April 27, 2009

Ordinary Joes, Part 13 - Matthias, Old 'What's-his-Name'

‘Part 13?’ you ask. ‘I thought there were only twelve apostles?’ Well, twelve at a time actually. For, after Judas betrayed the Lord and hanged himself, the remaining eleven determined that the right thing to do would be to replace him; to round the number of disciples back up to an even dozen; and to make sure that the ministry that Judas should have fulfilled actually went on. So Peter stood up in the midst of the group (Acts 1.15-22) and made a motion that a new apostle be selected. He had to be someone who, though not a part of the original twelve, had been (vv.21-22) following Jesus since the early days … and who, very importantly, had been an eye-witness of the resurrection.

So who would replace Judas? It is possible that there were numerous men to choose from. For Jesus’ following had always numbered more than simply the inner twelve. But the other disciples nominated a list of only two (Acts 1.23): “Joseph called Barsabbas … and Matthias.” And, after praying and casting lots, Matthias became the new twelfth apostle (Acts 1.23-26).

Pop quiz: Could you have named the 13th apostle if it weren’t written at the top of the page? Perhaps not. For Acts 1.26 is where Matthias’s story ends … after beginning just three verses prior! The Bible tells us absolutely nothing else. Not where he was from. Not his lineage. Not what he did next. Nothing except that his name began with an ‘m’ and ended with an ‘s’ … and that he had been following Jesus since almost the very beginning.

But maybe that is all we need to know. Maybe Matthias is the textbook example of an ordinary Joe. He wasn’t a leader among the earliest Christians. But he was there. He had not been selected to be among the inner twelve. But he was there. He didn’t get any fringe benefits for following Jesus. But he was there. He had no inkling that his name would ever be written in lights on somebody’s blog page! And yet he was always there, with Jesus, from the very beginning of His ministry!

Apparently Matthias followed Jesus, not because he thought he might be singled out for an important title or a memorable task, but simply because Jesus was worth it! And therefore, what an example he is to us modern Joe and Jane Schmoe’s who will never amount to anything in the world’s eyes! No one is going to remember us a hundred years from now. Maybe not even ten years from now. And that’s perfectly okay! Because we – if we are truly followers of Jesus – don’t want people to remember us, but Him! So what better disciple to learn from than the one that no one remembers!

And what about “Joseph called Barsabbas”? Remember him? He was the guy who didn’t get chosen. He was even less known than old what’s-his-name! Nobody’s writing articles about him! But do you think that he minded? Do you think he took his ball and went home because he didn’t get picked for the team? I doubt it. Because it wasn’t about Joseph ... or Matthias, or Peter, or James, or John. It was about Jesus … and it still is! “He must increase, I must decrease” (John 3.30). That is the attitude required for the 21st century disciple. That is the look of the ordinary disciple of Jesus.

So, as we close this little series of articles, let me ask you: ‘How ordinary are you?’

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