“It is necessary…”
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!