), “Ushers, have you counted attendance at this service, yet?  What is the number for today?” 


That is about double of what our text tells us were gathered together.  At that time, about 40 days after Easter, there were 120 people who believed that Jesus was the fulfillment of the Old Testament Messiah.  There were 120 people who believed Jesus had risen from the dead.  Here, as we are gathered in this room, right now, we are about double that.  The group was small in number, but the group was ready to become witnesses for Jesus, and share in this ministry.

A recent statistic that I looked up said that there are about 2.2 billion Christians living in the world right now, people who believe Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament Messiah, and people who believe Jesus has risen from the dead.

In those days between Ascension Day and Pentecost Day, it was Peter who stood up to address the crowd that were there.  We shouldn't be surprised by that, should we?  That is what Peter was known for doing.  He was impulsive.  He was impetuous.  He was oftentimes a spokesman.  So here he is a spokesman, as well. 

We are really going to see two things rising to the top in our text for today.  The two things are this. 

        -Peter says the scriptures had to be fulfilled.  He is looking to God's Word as being the authority in life.  Along with that, Peter is going to encourage those 120 believers to pray.  But, first of all he is looking to God's Word as being the authority in life. 

Now, with anybody, there are really only three things you can consider to be an authority in your life.  Those three things are this. 

-Either it is God's Word, or

-it is what other people say, and tell you, or

-it is what you, yourself, think. 

It could be a combination of some of those things.  What God says, what other people tell you, or what you think, or feel.  Peter, here in our text for today is telling you, he is telling me, and he is telling us that God's Word should be the authority in our life.  Whenever we have a decision to make, we should go to God's Word for that answer.  He says, “...the Scripture had to be fulfilled...” 

Later on in one of his writings, in one of the epistles he wrote, Peter even told us, it is not his own words that are scripture, but it is the Holy Spirit's Word.  He says,

“For prophesy never had its origin in the will of man,

but men spoke from God,

as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

So, The Word we consider to be authoritative in our life is not men's words, but they are God's Word, given to them by the Holy Spirit.

This is what Peter says, as he now talks about Judas, and as he describes what happened to Judas.  He goes back into The Old Testament scriptures.  King David wrote this.  He is talking about a passage from Psalm 41, and as soon as I read this passage, it is going to remind you of Judas.  This was written one thousand years before it happened.  King David wrote:

“Even my close friend, whom I trusted,

he who shared my bread has lifted up his heal against me.”

It is the prophesy that one of Jesus' close friends, one of His own disciples, would betray Him.

That is exactly what happened roughly about forty days or so, before Peter spoke these words in our text.  What Judas did, led him to so much despair that he took his own life. 

Now, what Peter tells us in our text for today is descriptive.  It is gross.  It is disgusting.  Peter doesn't share this with us to ruin your Mother's Day.  Peter shares with us what happened to Judas to remind us.  Remember, Luke was a doctor.  And so, he is writing about things that a doctor would usually write about.  After Judas betrayed Jesus, he was so filled with remorse, that he didn't think he could be forgiven.  Why does Luke add the description that he does?  He doesn't do it be gross.  He doesn't do it just to be disgusting.  But, he does it to remind us the simple principal in Scripture.  God's Word is authoritative.  A simple principle in Scripture is this: 

The wages of sin is death. 

It is a reminder of what happened to Judas.  Judas forfeits his share in the ministry.  And, not only did Judas forfeit his share in the ministry, but he also forfeited his share of faith.  He lost his faith.  Again, as Peter says, quoting scripture from the Psalms,

“May his residence be deserted.”

Imagine for a moment that you could walk with Jesus.  You could be talking with Jesus, and you could be taught by Jesus.  That would be pretty cool, wouldn't it, to walk and talk with Jesus?  Judas had that honor.  Judas had the privilege of talking with Jesus, walking with Jesus, being taught by Jesus.  And yet, what happened to Judas?  He forfeited his share in the ministry.  And not only did he forfeit his share in the ministry, but he forfeited his faith.  He lost his faith.   And, what did he lose it for?  He lost it for thirty pieces of silver, which is about six month's wages. 

Imagine somebody close to you, somebody you consider very close to you were to turn their back on you.  You are innocent, but they turn you in to the authorities for six month's wages, so you could be put to death.  That is really what Judas did to Jesus, for thirty pieces of silver.  He did that for thirty pieces of silver.  He forfeited his ministry.  He forfeited his faith.

Oftentimes, when I am teaching catechism class, and as we get to a particular lesson, I will bring up this statement.  When I say the statement, (and maybe you have heard me say it before), I pause to let it sink in a little bit.  I will say something like: 

“Class, everybody who is in Hell right now, including Judas, had their sins paid for.  Their sins are forgiven.  Everybody in Hell right now, including Judas, has their sins forgiven.  But, they don't benefit from it, because they don't believe it.  When they died, they didn't believe it.  Their sins were paid for, but they don't have the benefit, because they didn't believe.”

Look at how affective Satan was with Judas.  Judas walked with Jesus.  He talked with Jesus.  He was taught by Jesus.  And yet, what happened to Judas, for thirty pieces of silver?  The devil didn't just jump out one day, and say, “Judas, you are going to betray Jesus”.  He came at him slowly.  He came at him subtlety, over time.  The devil knew what was going to work for Judas.  He knew it was going to be money.  Judas was the treasurer of the disciples.  The devil knew Judas loved money.  He was going to use what Judas loved.  So, right before Judas did this, he went to the authorities, and asked, “What will you give me to hand Jesus over to you?”  It was that amount of money that was enough for him to betray Jesus.  Unfortunately, Judas didn't think he could be forgiven.  So, he took his own life, even before Jesus died on the cross.  He took his own life.  The point is this.  The devil knows what is effective for you, and for me, as well.  He doesn't just jump out one morning, and say, “I want you to forfeit this ministry.  I want you to lose your faith, to forfeit it.” 

No, he subtlety comes after you, encouraging you to pull away, so you are not strengthened in your faith in Jesus, as your Savior.

Here are some of the many things the devil may use.  He may say,

-“Sign up your kids for baseball, during the summer, so that they play on Sunday morning.”  You will have to be at the baseball field, and won't be able to be in worship.  You won't be able to hear God's Word, and you won't be able to strengthen your faith in Jesus.  “Sign your child up for baseball.”  He subtlety comes at us.

He says,

-You have a cabin.  “Go to your cabin, (oh, I have to say cottage).  Go to your cottage every weekend.”  If you go to your cottage every weekend, you won't be able to go to church, because you will be away from your church.  You won't be able to hear Jesus is your Savior.  You won't be able to be strengthened in your faith in Jesus, as your Savior.
The devil may come, and say,

“You need extra money.  You should take that job on Sunday morning.”  Then, you can't go to worship, because you think you need that money.  That will keep you away from God's Word.  That will keep you away from being strengthened in your faith in Jesus, as your Savior.

-I am tired, so the devil says, “Well, stay in bed.  You don't need to go to worship.  Just stay in bed.” 

The devil subtlety comes at us with anything, and everything that may happen.  He knows what works for me.  He knows what works for you.  And, just as he did with Judas, he subtlety comes at us, and tries to slowly pull you away from your faith in Jesus, as your Savior. 

Well, the scriptures needed to be fulfilled.  As Peter is sharing this with the 120 believers, he is talking about what happened to Judas.  But, there is another thing Peter brings up here.  He says his position needs to be replaced.  He is quoting an Old Testament Psalm there. 

“And, let someone else take his position.” 

It was necessary to replace Judas.  Here were the qualifications, or here were the requirements of somebody out of those 120 to fit that bill.  They needed to be with Jesus from the time of His baptism, until the time of His ascension.  That was the three years of Jesus' ministry, all the way back to when He was baptized by John, all the way up until the time He ascended up into Heaven.  There were two candidates who rose to the top from that list of 120.  It was Justus, and it was Matthias.  So, Justus and Matthias are presented. 

Now, how is it that a decision would come about to replace Judas?  You know what they used to make their decision? 

Scripture and prayer. 

Scripture and prayer. 

Scripture and prayer. 

They were looking at the authority of God's Word.  What does God's Word say in this matter? 

Let us go before the Lord in prayer. 

So, they prayed. 

Those two candidates are presented.  They go before the Lord with scripture, and prayer.  And, they cast the lots.  That just meant they put each person's name on a stone, or something like that.  I supposed it is like drawing straws.  They put it in a cup.  They shook the cup.  The stone that fell out was Matthias', and that was the one who was chosen.   They chose Matthias through scripture and prayer. 

You may be smiling at me.  And, you may be saying, “Pastor Tweit, you said they made this decision by scripture and prayer.  But, they rolled the dice.  How can you say they made this decision through scripture and prayer?  They were rolling the dice.  They were drawing straws.  They were playing 'Rock, Paper, Scissors'.  How can you say that?” 

Well, there were times in scripture in which a decision was made, in which lots were cast.  This is one of those times.  Actually, this would be the very last time in scripture that this would be used.  The two candidates were qualified.  The two candidates had been there from the time of Jesus' baptism, until His ascension.  They both would have done fine jobs.  That was one of the ways God allowed them to make the decision.  Again, it is like putting two stones in a cup, shaking it around, the lot fell out, and the lot fell to Matthias.  Here is a passage from The Old Testament.  It is from Proverbs.  This really helped me understand this passage, especially this last week in preparation for this sermon.  It starts out by thinking it is chance, but really it is not.  Proverbs, chapter 16 says,

“The lot is cast into the lap,

but its every decision is from the LORD.”  

Its every decision is from the LORD.  Even something like that, with the casting of lots, and the lot falling to Matthias, its every decision is from the LORD.

Matthias now becomes one of the twelve disciples.  Matthias now becomes, having a share in this ministry, Matthias now becomes a witness of Jesus' resurrection.  That was the job of the apostles.  The job of the apostles was to make that connection of who Jesus was, and what He had done.  Jesus was the fulfillment of The Old Testament Messiah.  He lived, He died, and He rose for you.  Matthias became one, as having a share in that ministry. 

Now, none of us can become apostles like Matthias, because we have not lived for two thousand years, so we don't fit the qualifications.  But, it doesn't mean we can't have a share in this ministry.  We can have a share in this ministry, as we do exactly what the apostles did, as we do exactly what the disciples did in being a witness of the resurrection of our Savior, Jesus.  That is why I started the way I did this morning, thanking our moms for being here today. 

-Thank you, Moms for being here today, and bringing your family here with you.  In doing so, you are a witness of the resurrection of Jesus. 

-Families, as you send your youth to our ELC, I thank you for doing that.  You are having a share in this ministry.  You want to be a witness of Jesus' resurrection, because that is what our teachers do in our ELC. 

-Moms and dads, if you send your kids to our school, I thank you for having a share in this ministry.  You desire to share the resurrection of our Savior, Jesus with your youth who are entrusted in to our care.  We thank you so much for that. 

As we have a share in this ministry, I know there are many decisions you need to make in life, and I know there are many decisions I need to make in life.  How should those decisions be made?   They should be made the same way that the apostles did in our text for today. 

Scripture and prayer.

Scripture and prayer.

Scripture and prayer.

“Where should I go to school?”  “Where should I go to college?”  “What should I do for a job?”  “Who should I marry?” There are many decisions we need to make in life.  All of those decisions should be made through scripture and prayer, as we have a share in this ministry.

I am going to close with this, this morning.  I am going to ask for your help, because I need your help.  You heard in the last couple of weeks, and you see it in our bulletin that we had a call extended for our fifth grade, homeroom teacher position, an upper grade, departmentalized class.  So, at the end of last week, and as you see in your bulletin, the lady who was holding the call from Helenville, returned the call.  So, she is staying in Helenville.  She is not coming to us.  We also put in a request for a candidate to come to us from one of our synod affiliated schools.  We got word at the end of last week that we were denied that.  All of the candidates went other places, and there was nobody for us. 

So, an email went out to a whole bunch of people, and people were responding to it.  I saw it pretty quickly, and just typed back, “Oh my!”  Someone else typed back, “Well, that is frustrating.”  And then Pastor Bartels chimed in.  He simply said this, and it was a good thing for me to be reminded of. 

“The Lord has never failed us in the past,

and He will not fail us in this, either.”

He won't. 

So, how should we make our decisions?  The same way the apostles did.  Through scripture, and through prayer.  And so, here is what I need you to pray.  The Lord already knows the answer.  He already knows who is going to be in that teaching position.  Please go before the Lord in your scriptures.  Please go before the Lord in your prayers.  We know He already knows the candidate, and He already knows the person.  As He says, “May God's Word be the authority in your life, and come before me in prayer, because I want to answer your prayer.”

But, also do this, as well.  I know you have decisions in life that need to be made.  Some of them I mentioned this morning.  Do the same thing.  Read His Word, go before Him in prayer, have a share in this ministry, so that ultimately, we can become witnesses of Jesus' resurrection.  That is what the apostles wanted to do, each and every time they talked with somebody.  They wanted to get to the point where they could talk about Jesus' resurrection from the grave.  May we never fall into despair like Judas.  We share in this ministry together.  What a privilege it is to become a witness of the resurrection of our Savior, Jesus for the forgiveness of sin unto life and salvation.