The apostles had been instructed by their Lord to remain at Jerusalem until they should receive the Holy Ghost. This took place ten days after the ascension. We are informed that, during this time of waiting for the great blessing which they knew they were to expect, they employed their time chiefly in daily attendance at the temple, where their presence in a body as the known followers of the crucified Jesus, gave evidence to his enemies that his party still lived; and enabled them to satisfy the many inquirers who, doubtless, applied to them for information respecting the extraordinary circumstances of which they had been witnesses, about which there must have been many and contradictory reports current through the city. The rest of the time they spent mostly together in prayer, and supplication, and godly discourse, in a large upper chamber of the house which some of them occupied. Nor were they alone, it seems, in this; for mention is made of one hundred and twenty disciples and “the women.” Who these women were is not particularly stated, “Mary, the mother of Jesus,” being the only one who is named. This is the last mention of her in Scripture; and from it we learn that she had now cast in her lot with the apostles, to the care of one of whom she had been particularly entrusted, and seems to have thenceforth had no other house than his. It is not difficult, however, to apprehend that the other women were pre-eminently those who had been the first witnesses of the Lord’s resurrection—Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and Salome the mother of Zebedee’s sons; to these we must probably add the other women who had come from Galilee, Joanna and Susanna. We are unwilling to suppose that the sisters of Lazarus were not among them, as their brother doubtless was among the one hundred and twenty male disciples. There were probably others of whose names we are uninformed. Most of those whom we do know were relatives of the apostles or of Jesus himself; and it is not unlikely that some of the women thus generally indicated were wives of the apostles. We know that Peter was married; and that his wife went about with him; Note: Mat_8:14; 1Co_9:5. and this may have been the case with some of the other apostles, as it was a very rare circumstance among the Jews for a man to pass beyond his youth unmarried.
The only transaction recorded as having taken place during these ten days, was the election of another apostle to fill up the vacancy occasioned by the treachery and death of Judas. It devolved on Peter to explain this matter to the assembled brethren; and he took occasion to recite briefly the circumstances by which this vacancy had been created. The occasion suits us well for the same retrospection.
When Judas perceived the issue of his treachery in the condemnation of Jesus by the Sanhedrin, his conscience was awakened to the sense of the atrocity of the crime he had committed, and, goaded by its sharp stings, his first impulse was to cast from him with abhorrence, as an unclean thing, the bright silver which had been the fruit, as it had been in some measure at least the incitement, of his sin. The fact that his first movement, under this mental torture, was to cast away the bribe he had won so dearly, seems to denote very significantly that the possession of this had been his strongest inducement, and so far to corroborate the intimations of the evangelists that covetousness was the sin that ruined him. He hastened to the temple, and throwing down the money, before the priests and elders, he cried—“I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood!” They answered him coldly, that this was his concern, not theirs. But he heeded them not; and, lashed on by the scourging vengeance within, he hastened to a self-inflicted felon’s death. “He went and hanged himself;” and with such angry vehemence did he cast himself off, that the rope broke, and he fell down headlong with such force, that he lay dead upon the ground, a foul, crushed, and disfigured mass.
Some have concluded, from this proceeding on the part of Judas, as already intimated, that, when he betrayed his Master, he did not contemplate the possibility of His being condemned to death. It may be so. It is possible that he deceived his own heart with the show of good intentions. But if this is not the impression the evangelists themselves received of his character and conduct—and we think that it is not—the explanation stands on very precarious ground. Nor is his late remorse at all adverse to that impression; for how often do we not witness, in the annals of crime, a conscience stricken horror fall upon the criminal on the completion of the deed, which in the distance he had planned deliberately, and contemplated without dismay.
In supplying the deficiency in the number of the apostles caused by the downfall of Judas, Peter stated the qualifications to be, that he should be one who had been their constant associate from the commencement of the Lord’s ministry until his ascension, and thus qualified to be a witness of all his sayings and deeds—and especially of his resurrection. This description seems to indicate that the selection was to be made from the seventy disciples: for it would obviously appear that our Lord’s previous selection of these from the general body of the disciples for evangelical service, was in itself a qualification for the apostleship which could not be advanced by the other disciples. Among the number there were two whose claims from character and standing were so conspicuous, that the apostles felt unable to determine which of them was entitled to preference, or were perhaps divided in their judgment concerning them: one of these was Matthias, and the other Joseph surnamed Barsabas. They, therefore, referred the decision to the Lord by the lot, after solemn prayer, that He would be pleased thus to indicate the person He had chosen. The lot fell upon Matthias, who was thenceforth reckoned among the apostles. It is thought by some that it was not merely the difficulty of choice between Matthias and Joseph that induced the apostles to resort in this case to the lot; but from in unwillingness to appoint a new apostle upon their own authority; for, seeing that all the others had been specially appointed by Jesus himself, an apostle so appointed might have seemed to occupy an inferior position to them. The text, however, favors the former opinion, seeing that they supplicated the Lord to show “which of these two” He had chosen; indicating that had there been but one, they, in dependence on the guidance of the Holy Spirit, would not have hesitated to act in this case. Indeed, the ground for this reference to the lot could not have existed, had there not been two persons before them; unless, indeed, they had in that case proposed to have asked by lot whether or not (yea or nay) the Lord approved of the person they had nominated. Still the special ground which may have existed for this reference to the lot is very important; and receives force and illustration from the course taken by St. Paul to insist that his call to the apostleship was neither of men nor by men, but from the Lord himself, though it came later in time than any of the others. This speciality, also, removes the case from being used as a precedent for reference to the lot.
Of Matthias, thus elected to the apostleship, no further record exists in Scripture; but there is an uncertain tradition that, after remaining some time in Judea, he carried the Gospel into the interior of Asia, where he suffered death from the hands of a barbarous people.