The First Lesson for this Sunday comes from the Acts of the Apostles. The text is Acts 1:12-26 and contextually is between the Ascension of Jesus and the upcoming Day of Pentecost. In fact, many churches will celebrate this Sunday as Ascension Sunday because they do not have a tradition of Thursday evening services. I would expand the pericope, if this is the case, to include the first part of Acts 1.

The text is really focused on filling the empty spot in the Apostles’ ranks. The most important question to ask is, “Why?” Beginning in the Old Testament the number for the Church/Israel is 12. Thus, we have the twelve tribes of Israel which represent the Covenantal people of God. It is interesting to note how when the tribe of Levi is given no appointment of land in Israel and essentially absorbed into the other 11 tribes, the two half tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim become full-tribes and the number twelve remains (see Genesis 48). Now, in the New Testament, the number for the Church remains twelve as Jesus calls twelve Apostles to be trained by Him to carry out the ministry following His ascension. Thus, with Judas being gone, the Apostles feel the need to add one to the number to maintain the proper amount. As a result, in Revelation we see the 24 elders gathered around the throne and the 144,000 faithful. Both represent the entire Church of all time, both Old and New Testament.

The next question is even more interesting, and perhaps uncomfortable. Did the Apostles jump the gun in casting lots for another Apostle? They were motivated by good and right intentions, but did God have things under control with His soon-to-be choice of a man named Saul/Paul? The answer is not really provided for us and we can do no more than speculate, but obviously God is in control and Paul receives the special designation as the Apostle to the Gentiles. Perhaps all of this might help us understand when Paul calls himself an, “Apostle, untimely born…”

1:12 ὑπέστρεψαν from: ὑποστρέφω Aorist: “to return”

Ἐλαιῶνος “olive grove; Olivet”

Note: A Sabbath’s day journey/walk is 2000 paces. Anything beyond this would be considered working on the Sabbath and a violation of the Law.

1:13 ὑπερῷον “upstairs room; upper room”

ἀνέβησαν from: ἀναβαίνω Aorist: “to go up”

καταμένοντες from: καταμένω Present, participle: “to remain”

1:14 προσκαρτεροῦντες from: προσκαρτερέω Present, participle: “to be steadfast; to be strong”

ὁμοθυμαδὸν “together with one mind/one accord”

Notes: This is the only reference to Mary, Jesus’ mother, outside of the Gospels.

1:15 ἀναστὰς from: ἀνίστημι Aorist, participle: “to arise” There is a strong sense of a fellowship among those gathered—as in church fellowship.

1:16 ἔδει from: δει Imperfect: “it is necessary”

πληρωθῆναι from: πληρόω Aorist, passive, infinitive: “to fulfill”

προεῖπεν from: προλέγω Aorist: “to say beforehand”

συλλαβοῦσιν from: συλλαμβάνω Aorist, participle: “to arrest; to lay hold of; to seize”

Note: This may be a reference to Psalm 41:9. The Apostles are remembering the words of Jesus in John 13:18.

1:17 κατηριθμημένος from: καταριθμέω Perfect, passive, participle: “to number”

ἔλαχεν from: λαγχάνω Aorist: “to obtain by lot”

1:18 ἐκτήσατο from: κτάομαι Aorist, middle: “to acquire; to get for one’s self”

ἀδικίας “unrighteousness”

ἐλάκησεν from: λακάω Aorist: “to crack; to burst”

ἐξεχύθη from: ἐκχέω Aorist, passive: “to pour out”

1:19 κληθῆναι from: καλέω Aorist, passive, infinitive: “to call”

Note: Verses 18-19 provide new details concerning Judas—he hanged himself and his body burst open and his insides spilled out.

1:20 Γέγραπται from: γράφω Perfect, passive: “to write”

ἔπαυλις “camp; homestead; cabin”

Note: Quotations from Psalm 69:25 and Psalm 109:8

1:22 ἀρξάμενος from: ἄρχω Aorist, middle, participle: “to begin”

ἀνελήμφθη from: ἀναλαμβάνω Aorist, passive: “to take up”

1:23 ἔστησαν from: ἵστημι Aorist: “to set up”

ἐπεκλήθη from: ἐπικαλέω Aorist, passive: “to call; to name; to give a name”

1:24 προσευξάμενοι from: προσεύχομαι Aorist, middle, participle: “to pray”

καρδιογνῶστα “heart knower; knower of the heart”

ἀνάδειξον from: ἀναδείκνυμι Aorist, imperative: “to show”

ἐξελέξω from: ἐκλέγομαι Aorist, middle, subjunctive: “to select; to choose”

1:25 λαβεῖν from: λαμβάνω Aorist, infinitive

παρέβη from: παραβαίνω Aorist: “to turn aside; to go aside”

1:26 ἔπεσεν from: πίπτω Aorist: “to fall”

συγκατεψηφίσθη from: συγκαταψηφι ζω Aorist, passive: “to be chosen (by a vote)”

For those who are celebrating the Ascension of our Lord this Sunday I am providing an introduction I wrote a few years back:

Today we gather to celebrate Ascension Day. As you look around you may note not much is different from any other day. The pews are no more crowded and those who show up for the “big” days are missing. Ascension Day is not very popular or well-remembered even in the church.
If you go down to the local Hallmark Store and try to find a card for the Ascension you will be disappointed. See if you can find a card with a pithy message wishing someone a happy, merry or blessed Ascension. You will not find one—why? Because our world has not grabbed hold of Ascension Day and converted it into a secular holiday! Probably no money in it… not worth the trouble. So, most Christians allow Ascension Day to slip by unnoticed because Hallmark does not care to provide a card so we can, “send our very best.” Unfortunately, we have come to rely upon the world to keep us up to date on the Church Year.
I wonder… what would you put on an Ascension card? What message would you write? Try to be more creative than, “Happy Ascension Day.” How about, “Up, Up and Away?”…maybe not. “Wishing you a Cloudy Day”…probably not. “Every Cloud has a Silver Lining”…I don’t think so. Actually, I have spent more time thinking about this than is probably healthy, and I think I have hit upon the perfect Ascension Day card. Try this out: “Gone to Heaven! Wish You Were Here!”

What do you think? I believe it captures the essence of the day!

Additional Resources:

Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Acts 1:12-26.

Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Acts 1:12-26.