Bible Insights

Replacing Judas

Going Back to Twelve Disciples

Today’s passage: Acts 1:15–20

Focus verse: “Scripture had to be fulfilled in which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus.” (Acts 1:16)

Besides praying, the disciples also do something else as they wait for the Holy Spirit. Peter takes the lead. The disciples may already accept him as their leader. He was in Jesus’s inner circle.

Peter was also often the first disciple to speak, whether good or bad. Yet Jesus also called Peter into leadership when he told Peter to “feed my sheep” (Day 29).

With 120 of Jesus’s followers gathered, Peter stands to address them. He mentions Judas, one of their own, one of the twelve disciples Jesus handpicked to follow him. Peter reminds them that Judas betrayed Jesus.

Judas is dead and Luke parenthetically fills in the details. Judas used the money he received for betraying Jesus to buy a field. He went there and fell headlong into it, thereby killing himself. Implicitly, he died by suicide.

The locals call it the Field of Blood.

This account, however, differs from Matthew’s more concise explanation of Judas’s demise. Matthew simply writes that, filled with remorse, Judas goes and hangs himself (Matthew 27:1–10).

Regardless of the supporting details, Judas is dead. Jesus’s original twelve disciples now number only eleven. Citing Old Testament prophecy, Peter wants to replace Judas and bring their number back to twelve.

The disciple quotes from two psalms, both written by King David several centuries earlier.

The first one says, “May his place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in it” (from Psalm 69:25). David’s first focus in penning this psalm is against his own enemies.

Yet the future-focused prophecy aspect of it looks at Jesus’s enemies, in this case Judas. Let no one live there, in the place called “Field of Blood.”

David’s second psalm says, “May another take his place of leadership” (from Psalm 109:8). As with the first passage, David’s immediate focus is on his own tormentors, while the secondary meaning looks at Jesus’s.

In citing these two passages from Scripture, it’s unlikely Peter has the scrolls available for him to consult. He quotes them from memory.

In doing so, he uses Old Testament prophecy to inform their situation and direct their action. They need to replace Judas.


  • Without having the written text to consult, how much of Scripture could we quote from memory?
  • How should we use the Bible to best guide us today?

Prayer: Father, may we hide your word in our heart (Psalm 119:11).

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Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

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