Broken Witnesses: Reading Acts 1:15-20

Luke takes roll of the followers of Jesus.  At this point in the story, there are not many of them.  Now that Jesus is gone, they are left to wait.  Luke mentions eleven of the men (1:13).  They are mostly fishermen, one of them is a tax collector, several of them are brothers.  None of them are notable.  All of them left Jesus during his trials.  Only one of them is mentioned while Jesus is dying (John 19:26).  The only other men who are mentioned here are the brothers of Jesus.  They are there with their mother (1:14).  It is no secret that during Jesus' life his brothers did not believe in him (John 7:5).  There were also women.  The women who followed Jesus were questionable at worst and marginal at best.  Mary Magdalene had seven demons, Joanna worked for Herod (Luke 8:1-3).  Some of them were notable sinners (Luke 7:39).  Whatever they were they have now made a bold choice.  They were broken, but now they would be witnesses.  They chose to live the sequel.

While they wait they deal with their most recent tragedy.  Yes, Jesus has risen and ascended, there is reason to rejoice, but one of them was a traitor.  Throughout the Gospels it was noted how difficult it was for them to come to grips with the reality that Jesus would die.  Even more difficult was coming to terms with the fact that it would be one of them who would initiate the process (Mark 14:17-21).  Perhaps even now, as they prayed and waited, they tried to make sense of it all.  Someone needed to help them find closure.

The person who rises up to help theses broken witnesses make sense of treachery is the least likely of them all, Peter.  Judas was one of Jesus' betrayers.  Peter was the other one.  Surely someone else would be better suited for this moment than Peter.  Peter is mouthy, brash, vulgar, and uneducated.  On top of it all he swore he did not know Christ because he was afraid of a servant girl (Matthew 26:69-75).  Peter's resume suggests that he is not fit to lead.  But that was another version of Peter.  He has been restored and his life redefined (John 21:15-19).  Peter has chosen to live the sequel.

He stands to help them make sense of it all and he does so with simplicity.  The man was wicked.  God was not surprised.  The Scriptures are our guide.  "Let another take his office."  It is time to move on. 

There are two lessons here that speaks to the essence of the sequel.  As exciting as the possibility of living the sequel may be, we cannot completely separate ourselves from our previous plot lines.  We are redeemed, but let us not forget that we needed redemption because of our mistakes.  We have made mistakes in the past and we will not be immune from making more, even in the sequel.  This will be a subplot in the Book of Acts.  There will be unity but there will also be division.  They will get a lot of things right, but some of them, from time to time, including Peter, will get some things dead wrong.  But here, in Acts 1:15-20 Peter gets it right, the sequel does not depend on our resumes.  The sequel continues because it is the will of God.  Even in our failures the will of God will prevail.

The other lesson of the sequel is the role of the broken.  In the beginning it looks to be a strange choice for Peter, the other betrayer, to help the others deal with betrayal.  But Peter is healed.  In Christ, his life is restored.  Who better to help them deal with betrayal than a man who has been thoroughly healed from it?  Now that Jesus has ascended the most compelling evidence of his resurrection will not be an empty grave, but the healing and restoration of the broken.  Being a witness is not simply saying that He has risen, it is demonstrating to others that Jesus has the power to save. 

Although he did not verbalize it, Peter’s leadership demonstrates to the marginal and questionable women, the fishermen, the formerly unbelieving brothers, the tax collector, and every notable sinner present in the room, we have all been broken, but now we are healed.  We will never be able to completely separate ourselves from our former plot lines, but in Christ our past is not crippling.  Instead it becomes a compelling side note to the sequel.  We were broken, but now we are healed.  We are His witnesses.


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