Easter 7 • Acts 1:12–26 • May 16, 2010
With One Accord
Rev. Paul Philp
As the Eleven returned from the Ascension of Jesus, Luke tells us that they were of “one accord” (v. 14). The union was found within the context of praying together with others who were followers of Jesus. In this interim period between the Ascension and Pentecost, Peter addresses the larger group of Jesus’s followers. The purpose of his address is to encourage the selection of a replacement for Judas Iscariot, who had ceased to be of “one accord” with Jesus through his act of betrayal and subsequent death. The fracture in the unity among the disciples created a vacancy among the Twelve, which Peter argued should be filled. Peter’s argument drew upon Psalm 69:25 and Psalm 109:8 to support the assertion that Judas should be replaced, so that the Eleven were once again the Twelve.
Replacing Judas emphasized the importance of the unity among the believers and followers of Jesus, but even more so among the Eleven. As Peter lays out the argument for replacing Judas he also identifies the qualifications necessary of a worthy candidate. A qualified candidate to fill the vacancy would have to be someone who was present along with the disciples for all of the events of Jesus’s public ministry from the time of his baptism until the Ascension. In particular this candidate would need to have been a witness, along with the Eleven, of the Resurrection. Unity in belief with the Apostles was not sufficient; the candidate had to have been in every way connected to Jesus’ public ministry as the Eleven had been, if the candidate was to be added to their number. Two candidates were put forward: Joseph called Barsabbas and Matthias (v. 23).
The text provides little information about either candidate, beyond the fact that they met the criteria established. Clearly, they were of “one accord” with the larger group of Jesus’s followers, and more specifically they had been ongoing witnesses of Jesus’s public ministry and his resurrection. No particular distinguishing characteristics are discussed and thus the text suggests that either candidate would have been a suitable replacement for the Betrayer. Gathered together in unity, the group called upon the Lord to demonstrate which candidate should be selected, through the process of casting a lot. The selection process resulted in the lot falling to Matthias, and he became united with the Eleven as the Twelfth Apostle.
The selection process utilized to replace Judas, the candidate selected, and the restoration of the Apostolic Twelve serve to underscore the unity of the followers of Jesus gathered in “one accord.” The text provides the opportunity to become burdened with the details of the process, a discussion of whether it was proper for Peter and the others to take the task of replacing Judas upon themselves, or even of why the lot fell to Matthias and not Joseph. These details, while interesting for study and not entirely unimportant, should not be the primary focus of the proclamation of the text; rather, the unity among the followers of Jesus in the earliest days of the formation of the Church should be the theme and focus. Even before the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the members of the early church were united in Christ and the proclamation of his resurrection, of which they were witnesses. The cost of separating oneself from this bond of unity is referenced in the discussion of Judas in verse 25.
The unity of the Apostles, in particular, and that of all of the followers of Jesus referenced in the text, provides the opportunity to focus upon the unity of the Church gathered in prayer and worship around the Word and the Sacraments. The unity experienced by those in the text described of being of “one accord” is the same unity that is shared by those who together confess their sins, receive Christ’s Holy Absolution and his gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation. The Apostolic Twelve have passed down their first hand account of Jesus’s public ministry and his resurrection, and in faith we have received the blessings of being united with Christ in “one accord” with the Apostles and all the faithful.
I. The Early Church—“Of One Accord”
II. Self -Exclusion from Unity—Sinful Separation.
III. Unity Restored—United with Christ.