“We have an eye witness.” Well, that got his attention. You see I was helping with an investigation with a recent spate of home burglaries in the area and we had caught a suspect in one of the neighborhoods where this was happening. This young man had been very successful in avoiding being seen or caught in the act until he robbed a house next door to a stay-at-home mom. This lady saw the man climb into a window, and come out the back door with a TV. Once he heard we had an eyewitness, he confessed and took us to where he had hidden the stolen property.
We filter our world through what we experience firsthand. There is a reason that eyewitness testimony is so valuable, even if each witness experiences the same event from different perspectives. That’s actually what makes their testimony so valuable; they share themselves and their unique perspective with us all and we are invited to “see” another aspect of our common world in a free, unique, and unrepeatable way! No wonder the disciples chose another to take Judas’ place in the company of the 12 after the Lord’s ascension into heaven!
Look at our lesson today in Acts 1:12-17, 21-26:
IN THOSE DAYS, the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away; and when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaios and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.
In those days Peter stood up among the brethren (the company of persons was in all about a hundred and twenty), and said, “Brethren, the scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David, concerning Judas who was guide to those who arrested Jesus. For he was numbered among us, and was allotted his share in this ministry. “So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us-one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.”
And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was surnamed Justos, and Matthias. And they prayed and said, “Lord, who knowest the hearts of all men, show which one of these two thou hast 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 enrolled with the eleven apostles.
So, why not be satisfied with 11 Apostles? Well, first off the Lord chose 12 disciples for a specific reason. There were 12 tribes of Israel! And the Lord was sending a signal with His choice of 12 disciples that He was remaking the 12 tribes into His kingdom. The Lord was following through on the promises made to Abraham all those centuries ago that Abraham’s offspring would be a blessing to the whole world! 12 wasn’t necessarily a “magic” number as much as it was a signal that there is meant to be both continuity with the past AND a transformation of the present!
But also notice the criteria the Apostles used to choose Judas’ replacement. First, the man who replaces Judas as one of the 12 had to have been one who has accompanied the disciples since the beginning when St. John baptized the Lord in the Jordan. Next. the replacement must have also been with them after the Resurrection. And third, they must have also witnessed the Ascension of the Lord. Sounds like the man who would fill these requirements had paid the price of being a follower of Jesus well!
And they chose Matthias to take the place of Judas among the 12. What is so amazing about this is that Matthias was the only Apostle of the Lord not chosen personally by the Lord AND his becoming the 12th Apostle occurs BEFORE the Feast of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit fell on all of them. It seems God uses us, humans, in ways that astound even us!
Today, as we celebrate the Feast of St. Matthias, let’s examine our hearts to see if we have become eyewitnesses to the power of Christ to change a person. Is there sufficient evidence to convict you of being a follower of Christ? There will be if you’re Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. Truly, into all the world your sound has gone forth as a brightly-beaming sun; and it enlightens by grace the Church of all nations on the earth, O wonderworking Matthias, Apostle of Christ. Pray for us! Amen.