1-2 In his former book (Luke’s Gospel), which Luke sent to Theophilus, Luke wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven (see Luke 1:1-4; 24:51). But after Jesus went into heaven, He did not stop working and teaching. In His place He sent His own Spirit, the Holy Spirit, to live within His disciples (John 20:22). In this way, Jesus continued to work and teach through His Spirit dwelling within the disciples. Through Christ’s Holy Spirit the disciples received the power to be Christ’s witnesses in the world (verse 8). They were no longer merely “disciples”; they were now APOSTLES, that is, men inspired and sent by the Holy Spirit. No longer were they men filled with fear, hiding and fleeing from their enemies; they were now new men, filled with Christ’s Spirit, bold and fearless. As we study the book of Acts, let us remember that just as God worked through these apostles in New Testament times, so He wants also to work through us today. Just as God filled the apostles with His Holy Spirit, so also He wants to fill each one of us today.
The two angels called the disciples “men of Galilee.” Galilee is Israel’s northernmost province. Jesus and His disciples first came from Galilee.
12 The place from which Jesus ascended into heaven was called the Mount of Olives. That mountain was a Sabbath day’s walk from Jerusalem; that is, it was about three quarters of a mile from Jerusalem. According to the Jewish LAW, the Jews were not supposed to walk more than three quarters of a mile on the Sabbath4 (Saturday).
13 Here Luke gives us the names of Jesus’ disciples—except for Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus. When this list of disciples is compared with the list of disciples given in Mark 3:16-19, it can be seen that one name is different. Here, in place of Thad-daeus, Judas son of James is written. However, it is the same man; he had two different names.
14 While Jesus’ disciples were waiting for the gift of the Holy Spirit, they all joined together constantly in prayer. It is mainly through prayer that we obtain the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13). The disciples joined together in prayer. If we want our individual requests to be granted, we need to join together and agree with one another about what to pray for (see Matthew 18:19). Where there is no unity of mind among believers, there the power of the Spirit will not be manifest.
With the disciples were Jesus’ mother Mary, some other women, and Jesus’ own younger brothers, who were sons of Mary and Joseph. Jesus’ best-known brother was James, who later wrote the New Testament letter called “James.” The other three brothers were Joses, Judas, and Simon (Mark 6:3). Before Jesus’ resurrection, His brothers did not believe in Him (John 7:5). But now they had accepted Him as the Son of God. James himself saw Jesus after He had risen from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:7); later he went on to become the main leader of the church in Jerusalem (Galatians 1:19; 2:9).
15 In addition to Jesus’ main disciples, there were in Jerusalem at that time about one hundred and twenty other believers. Perhaps among them were the seventy-two believers whom Jesus sent out ahead of Him to announce the coming of the kingdom of God (Luke 10:1-11).
From this we can understand that during His time on earth Jesus didn’t lead great numbers of people to believe in Himself. Jesus’ main goal while on earth was to train and spiritually equip a small number of disciples. To these disciples, then, Jesus gave the work of preaching the Gospel and establishing His church all over the world.
16-17 Peter, it seems, was the main leader of this group of believers. Here Peter refers to a prophecy of DAVID, the great king of the Jews. David had prophesied in the Old Testament that one of Jesus’ close friends would betray Him (see Psalm 41:9; John 13:18; 17:12).
18-19 In these verses, Luke describes what happened to Judas after he betrayed Jesus. Accordingto Matthew 27:3-8, Judas gave back the money he had received from the Jewish elders and chief priests for betraying Jesus into their hands; then the chief priests, not Judas, went out and bought a field with the money. But because it was really Judas’ money, they bought the field in Judas’ name. But Judas never received any benefit from that field. Because of remorse for what he had done, Judas hanged himself, and his body swelled up and burst open.
Judas had known that the Jewish leaders were trying to kill Jesus. Perhaps he feared they would try to kill the disciples also. So he thought to himself: “If I cooperate with these Jewish leaders and deliver Jesus into their hands, I will be able to save my own life.” But his plan didn’t work; in the end he lost his life (see Mark 8:35).
20 Here Peter quotes from Psalm 69:25. Judas’ place, that is, his field, became deserted. No one wanted it. So it was used as a burial place for foreigners who happened to die in Jerusalem (Matthew 27:7).
Next Peter quotes from Psalm 109:8 to show that they must now select another disciple to take Judas’ place. Jesus had chosen twelve main disciples to judge the twelve tribes of Israel5 (Matthew 19:28); therefore, it was not right that only eleven disciples should remain.
21-22 To qualif y for taking Judas’ place among the twelve disciples, one needed to have been with Jesus from the beginning of His ministry and to have seen Him after He rose from the dead.
23-24 First the disciples chose two men who were equally qualified to be the twelfth disciple. Then they asked the Lord to show them which of the two He had chosen. Then they drew lots. They trusted that the lot would fall to the man of God’s choice, because they knew that God controlled the casting of lots (Proverbs 16:33).
This is the only place in the New Testament where the casting of lots is mentioned as a means of finding out God’s will. Most Christians believe that ever since the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4), it has not been necessary to cast lots to learn what God’s will is. The reason, they say, is because the Holy Spirit is now available to all believers, and He is fully able to show them what God’s will is in specif ic circumstances.