The Lesson Appointed
The Epistle – Acts 1:15-26
The Gospel – St. Matthew 11:25-30
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.
We have transferred The Feast Day of St. Matthias back to today, though we are in the pre-Lenten season, not only because we are putting an emphasis on the Prayer Book Saints and Feast days in general this coming year, but also because what we read today about St. Matthias, coupled with the Gospel lesson.
We still find much that can be useful as we approach Ash Wednesday and go into Lent.
The information we have about St. Matthias is probably the most scarce of all of the Apostles.
He appears only once in the New Testament when he is chosen to replace Judas as the 12th Apostle. We heard that passage read to us this morning.
The name Matthias is a shortened form of the name Mattathias. ..an extra a put in there in the original. His name means “gift of God.”
And as we can see, God chose him to fill that vacancy that Judas the traitor left and therefore we can view him as gift from God to the Apostles and to the Church.
According to 4th century Church Father Eusebius, he was one of the original 70 that Jesus sent out that we read about in the Gospels.
The criteria we heard about this morning to be an Apostle, according to Peter….when choosing the two candidates to replace Judas were,
….he had to have been accompanying Jesus and the others during all of the time that the Lord Jesus went “in and out among them”….while Jesus was with them….beginning at Jesus’ baptism.
We don’t hear about Matthias being present at Jesus’ baptism, so Peter probably just means that Matthias was there at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry since after He returned from the wilderness, He began to choose His 12.
Second, the candidate had to have been around all the way up to Jesus’ ascension back up to heaven.
And third, therefore, though slightly out of order, he had to have been an eyewitness of the resurrected, risen Jesus as well.
One man who went by Barsabbus or Justus….and the other was Matthias. They cast lots and Matthias comes up as the choice.
Casting lots is almost like rolling dice. They are stones or sticks with markings on them, which would have to be interpreted. We don’t have the details, but Matthias was chosen.
Proverbs 16:33 tells us,
“The lot is cast into the lap,
but its every decision is from the LORD.” (ESV)
It was not gambling. It was how the will of the Lord was to be determined in this case. And however the lots (or today’s dice) land, that is what God wills to happen. There is no such thing as chance.
We are also in red today; therefore, it is believed by the Church that Matthias was martyred. How and when are much harder to determine with certainty.
What the Church knows best is that Matthias engaged in missionary work outside of Jerusalem, spreading the Gospel.
We can be sure of this because we are told that the Apostles did just that…spread the Gospel to the surrounding nations.
The traditions have him in a number of areas, so we can best say, he headed north to Damascus and down to eastern Africa to Ethiopia.
The method used to kill Matthias varies. We don’t know how he died.
The focus this morning is on what the Collect brings together for us. Matthias, in place of the traitor, Judas, was numbered among the 12 as an Apostle of Christ’s Church.
The prayer goes on to say that, the Church, being always preserved from false Apostles, may be ordered and guided by faithful and true pastors.
So, Lent, Matthias, Sexagesima….How might we tie it all together?
We know that the pre-lent season is sort of a time of preparing for the preparation.
We are given fair warning of this season.
We are given lessons for preparing us for what we are to engage in, during Lent, and what God will be doing to us and with us at that time…and of course it is further preparation for the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus on Easter.
But as we know, we are first to go down deep to search the depths of our own souls…contemplate the depth of our sins and what we have been redeemed from and to spend Lent in serious and true repentance and reflection.
In each case, when it comes to the Apostles of Jesus, we have the example of men who were chosen by Christ, called to follow Him and then empowered…. once He was gone, to then go out boldly into the world and plant Churches and call others to repent and to come into the Kingdom of God.
Right now, as we prepare for Lent, we should be thinking on how God has faithfully preserved His Church, despite her blemishes.
We see first of all that God’s desire was to have 12 and not 11 men to be His Apostolic core, if you will.
We will not engage in numerology here, but the fact that Christ chose 12 men and then once Judas had gone God moved another man into that position, we can see that it was important that there be 12 men.
In the Old Testament, Jacob had 12 sons. These became the 12 Tribes. This was Israel. This was the people of God, numbered at 12.
God chose this amount, not randomly, but purposely.
When Jesus chooses His men to carry on His ministry, He also puts 12 men in this primary initial position, in order to make the same point.
This was the New Israel.
This was the Church.
This was a continuation of God’s people and of the number of them who would be saved….not 12 saved, but a complete number reflecting those whom God chose in Israel.
It is by the power of God, to complete the work that He began, that we can hold fast to as we do approach Lent.
The time immediately following Jesus death, the Apostles hid, locked in the upper room. They were frightened.
But after Jesus appeared to them and further after the Holy Spirit came upon them at Pentecost, …though they were still in number of 11…the Apostles were empowered and emboldened to get out from behind locked doors.
Our Epistle lesson today tells us about Peter, boldly standing up and proclaiming to the 120 or so who were gathered there,
“Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus.”
Peter, here is referring to David speaking in two places in the Psalms about Judas… “may his camp become desolate and let there be no one to dwell in it” and “another taking his office..” referring obviously to Judas vacating his office via betrayal and subterfuge…and the Lord seeing to it that not only is Judas punished, but he and his name is cut off for all generations and someone is moved in to take his place…his office.
This is a message to all of us, that those who betray Christ or reject Him to the end, will also have no inheritance with the saints in light.
They too will be cut off from the land of the living, as Judas was.
This is why we are to take the time of Lent so seriously. We take inventory of our own lives, but we also contemplate those who never repent of their sins and turn to Christ and lament the fact that they don’t.
They flourish for a while, but eventually, they perish. Judas had his chance to remain with the faithful. He chose not to.
Peter is here reminding the crowd that God will be victorious over men’s desires. He will bring the full number of the elect into His Kingdom.
St. Matthias symbolizes for us today, God's work in completion. …bringing to completion and wholeness, His Church.
They prayed acknowledging God’s sovereignty in knowing the hearts of all men…knowing and determining the events that will come to pass.
Further, we are comforted and given confidence from what Jesus says in the Gospel today as well.
Jesus is teaching a few verses earlier about those who reject him. He says that Tyre and Sidon could maybe find some excuse since the voice of God had not come to them…and no miracles had come to them…but to those cities that Jesus entered and did miracles and preached in, rejected Him, so the problem is compounded in their case.
These had Jesus visit them.
These had Jesus do miracles in them.
And yet they rejected Him.
He says therefore, woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! …it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you.  And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? [[NO]] you will be brought down to Hades.
For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.  But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.” (ESV)
“All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.  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.” (ESV)
The rejection of Christ, such as Judas had, was a lack of understanding…indeed the rejection of the gentle spirit of Christ….the lowly heart of Christ.
He did not understand the easy yoke of the Lord Jesus.
But a faithful man named Matthias was chosen because he had proven his faithfulness and loyalty to the lowly Christ and had brought his burden to Christ early on, exchanged it for the light burden that He gives all of us to carry, which is faith, trust…
…the works He calls us to do….the burden He gives us to bear...is to believe on His name.
He was chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship.
So we have heard the Gospel preached to us. We have learned of Christ’s easy yoke and light burden.
And we know that He is building His church to completion and to perfection, by supplying Matthias to the 11, bringing the number to 12 once again.
This is the confidence we have of the power of God unto salvation.
We give thanks today for the faithfulness of St. Matthias, who was found worthy to enter into the higher calling of being numbered among the 12…
…while we lament the sin of Judas for throwing that away.
Let us then strive for the prize that God has for each of us…that is laid up for us…in also being faithful to Him unto the end.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen. +