This excerpt is from Chapter Three of my first book, Peter and Paul in Acts. The chapter is, “The Leadership Roles of Peter and Paul in Acts.” This segment focuses on Peter stepping into his leadership role in the early Church.
“After His resurrection, Jesus had spent forty days with His followers before the ascension, yet He had not picked out a replacement for Judas. It would have seemed proper and logical that Jesus would have dealt with this Himself since He was the one who appointed the original Twelve. Instead, He left this responsibility to His followers. When Peter took the initiative to appoint another apostle he was in a very real way, “taking over a major function of the departed Jesus.” Just before Jesus’ arrest, He told Peter that he would deny Him three times, but that, “when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” As Peter began to exercise leadership in the group of disciples, he was strengthening them and helping them to see God’s plan. After the ascension, there still may have been feelings of confusion and a lack of understanding among the apostles about what they were supposed to do. In dealing with the issues that surrounded Judas and the need to replace him, however, Peter was able to interpret the Scriptures to his fellow apostles and to show them where they fit into God’s plan as the new Israel. One of a Christian leader’s primary responsibilities is to help people to see where they fit into the plan of God. Peter was able to articulate God’s vision in such a way that the rest of the apostles could immediately fall in behind him.
The appointment of a new apostle also involved prayer. Luke seems to be drawing some parallel here to the way in which Jesus appointed the initial Twelve apostles. In his Gospel he writes, “One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles…” The apostles here, under Peter’s leadership, follow Jesus’ example in praying before they cast lots to select a replacement apostle. So, in a very real way, Jesus is shown to be involved as the next apostle is selected.
The response of the others to Peter’s leadership is indicative of their willingness to support and participate in the mission that Jesus had left for them. They immediately do what Peter recommends. “Peter’s faith inspires the faith of the others.” It also demonstrates the reality of Peter’s leadership in the early church. At this early point in theJerusalem community Peter’s leadership in the group seems to be an accepted fact. It might be noted here that Peter’s leadership did not just extend to the Twelve. When Matthias was selected as the new apostle, it was out of a group of a hundred and twenty. These were the nucleus of the church inJerusalem and it appears that they all looked to Peter for leadership. In these early days right before Pentecost, Luke makes a point of showing that Peter’s strong leadership skills were exactly what the young community needed to stay focused.”
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