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Matthias was the thirteenth individual to become an Apostle, replacing Judas Iscariot after his betrayal of Jesus Christ and suicide. Matthias was the only Apostle not appointed directly by Jesus Himself, but was selected by the Apostles with a lot. Matthias status as an Apostle is controversial, given that Paul calls himself an Apostle; while Jesus did not appoint Matthias directly.

Etymology

Matthias is a  form of the Hebrew name מַתִּתְיָה (Mattithiah) and shares the meaning with Matthew the Apostle, that is to say, "Gift of God". 

Biography

Early Life

Young Matthias was born during the reign of Caesar Augustus in the early first century AD. Given the name "Gift of God", his birth must have been a joyous time for his family. When he was a young man, after the new emperor, Tiberius, had been in office for fifteen years, a prophet came preaching about turning from worldly ways to follow God. The prophet looked like stories of the prophet Elijah. But when Matthias came to listen, John the Baptist had pointed towards a local man by the name of Jesus. And so, he joined others in the crowd seeking out the new rabbi from Nazareth. Life was never the same after that.

Life as a Disciple

One of the things about being a disciple of a popular rabbi was that one learned from not just his words, but his manner of life. Matthias was impressed by the message and the compassion the Master had on those coming for healing. When the message got controversial, many of the crowds began to leave, going back to their villages[1], but Matthias stuck with him, agreeing that no other teacher had a grasp on the truth like the Nazarene. At times he may have gone home to visit his family as "the twelve" had time alone with the Master, but he was committed to the Master wherever he led.

One of the hardest parts of his life had come a little over three years after he had first met Jesus. The Master had angered the Jewish leaders teaching that he was the "Son of God" and disregarding the regulations about work on Sabbath. This led to Jesus being arrested and executed as a heretic and seditionist. Along with most of the disciples, Matthias ran from the Jews, fearing that the Master's followers would be next to be killed. On the first day of the week following the execution, though, reports from the eleven reached the others. Jesus had arisen, just as he said he would.

For forty days after that, he joined the small crowd that gathered, about 120 in number[2] to listen to the Master once again. The seminars in the Judean hills were packed with words of wisdom as three years of study was recapped in six weeks. And then, after forty days Jesus told them they were to go out into the world, far beyond Judea, to tell others about what God had done and was still doing. And then Jesus told them to wait for t3n days in Jerusalem for a special anointing.


While little is known about Matthias, it is known he was present for all of Jesus's ministry[3]: from his baptism by , to the Resurrection, and to the Ascension[4]. Matthias was an eyewitness of these events and this would eventually lead to him being qualified for candidacy as an Apostle.

Selected as an Apostle

While they were waiting for the Feast of Weeks to come, Simon Peter gathered the core group together with a proposition. The lead Apostle was concerned that there was now an odd number of Apostles. It was important for there to be twelve special leaders for Jesus had promised there would be "twelve thrones" in the Kingdom to come[5]. Peter discussed how long ago David prophesied about the one who would become Judas[6]. He called to their mind a passage in the Book of Psalms that they would need a replacement[7][8].

Along with Joseph Justus, who they called Barsabbas, Matthias was recommended as a candidate for the position. He remembered that this other man, known for his family (he was the son of one Tsabas) had left everything to follow Jesus[9]. The two of them had joined the disciples about the same time. Out of over one hundred disciples, these two men were equally qualified. It came down to a secret ballot, called the "lot" (Aramaic: Purim). Much like the Urim and Thummim that the high priest used to discern God's will[10], everyone casting a vote had a dark stone and a white one. Each candidate was assigned a color and, after prayer, they each dropped one of their stones a the box. Then, with the ratio of light and dark unknown, someone reached into the box and drew a single stone out.

Matthias and Barsabas, perhaps each hoping the other man got the responsibility, held their breath as the chosen mediator between God and man was used to reveal the will of God. The stone representing Matthias was pulled out and shown to the group. Matthias was now an Apostle[11].

Subsequent Ministry

The Coming of the Spirit

Nothing is said of Matthias after this in the Bible. But it is clear that he was there at Pentecost as the Apostles and other disciples heard the rushing sound of a wind and a frightful display of "tongues of fire" over their heads. As Jews from all over the known world had gathered for the festivities,t he story of Jesus rising from the dead was the talk of the town, with over 500 hundred witnesses[12] spreading the news. Perhaps drawn to the roar or the light in the upper room, crowds looked on as the group began to mingle, speaking in languages they didn't recognize. The apostles seemed to be spouting gibberish, but people in the crowd found the one speaking their preferred language--not Greek or Hebrew--and heard that the stories were true.

The First Church of Jerusalem

For a while after Pentecost the church grew from 500 witnesses to over 8000[13]. Then, Jewish believers began to open their homes for meeting places, competing with priests at the temple and synagogues in the villages near the city. The practice arose in the meetings to serve big meals and incorporate the Lord's Supper with it. Another practice was to collect funds for the widows and other poor. Such work was drawing away from the apostles' job. It was especially bad when the Greek speaking Jews began to complain that the local Jews were treating their poor differently. Matthias joined with the other apostles in proposing that men be chosen to serve the needs of the poor.

The selection process this time was not for one slot, but for as many as were needed. It turned out to be seven men, all fully qualified, and suitably Greek, were chosen. One of those, a young man named Stephen, turned out to be very talented preacher.

The Dispersion of the Church

The Jews had not been quiet during the three years or so before this. They had hired agents sent from the high priest to round up Christians in the villages and in Jerusalem. But Stephen stood up against the bullies, preaching a message that reached back to Abraham and on to the Resurrection, he named names and accused his accusers of being out of the will of God. They stoned him for it. As Stephen was dying, a young man by the name of Saul watched on. As a result of this the thousands of Jewish believers were dispersed back to their homelands, spreading the gospel as they went[14].

The Jerusalem Council

Only a remnant of believers, including the 12 remained in Jerusalem after this. Peter and James (Son of Zebedee) were captured by Herod Agrippa and James was killed. The other apostles had gathered in John Mark's house to pray and were surprised when Peter showed up, having been released from prison by an angel. Soon after that, Peter went into hiding while the soldiers were looking for them. The leadership in Jerusalem moved into the hands of another James, the half-brother of Jesus. Peter began ministering to Gentiles and reporting back to Jerusalem periodically.

Meanwhile, another outstanding missionary arose from a surprising place. The persecutor Saul of Tarsus had been miraculously converted and began a ministry out of the church in Antioch. He also preached to the Gentiles, and Jewish believers brought up the matter of how "Jewish" a believer had to be. It came to a head when he refused to have a young colleague circumcised. In the proceedings, Matthias saw that a "true Apostle" who had seen the resurrected Master in a special way, had earned the office of "Apostle" to replace John's brother James.

Legacy

One by one most of the apostles were killed doing their work as evangelists. Peter and Paul met their end in Rome before the government there went to war with the Jews in the mid 60's. James had been stoned by apostate Jews in Jerusalem as an aged pastor there. John had escaped death and was exiled near the church he served for years at Ephesus. Some reports from church historians say Matthias died in Jerusalem as his colleague James--by stoning. Most state that he served as a missionary to the Black Sea area where he died, perhaps violently.

The Twelfth Apostle

John received a vision from Jesus which declared that the "names of the twelve apostles" were to be inscribed on twelve "foundations" of the New Jerusalem[15]. Also as Jesus had prophesied, there were twelve thrones to fill. The question arises: "Whose name is on the twelfth stone?" There were at least fifteen named among the Apostles in the New Testament. Most agree that Paul, who was called to be an Apostle[16], is the name to forever replace Judas Iscariot.  This leaves noted leaders like the Lord's brother James[17], Paul's co-workers of note "among the apostles"[18], and yes, even a duly allotted Apostle named Matthias out. Perhaps the "twelve" thrones and stones are meant be symbols for something more. That would solve this conundrum, but it is not stated anywhere in the Scriptures.

Verses

  1. John 6:66 (Link)
  2. Acts 1:15 (Link)
  3. Acts 1:21 (Link)
  4. Acts 1:22 (Link)
  5. Mt 19:28 (Link)
  6. Acts 1:16-17 (Link)
  7. Psa 109:8 (Link)
  8. Acts 1:20 (Link)
  9. Lu 9:23 (Link)
  10. Ne 7:65 (Link)
  11. Acts 1:23-26 (Link)
  12. 1 Cor 15:6 (Link)
  13. Acts 2:41; 4:4 (Link)
  14. Acts 6:8--8:2 (Link)
  15. Re 21:14 (Link)
  16. Romans 1:1, Ephesians 1:1, 2 Timothy 1:1, 1 Corinthians 1:1 (Link)
  17. James 1:1 (note he calls himself a servant) (Link)
  18. Ro 16:7 (Link)

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