The Church is not Left Without
St. Matthias, Apostle February 24, 2019
15 In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) and said, 16 “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. 17 For he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.” 18 (Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness, and falling headlong he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. 19 And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their own language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) 20 “For it is written in the Book of Psalms, “‘May his camp become desolate, and let there be no one to dwell in it’; and “‘Let another take his office.’ 21 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 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.” 23 And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, and Matthias. 24 And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen 25 to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” 26 And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.
In the Name of Jesus.
Twelve Apostles. It’s always twelve. In the Old Testament, it was the twelve sons of Jacob—Reuben and Levi and Joseph and the rest. From those twelve sons of Jacob we have the twelve tribes of Israel.
Israel, the people of God. Those rescued and brought into the promised land. These people beckoned to the altar in Jerusalem to be cleansed of all sin; these people, lowly sinners each one, yet justified by the voice of God, they are Israel, a light to the Gentiles, the revelation of salvation to the nations. This twelve tribes of Jacob is built on the Word of the prophets whom God sent to cleanse Israel, keeping them as his people.
It is good for us to remember this. For the Church—the Church we know now, the Church we are in, the New Testament Church—is the New Israel of God. Jesus with his own blood redeemed Israel and all the nations. Now all those gathered to the Body and Blood of Jesus, who came from the twelve tribes of Israel, are the true Israel of God.
It is all built on the twelve tribes. God will have his twelve.
To not have twelve is to not have it all, to have less than fulness. It would be a man going to the store to buy eleven eggs. Or going over to the cooler of six packs, and trying to buy five beers. Why? No one buys eleven eggs, no one buys five beers. You buy the carton of twelve, or the six pack, you get the whole thing, the fulness.
God will have his twelve. So when Jesus, who is Israel reduced to one—he’s standing in for the whole thing—when he appoints Apostles, it’s twelve. Luke 6:12:
12 In these days [Jesus] went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God. 13 And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles: 14 Simon, whom he named Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, 15 and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot, 16 and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot.
God has his twelve. Upon these Apostles he will build his Church. He will send them out into Judah, into Samaria, into Galilee of the Gentiles, to preach the Gospel, to proclaim the Name of Jesus, to cleanse sinners.
Among those twelve was the one named Judas Iscariot. Judas, as the Apostle Peter said, “was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.” [Acts 1:17]
This means, many sinners—in Samaria, in Galilee—would have first heard the Name Jesus, would’ve had their sins forgiven and gone home with a cleansed conscience, from the preaching of the Apostle Judas.
But, as we know, Judas went his own way. The cleansing of Jesus blood? Judas turned away from it—he didn’t want to be cleansed only by grace. The justification of the sinner by Jesus’ Word? Judas walked the other way—he would justify himself or would not be justified at all. So Judas turned Jesus over to the teachers of the Law, to those who wanted to keep sinners locked in guilt, and to the Priests and the Sadducees who wanted to make the Temple look good from the outside, and turning Jesus over to those who deal in the Law, Judas betrayed the Lord of life. And walked away from his apostolic office:
“‘May his camp become desolate, and let there be no one to dwell in it’; and “‘Let another take his office.’”[Acts 1:20]
That leaves eleven Apostles. That’s like eleven eggs, instead of a dozen. God will have his fulness, he will have his twelve.
So the eleven Apostles hear the Word of the Lord saying that another will take the office of Judas, and from the men who were with Jesus throughout his ministry, those who saw John the Baptist baptize Jesus, announcing him as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, who saw Jesus heal the blind and the deaf, who saw him speak so kindly to the hurting woman at the well, who saw him eating and drinking wine with the tax-collectors and winebibbers, who saw him free sinners from the oppression of the teachers of the Law, who saw Jesus be publicly humiliated and crucified, from these men, the eleven Apostles brought forth two, Joseph and Matthias.
Then they cast lots. They didn’t cast lots to chose by some game of random chance. They cast lots because God had already chosen the man to fill the apostolic office which Judas had abandoned, and the casting of the lots was the way the Lord’s choosing was made known to them.
We don’t know much about Matthias. Where did he go to do his Apostle-job? Up into Samaria? Maybe even further north? Did he make it up to Syria, perhaps? Did he go as far north, perhaps, as Paul, up into Greece? We have no reason to think so. Scripture says nothing of this.
How many families, how many babies, did the Apostle Matthias baptize? How many families did Matthias teach of the Body and the Blood for the forgiveness of sins, so that they each Lord’s Day would be included in the Sacrament? Of numbers, we know nothing.
Our eyes are upon not Matthias, but the Lord.
The Lord will have his twelve. He will not leave his Church without the fulness.
The Lord gives the Church Matthias, and now the Apostles are complete.
Through these Apostles, the Word will be sent forth. Later, the Lord adds even another. Saul, a preacher of the Law, a teacher holding people under the Law’s accusation, controlling sinners and families with guilt, Saul a Pharisee, is called by the Lord, he’s given a new name, Paul, and he is numbered along with the others as an Apostle. He is now given to preach grace.
So there’s now not twelve, but thirteen. The fulness of twelve has been burst. The Lord creates something new. Thirteen. The Gospel will not be contained. It will burst out, past Jerusalem, past Samaria and Galilee, it will go out into Asia Minor, into Alexandria and northern Africa, into Greece and then Rome, into Spain and the rest of Europe—the Gospel will burst all borders and go out to you and me and our families.
In all this, we see the Lord taking care of his Church.
In a world of sin and death, a world of chaos, disorder, and violence, the voice of the Lord of life needs to be heard, and we the Church to be strong.
So we are tempted to build the Church by the only thing the world understands: strength. By the Law. By human design. By our works and efforts. Saul, when he was a teacher of the Law, wanted to build the Church this way. The other Pharisees too.
But in the midst of all that, stands this figure Matthias. We know hardly anything about him. All we know is the Lord placed him in the apostolic office, not wanting the Church to be without all his gifts of Word and Sacrament.
The Lord will not leave us without either. He will have his fulness. He, the Lord, builds his Church. He does it in his own way. A way that is as unpredictable and unlikely as an unheard of man named Matthias, yet a man the Lord used as his instrument. This way of building the Church is not according to the charts and measurements, the predictions and forecasts, the methodologies and efficiencies of our world.
But it is the Lord’s way to use what is weak and ineffective in world to deliver the gifts of his grace—For God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.[1 Corinthians 1:27]
If our sin is that we will try to build the Church by our own mechanisms and plans, even by putting people under the Law and using coercion, our salvation is that he, the Lord Jesus, builds his Church by the foolishness of the preaching of the Gospel and the weakness of the water and the bread and the wine of the Sacraments.
And into this Church, built upon the foundation of the prophets and the Apostles [Ephesians 2:20], this Church filled with nothing but sinners, but sinners justified by faith, into this Church, he gathers us and our families.
Our lives, along with Matthias, along with all those families baptized by Matthias, taught the Gospel by Matthias, belong to this Lord, from whom we receive every good gift.
In the Name of Jesus.