In those days Peter stood up among the believers (together the crowd numbered about one hundred and twenty people) and said, ‘Friends, the scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit through David foretold concerning Judas, who became a guide for those who arrested Jesus— for he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.’ (Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness; and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. This became known to all the residents of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their language Hakeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) ‘For it is written in the book of Psalms,
“Let his homestead become desolate,
and let there be no one to live in it”;
“Let another take his position of overseer.”
So one of the men who have accompanied us throughout the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these must become a witness with us to his resurrection.’ So they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias. Then they prayed and said, ‘Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.’ And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles.
Today is observed in Christian tradition as the feast day of St Matthias and our reading describes his appointment as an apostle to replace the traitor Judas. Jesus had chosen twelve apostles no doubt because Israel was divided into twelve tribes and the apostles were to be a sign of its renewal.
What may surprise the reader is the number of possible candidates. From the Gospels it is easy to gain the impression that Jesus had a close circle of twelve followers and a much larger, ill-defined and ever-changing crowd, some of whom may have gone from place to place while most would not. Here it is clear that some at least were with him from the beginning and stayed to the end.
Selection by lot was widely practiced in the ancient world often for the final choice from a pre-selected shortlist. It is also found in the Old Testament (eg Joshua 14:1-5). In modern parlance ‘lottery’ suggests a gamble but the belief was that God would determine the outcome. Matthias’ appointment is therefore not the choice of his fellow disciples but of the risen Jesus.
Throughout the New Testament, passages from the Old are used either to find meaning in what has happened or to provide guidance for what should be done.
We hear nothing more of Matthias (or of many of the other Apostles). Their ministry is not recorded.
Blessings as we pray that we might also be “apostles” of Jesus. Be safe! Be well! He is Risen Indeed!
- What would be the merits and demerits of reintroducing selection by lot?
- What do you think are the essential qualifications for a Christian leader today?
- Has history been too hard on Judas?