In today’s reading we witness Peter taking on his role as leader of the New Church/New Israel. We read that he “stood up in the midst of the brothers (there was a group of about one hundred and twenty persons in the one place)” ready to talk about a painful betrayal in the community. In this time period ‘brother’ could be used to describe any male relative. Also, all female relatives could be labeled as sisters. I’m sure you have some friends whom you affectionately give this title to even if they are not biological relatives. We must remember that language is a living entity that is always changing. It needs special care in translation. Let’s keep going. “The number recorded of those gathered in the upper room is one hundred and twenty, the necessary legal number for a Jewish gathering” (Ligouri Catholic Bible Study).
Peter references the Old Testament when speaking about Judas’ betrayal. David was the one who told this prophesy. Similar to most Jews in his day, Peter considered King David to be the author of the psalms.
In verse 20 Peter says,
“For it is written in the Book of Psalms: ‘Let his encampment become desolate, and may no one dwell in it.’
"May another take his office"In the Gospel of Matthew (27:3-10)
Judahs' betrayal is recorded differently. The author states that Judas threw the money back at the Jewish leaders and hanged himself. If you’ve ever seen the movie The Passion of Christ this is the version that Mel Gibson chose to depict. Nonetheless, in Acts we read, “He bought a parcel of land with the wages of his iniquity, and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle. And all his insides spilled out. This became known to everyone… [As the] Field of Blood” (v.18-19). Peter knew that Judas had to be replaced. The number twelve wasn’t irrelevant, but symbolized the twelve tribes of Israel that formed the People of God. Matthias became the apostle chosen to take the place of Judas. We don’t hear about him after this. This shows that the number twelve in the development of the New Israel was more important than the individual ministries of the apostles.
Reflection: Some say that the only difference between Peter, the rock upon which Christ built his Church, and Judas Iscariot is that Judas didn’t believe that he could be forgiven. Both were sinners. Peter denied even knowing Jesus! Ouch. The difference is that Peter went back to Jesus and asked for mercy and forgiveness. Judas walked away. He is the first recorded suicide in Scripture. He let despair lie to him. Despair told him God wouldn’t forgive him. Whenever I think of Judas I don’t see him as evil, hateful, vengeful. I see him as a man who wanted the Messiah to restore Israel. He thought the Messiah would be a political figure and he waited three years for Jesus to rise to power in this way. Judas was confused and disappointed. How often do we act like Judas and project our expectations onto friends, family, children, and co-workers? We say, “You were supposed to do it this way. It was supposed to happen now. This was not the plan. This is not the ideal. This is not being done right. I’ll take it into my own hands. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.” *Cue pulling hair out, scary twilight music, blank stare/crazed eyes, agape mouth* Surrender your preconceived notions of the way things are meant to be. Surrender. Slow down. Relax. Be still. Light a candle. You don’t have to save the world. That’s what Jesus came to do. In the end, this attitude only harms the one housing it. Shalom. Xox