The Feast Day of Matthias
A Saint for All Christian Nobodys

St. Matthias
Today many churches honored St. Matthias. Throughout history, he has often been confused with gospel writer St. Matthew, but Matthias was chosen in the Upper Room to replace Judas as a member of the Apostolic Twelve.

Matthias had been a devoted follower since Christ's baptism in the Jordan River,  but the New Testament mentions him only once:
"(Judas had bought a field with the money he received for his treachery. Falling headfirst there, his body split open, spilling out all his intestines.

The news of his death spread to all the people of Jerusalem, and they gave the place the Aramaic name Akeldama, which means “Field of Blood.”)

Peter continued, “This was written in the book of Psalms, where it says, ‘Let his home become desolate, with no one living in it.’ It also says, ‘Let someone else take his position.’

So now we must choose a replacement for Judas from among the men who were with us the entire time we were traveling with the Lord Jesus—from the time he was baptized by John until the day he was taken from us. Whoever is chosen will join us as a witness of Jesus’ resurrection.”

So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. Then they all prayed, “O Lord, you know every heart. Show us which of these men you have chosen as an apostle to replace Judas in this ministry, for he has deserted us and gone where he belongs.” Then they cast lots, and Matthias was selected to become an apostle with the other eleven." (Acts 1:18-26)
 (In Judaism, casting lots was used to discern God's will and settle disputes. Only later in history did the practice degenerate into gambling.)

For years, I've heard Christian preachers suggest the Disciples in the Upper Room were too hasty in choosing a replacement for Judas. They base it on the fact that the canonical Scriptures never mention anything further about Matthias. They reason that if Peter and the others had waited, Paul would have emerged as the obvious man to complete Christ's inner circle.

Maybe these teachers are right. Just try to compare Matthias' and Paul's ministries. Do we have anything to work with in the first place? Nothing that's reliably recorded. A "Gospel of Matthias" was circulated around the 2nd century, but Church Fathers quickly dismissed it as heretical, meaning its contents did not line up with Jesus' original teachings and the authorship was false.

Nicephorus, Patriarch of Constantinople, mentions in Historia that Matthias first preached in Judaea, then in a region of what is now known as Georgia, and was eventually crucified in Colchis. Another document claims Matthias preached to the cannibals in Ethiopia.

Yet another indicates he was stoned in Jerusalem by the Jews and then beheaded. However, Church Father Hippolytus of Rome says Matthias died of old age in Jerusalem.

With all of these conflicting reports, who's to know what Matthias really accomplished in his service to the Lord? And here's another question: Why do Christians seem so interested in labeling the decision in the Upper Room as a faux pas?

Ours is a performance-driven culture, and we carry that conditioning and expectation into our relationship with Christ. We use such graceless phrases as, "I'm going to live for Christ". We admire Christians with seemingly powerful, wide-reaching ministries that win souls by the thousands and feed starving children in third world countries.

We look at our believing neighbors. They appear to have "every hair in place" and walk from victory to victory, devoid of internal struggles for greater holiness.

Naturally, we blame ourselves and determine to "be better". To compensate (as well as cover) our ever-present Adamic inadequacies, we get involved in a flurry of religious charities and/or activities at church.

If the truth were told, we're a little embarrassed by Matthias' story and surmise that the waiting crowd in the Upper Room grew impatient and prematurely, even presumptuously replaced Judas. What convinces us? Matthias' supposed mediocrity.

We reason that if Matthias had really accomplished great and wonderful things for God, these facts would have been noticed by many people and no doubt recorded in multiple places--particularly the Bible!

Yet in reality, if we dare to see with the eyes of faith beyond our selfish insecurities that cling to fig leaves, we don't know what Matthias accomplished during his lifetime after joining the original Disciples. Just as we don't know the names of all the little grandmothers around the world that spend hours on their knees and impact the world in ways that televangelists only covet.

God reminded Samuel, when choosing David as the future king of Israel, that man looks on the outward appearance, but He sees the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7)

Fallen humanity also judges by quantity, not quality. We clamor to watch reality shows from swamp logging to polygamous families that offer just about anyone these days the opportunity for fame and fortune. The goal is to be exposed--get out there, get noticed!

But Christ will not reward us based on our notoriety; He will not welcome us into His Kingdom because of our impressive works--even if the dead are raised in His name!

Christianity is based solely on Christ's performance in life and death. His obedience to the Law and sacrificial death for guilty, unappreciative humanity was what got God's attention. And to top it off, the benefits Jesus received for impressing God--reconciliation as if one had never been estranged and sinful--is given away  daily to those who ask.

Our awe-inspiring works, no matter how they strike man as being successful, don't move the heart of God. Repentance, and relying on the finished work of Christ by faith, does. And even beyond Salvation, as we continue on to become more Christ-like in our daily lives, we must rely upon the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit toward holiness, not on our own efforts. If we don't, we'll sink into legalistic doctrines (discipline for discipleship), and rules to define our relationship with Jesus instead of love.

Living the Christian life is not about what we do, but who we become. In the end, we will not stand before our peers for a final assessment. Being constantly sized up by others is part of daily life on earth.

We will see only Jesus. Enveloped in His perfecting love, our earthly lives will be examined in light of the understanding and opportunities we had to become more like Him, not by the size and scope of our Christian deeds.

Becoming more Like Jesus is not something that can be counted--only weighed. It's determined in the small, but heavy matters of kindness to your spouse, patience with your children, honesty with your boss, holding your tongue, forgiving, allowing for another interruption to your plans by someone in need, an inconvenient request, and giving a weary, but listening ear to a friend.

One day I'm sure we'll know more about Matthias and his ministry. You, too, will be able to finally see all the amazing, seed-bearing fruit that blossomed from your life that you (and others) knew nothing about on earth.

So on this--the feast day of Matthias--I celebrate a little known saint of God. He represents a man chosen, yet hidden in Christ from the eyes and applause of not only the world, but also the Church.

But when I think about it, that's most of us, right?

"Not that they became apostles through being chosen for some distinguished peculiarity of nature, since also Judas was chosen along with them.
But they were capable of becoming apostles on being
chosen by Him who foresees even ultimate issues..."
~ Clement of Alexandria, Stromateis

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