What about Matthias? What’s the big deal about him? We only hear about him once in the Bible, right? Not so fast, fellow redeemed! This blessed apostle appears more than once in Scripture, but we’ll address this in a moment. Let’s get back to the original question: What about Matthias? What is so special about him? What is special about him is that the Lord of the Church called him into his apostolic office. He succeeded Judas Iscariot, who vacated his discipleship, who “by his transgression fell, that he might go to his own place” (v. 25b). The Lord “apostled” Matthias; He sent him. Matthias met the requirements for being issued such a call, for he “accompanied [the disciples] all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among [them], beginning from the baptism of John to that day when He was taken up from” them…and became a witness with [them] of His resurrection (vv. 21-22).
The Apostles held their call meeting. They asked the Lord to call their twelfth man, for they were one short of the Lord’s number. The Lord would have His number; the Lord would have His man. Two men met the apostolic criteria: Joseph bar-Justus (also called Barsabbas) and Matthias. The Apostles turned the matter over to the Lord. The Lord called the Twelve directly; He said to them, “Follow Me.” This time the Lord called through means; He called His twelfth man through them. So why not Barsabbas? The Lord called His man; He called Matthias through the casting of lots, and He gave Matthias the whole lot of the apostleship—not a percentage, not a fraction, but the whole lot. The Lord made Matthias a full apostle, “and he was numbered with the eleven apostles” (v. 26b). The Lord called Matthias to Word-and-Sacrament ministry. The Lord would have His twelve; eleven would not do. The three Persons of the Godhead preached and taught in the four corners of the earth: three times four is twelve. The Lord runs His own numbers; He does His own math.
So what about Matthias? His name is only mentioned in our text, but yet the Holy Spirit includes him in many parts of the Book of Acts. Where Jesus preached, taught, and healed, Matthias was there. When Jesus became baptized, was crucified, dead, and buried, Matthias was there. When Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, Matthias was there. How do we know? The blessed apostle St. Peter said so, for the new apostle had to be an eyewitness to all these things, and the Lord will not perpetrate a fraud on His Church; He will not willfully or willingly leave His bride in the reckless and faithless care of an evil best man. The Lord loves His bride too much for that. The Lord had Matthias present at Pentecost, for “When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord [together] in one place” (2:1), and “Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and” preached his sermon in Jerusalem that Pentecost day (2:14a). In Acts 6, the Twelve—Matthias included—called the disciples to appoint deacons to serve in the social ministry of the Church, making sure the widows were no longer neglected in the daily distribution, to “wait on tables” while the Twelve gave themselves “continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (6:4). And in Acts 15, Matthias and the rest of the apostles came together with the elders (who were also pastors) to meet in what is known as the Jerusalem Council, to discuss whether circumcision was necessary for salvation. Matthias was there; for he was one of the Apostles. He had voice. He had vote. He had vocation, as the Lord Himself had called him.
So what about Matthias? He received the divine call to be an apostle, a full apostle, along with “Peter, James, John, and Andrew; Philip and Thomas; Bartholomew and Matthew; James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot; and Judas the son of James” (1:13b). As a full apostle, one to whom the Lord gave the whole lot, his call was to “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Mt. 28:19-20a); and again, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mk. 16:15-16); and again, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His Name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things” (Lk. 24:46-48), and Matthias was indeed a witness, for he could not be called without this witness. And again the Lord said, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you…. Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (Jn. 20:21-23).
What about Matthias? We don’t hear any more about him after that. What do we make of this? In terms of worldly ideals, Matthias was a colossal failure. We don’t hear of him preaching in mega-churches with their huge buildings and auditoriums. We don’t hear of people from all over rushing up to hear his every word. We don’t hear of him healing people, who faint because he touched them. We hear that the Lord added 3,000 souls to His Church after Peter preached his Pentecost sermon and his hearers became baptized; but we don’t get numbers like Peter’s when we’re talking about Matthias. What’s up with that? We’re not looking in the right place to define and measure success. We look at the ledger but not to the Lord. We search statistics but not Scripture. We are wowed by works but not God’s Word. We behold the bright lights but not Holy Baptism. We look to the universe for answers but not to the Eucharist for our salvation. We determine success in terms of what the world expects but not in terms of what God says:
For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven,
And do not return there,
But water the earth,
And make it bring forth and bud,
That it may give seed to the sower
And bread to the eater,
So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
It shall not return to Me void,
But it shall accomplish what I please,
And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it. [Is. 55:10-11]
Saint Paul, writing under inspiration of the Holy Spirit asks, “Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase” (1 Cor. 3:5-7). Wherever Matthias planted, whenever Matthias watered, God gave the increase. God causes faith to grow and His Word to succeed.
But the world has been hostile to the Lord and His model for success, and this hostility has crept into many congregations of the Church. Many have condemned the Means of Grace as old-fashioned and the Triune God irrelevant, all in the name of numerical and statistical growth, for spiritual growth has to them become a waste of time. We hear the voices of false prophets on the TV, radio, and internet, and we read their books. We see the mainstream media paint a false picture of the Christ. We hear what our friends say—God-fearing Christians but are members of denominations with teachings contrary to Scripture. We pick up on their false theology, and it becomes part of us. The devil is hard at work, steering us away from the truth that is God’s inerrant and inspired Word. Satan is clever; he adds just enough truth to his lies to make us doubt what God clearly says. He did it to Adam and Eve. He does it to us. And so when we do hear God’s true Word, we get angry. Our sinful pride doesn’t like to hear that we have believed in error. We don’t want to hear that we are poor, miserable sinners who are by nature sinful and unclean. And we surely don’t want to hear that Jesus paid the full price for our forgiveness and salvation and that we can’t do anything to earn our way into heaven. We despise the preaching of His Word and, consequently, His messengers—much as Matthias was despised, for tradition indicates that he was martyred for the sake of Christ and for the sake of the Gospel. We become less about celebrating the Lord’s Day and more about making every day a Friday. We become much less about Christ for you and much more about you for you. The so-called modern Church makes you, not God, the center of your universe; you become your own god—so does false preaching and teaching—from this preserve and protect us, heavenly Father! Anything that takes our eyes off Jesus is a deadly poison, for it can lead to eternal death if we do not fear, love, and trust in Him above all things.
So what about Matthias? He had the same charge from the Lord that Paul gave the young pastor St. Timothy:
I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. [2 Tim. 4:1-5]
THAT’S what is about Matthias! He had God’s call and command to preach the Word of God faithfully, regardless of whether pastors want to preach it or the people want to hear it. Matthias’s call is the same call the Lord gave to the rest of the Apostles, to Timothy, to Titus, to His called and ordained servants of the Word today—the pastors the Lord has called to serve Him in His Church today, to carry out His teaching and preaching—for you, His people. The Office of the Holy Ministry today is apostolic—it is Matthian—for those the Lord has ordained continue the tradition the He gave to the Twelve and to future generations of pastors, preaching Christ crucified—Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. He has sent them to deliver the goods—His goods of forgiveness, eternal life, and salvation—to His people, to give you His gifts. Just as the bridegroom lavishes His bride with the finest gifts, so also Christ, your heavenly Bridegroom, gives you the best of His love.
What about Matthias? He was a witness to all the events and words of Jesus’ public ministry. We were not witnesses of these things; we were not there when they crucified our Lord. Though we were not witnesses, we have Matthias’s witness, as the Holy Spirit gave other apostles and evangelists to write of what our Lord has said and done. “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His Name” (Jn. 20:30-31). We have their witness. We have their record. We hear what Matthias heard and saw. He saw Jesus beaten and bloodied. He witnessed Christ crowned and crucified. He looked upon the Lord’s body being laid in the tomb. Matthias preached Christ crucified, the same Christ who was crucified for you! He saw your Lord hanging on the cross, giving His body and shedding His blood for Matthias, for me, for you, and for the life of the world. He heard the Lord say, “Father, forgive them,” words you will hear in the upcoming Lenten season. Just moments ago, in this very Divine Service, you heard God forgive you for the sake of His Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Matthias heard Jesus say to the thief crucified with Him, “Today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Lk. 23:43). This morning you hear His invitation to you, “Take, eat; take, drink,” offering you a glimpse into Paradise the blest, as He brings heaven down to earth, coming to you in His body and blood, His very body which hung on the cross and His true blood, poured out for us—for you!—for the forgiveness of all your sins. Matthias was in that upper room when the Lord instituted His Supper. When you come to the Lord’s Table to receive this same meal, He gives you His forgiveness in this foretaste of the Feast to come. What Paul writes is from the Lord, who said to Matthias and to him:
For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night when He was betrayed, took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way, after the meal, he also took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new testament in My blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. [1 Cor. 11:23-26 EHV]
Matthias witnessed the risen Christ, who has defeated sin, death, and hell forever—for you! Matthias preached the crucified—and risen!—Christ, just as the Lord Himself called him to do, just as He calls His pastors today to do, to preach what Matthias saw and heard, that Jesus died and is risen from the dead, ascended into heaven, and descending to you in His Word and Sacraments—all for you, for the forgiveness of all your sins.
What about Matthias? He was the Lord’s twelfth man. The Lord had His twelve. He has His 144,000; that is to say, He has Matthias, He has me, and He has you. He has all who hear His Word and believe in and confess Him as their Lord. You see, it’s really not about Matthias at all. It’s not all about you. It’s all about Christ—Christ for you and Christ to you, thanks be to God! Amen.
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