“It is necessary…”

Acts 1:15-26

In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) and said, 16 “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. 17 For he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.” 18 (Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness, and falling headlong he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. 19 And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their own language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) 20 “For it is written in the Book of Psalms,

“‘May his camp become desolate,
    and let there be no one to dwell in it’;


“‘Let another take his office.’

21 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.” 23 And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, and Matthias. 24 And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen 25 to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” 26 And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

Goldenmane Tickseed-2 | Mercer Arboretum | May 2023

The little Greek word, “δεῖ” is small but powerful. It’s the word behind the phrase, “Scripture must be fulfilled,” specifically the “must be,” in that phrase. Another way to translate the word is “it is necessary.” The word crops up in the gospels time and again. Jesus uses it in the Prodigal Son parable, when the father says, “‘We had to celebrate and rejoice because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’” (Luke 15:32). Matthew 16:21 reads, “From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go [it is necessary] to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” This little Greek word, dei (pronounced day-ē with a very subtle ē at the end), packs a powerful punch.

In the case of Scripture being fulfilled, as in this passage, Peter makes the point that Judas’ action was foretold in Scripture, and it was sure to happen. I don’t believe there is much benefit to determining whether or not God caused Judas to betray Jesus, or that it was Judas’ fate because God predestined it to happen. There is a difference between knowing something is going to happen, and causing it to happen. If a prophet of God prophesies it, he does not cause it to happen. But if God says it will happen, it will happen. And God has said that one of Jesus’ disciples would vacate his office and someone else would take his place.

This was all part of God’s plan. And God’s plan will not be thwarted. Not by a betrayal of one of the 12 of Jesus’ disciples. Not by the misguided actions of fearful disciples. Peter cutting off Malcus’ ear, or denying Jesus, or the other disciples fleeing him when Jesus was arrested will not thwart God’s plan. Self-righteous priests and conspiring Roman soldiers will not prevent God’s plan for the redemption of the world through Jesus Christ, his only Son, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit for the spreading of the word and the conversion of millions.

That’s good news for us who want to see God’s plan succeed. We can be sure that his will is done and his kingdom will come among us and through us to others. We can be certain that the ultimate glory of God’s grace will be realized. We may see people get in the way of God’s plan, they may plot and scheme to undercut the mission of God. But God will prevail – not just in the sense of sovereign power, but more importantly in the sense of abundant grace. For that I am thankful to God!

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