Feast of St. Matthias
SCRIPTURES: Isaiah 66:1-2; Acts 1:15-26; Matthew 11:25-30
And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show 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 numbered with the eleven apostles. Acts 1
What a great man was Matthias! He was a follower of Jesus from the time of Jesus’ baptism until His death and resurrection, to which he was a witness. He was so great and devout a follower that he was one of only two disciples who were suggested as replacements for Judas. By the casting of lots the Lord Himself chose him – how great was that! – and he was elevated to the exalted position of being numbered with the eleven apostles… and then he was never mentioned again. Matthias’ name occurs in Acts 1, and nowhere else. He is not spoken of in the Gospels; he is not mentioned later in the book of Acts as it tells of the activities of the apostles; and, not once do any of the other apostles in any of their letters mention him, even though they referred to many other followers and servants of the Lord. Matthias is the anonymous apostle, the forgotten apostle. He is the bottom rung of the ladder.
What became of him? One ancient writer says that he preached the Gospel in Judea and then in Ethiopia, where he was crucified. Another says he preached on the eastern shore of the Black Sea and was stoned to death there. A third says he was stoned to death in Jerusalem and then beheaded. God alone truly knows what he did, and where and how he died.
Matthias is the unknown apostle, the simple and lowly disciple; just like us. Now, I’ll bet that your name appears in many places. Just do an internet search of your name and you’ll find this out. Still, who out of the world’s billions of people – besides you and perhaps a few relatives and friends (or enemies) – would have any interest in searching for your name? Matthias was known and valued only within a rather small circle of people; just like us. Few were the people who knew him or cared about him. If it were not for this one brief account in the Book of Acts, he would not be known or remembered at all. Just like us, one day.
But, the Lord knew him and chose him, and that is the important thing, the amazing thing. “Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool,” God says (Isaiah 66:1). The entire universe cannot contain Him, but exists within Him! God is far greater and bigger and mightier and wiser compared to Matthias than Matthias would be compared to an ant. Even so, God chose him; and that is a wonderful thing.
Our world values things like connections; influence; wealth; physical prowess and ability; beauty; and the like. It chooses and honors those who have such things. We in the Church fall into this ourselves.
- The pastor with charisma and who is a dynamic preacher is more highly regarded.
- The parishioner who is pious and a good person, who is not struggling with sinful habits or guilt or depression, is looked upon as a better Christian.
- We question our own value or importance when we are struggling because of sickness or job loss or financial difficulties, or just because of old age and frailty.
These are not the things God considers when He looks upon us. Instead, the Lord evaluates us on the basis of what is in our hearts.
God sees truly and knows truly. He knows our hearts. He knows when we disregard and think little of the people He has given to us as gifts, whether pastors or teachers or bankers or plow drivers. He knows when we think little of ourselves. Why should we do so? We have received God the Holy Spirit in our baptism! He lives within us. There is our value and greatness! And, Jesus is with us! He encourages us: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” He doesn’t say this to the strong and holy, but to the weak and lowly and burdened.
“You, Lord, know the hearts of all.” He surely does. What is He looking for? What pleases Him? Good desires and intentions? Loving thoughts? Contentedness, lack of greed and envy? “This is the one to whom I will look,” God says in Isaiah 66, “he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.” God looks with favor upon the weak and lowly sinner who is troubled by his sins and sinful desires, yet clings in faith to God’s Word. He looks with favor upon lowly and forgotten sinners like Matthias.
In the choosing of Matthias we see that God values and considers precious those who have nothing and cling to nothing but Jesus. What was it that commended Matthias to Peter and the others? They weren’t looking for the best public speaker, or the most charismatic person who could draw people to him and so to God. They were looking for someone who knew Jesus, who had followed Him from the day of His baptism until His death and resurrection. Ultimately, knowing Jesus is all that matters.
For, when our hearts are strong and we feel great about ourselves, well, God still knows our hearts. He is well aware of the sins that we ignore or hide or are just not bothered by. So, what is the most important thing we have? Jesus, crucified for our sins and risen for our eternal life. When, on the other hand, our hearts are weak and we are depressed and downcast and feel worthless; when we no longer know our hearts because in our bodily weakness and frailty we no longer even know ourselves; well, God still knows our hearts. He who gave us Jesus as His gift to us still sees Him and His work within us. “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children,” Jesus says. No matter what we may lack in body or mind or spirit, no matter what others may think or how we may feel about ourselves, we have Jesus. God our Father has revealed Him to us and hidden His life within us, and so we are children of God who are loved and held and blessed forever!
This, finally, is what matters: what God sees and knows. We know nothing, really, about Matthias, about his life, his ministry, and his death. They are long forgotten. But, since God the Father revealed His Son to him and Matthias knew Jesus, God will never forget him. He knows him always. Matthias is truly known now, for he lives where no sin or sickness or frailty or sorrow or death or anonymity hides and corrupts. He lives in the presence of his Savior, forever remembered and known and loved by Him who chose him and called him to service.
God has this in store for you, also. By His Word and Baptism God has revealed His Son to you, and because of Him you know Jesus and are seen and known by God as His child. You may be little known here, and one day may even be forgotten. Your heavenly Father, however, will never forget you. He has numbered you with Matthias and the other apostles, and with all His precious believers, and in heaven He will reveal in you the forgiveness and eternal life and glory that Christ has won for you and has hidden within you. Praise be to the name of our God forever!