As we returned to Jerusalem we went upstairs to the room where we had been staying. It was Mary’s house, Mark’s mother. You know Mark, my faithful companion, friend, and sometimes secretary. He was just a young man then. As a matter of fact he was with us the night Jesus was arrested. None of us can joke about that night in any way, but it is true that as Mark ran away his clothes were pulled off of him by one of the guards, and he ran away naked as the day he was born.
Over the next few days our friends started filtering in. There had been a core group of about 120 followers, and now we were for the most part back together. It was nice to see everyone. They all knew I had failed Jesus so badly, yet everyone was kind. The truth was we had all failed him.
Jesus’ last words before he was taken up into the clouds that morning were still ringing in my ears. I was still trying to understand what he meant by: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.”
Matthew started praying, then James, Jesus’ brother, started praying, and almost immediately we were all praying quietly. This went on for quite a while. It was comforting, I must say. And sweet. But one can only pray so much. At some point someone has to do something. At least that is the way I thought, back then, when I didn’t know what I didn’t know.
So, when I had had enough of the praying, I stood up and said, “Brothers and sisters the Scripture had to be fulfilled in which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus. He was one of our number and shared in our ministry.”
I was about to make my next big mistake. Obviously I had yet to learn to … listen. Jesus had told us plainly and directly, “Go back to Jerusalem and wait.”
“Wait for the Holy Spirit,” he was saying, “Don’t do anything without the Spirit, because you don’t know what it is I want you to do.” I have learned the hard way that when I do things my way, which means in my own power, I miss his plan, his way, his will – which is always the best way.
He wanted us to wait for a reason, I now can see this. But then, even hearing those words directly from Jesus, in such a momentous setting, I didn’t understand. I couldn’t understand. I didn’t yet have the Spirit. So, tired of all the praying, and wanting, needing, to do something, anything, I somehow conjured up a speech. And what a speech it was.
“With the payment Judas received for his wickedness, he bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called that field in their language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.”
And then, out of nowhere, I start quoting our Hebrew scriptures: “For it is written in the Book of Psalms: “May his place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in it,” and, “May another take his place of leadership.”
Now all this sounds very spiritual, doesn’t it? I mean I’m quoting scripture like a Pharisee. I’m taking charge. I’m taking the leader’s role, planning our next step. But do you see what I am not doing?
I’m not waiting.
Because I didn’t listen.
Now, I have seen Luke’s notes on this, and I have told him he is not making it clear how wrong I was. His account makes it look like I’m following the guidance of the Spirit – a Spirit-filled talk! But there was nothing Spirit-filled about my words. There was no Spirit, yet, so how could I be Spirit-filled? That’s why Jesus told us … told me … to wait: “Wait on the Holy Spirit,” he said.
So we nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. Then we prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” Then we cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.
Now before I go any further, can you see the error of my ways? There it is, right in front of you: we cast lots. We cast lots, as if we were living in the days of the Patriarchs, or like the Gentiles, who don’t even know God. Instead of waiting on the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus had promised would guide us into all truth, we cast lots.
You should notice that never again do any followers of Jesus cast lots. We don’t need lots – we have the Holy Spirit.
You may be thinking to yourself, “So what? What is the big deal, Peter?”
I’ll tell you what the big deal is. This little mistake of mine cost my friend Paul dearly over his years out in the Gentile territories. He was obviously the one to fill the twelfth spot vacated by Judas. He was clearly Jesus’ choice, as was evidenced just a few years later.
But since I wouldn’t wait for the Spirit’s guidance to fill the twelfth spot, Paul had to defend himself as a true apostle everywhere he went. I have read some of his letters and I wince each time I see him defending his authority as an apostle of Jesus.
Here is just one example:
In Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth he writes: “Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not the result of my work in the Lord? Even though I may not be an apostle to others, surely I am to you! For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.”
Oh my. Can you see this is all my fault?
The Holy Spirit guides and directs us step by step with positive encouragements, and definite “no’s,” and even caution signals. When we ignore him and charge ahead, we may cause damage that takes years to unravel.
At times the Holy Spirit advises us to slow down … to wait. My guess is, if you are anything like me, you don’t like to wait on God, or the Holy Spirit to guide and direct you. The weight of wait can seem like a heavy burden.
But it’s always worth the wait.