Thursday

Lord, you know everyone’s heart (v. 24)

Acts 1:15-26 Thursday 14 May 2020

Psalm: Psalm 47

Background

Today is observed in Christian tradition as the feast day of St Matthias and our reading describes his appointment as an apostle to replace the traitor Judas. Jesus had chosen twelve apostles no doubt because Israel was divided into twelve tribes and the apostles were to be a sign of its renewal.

What may surprise the reader is the number of possible candidates. From the Gospels it is easy to gain the impression that Jesus had a close circle of twelve followers and a much larger, ill-defined and ever-changing crowd, some of whom may have gone from place to place while most would not. Here it is clear that some at least were with him from the beginning and stayed to the end.

Selection by lot was widely practised in the ancient world often for the final choice from a pre-selected shortlist. It is also found in the Old Testament (eg Joshua 14:1-5). In modern parlance ‘lottery’ suggests a gamble but the belief was that God would determine the outcome. Matthias’ appointment is therefore not the choice of his fellow disciples but of the risen Jesus (v. 24).

Throughout the New Testament, passages from the Old are used either to find meaning in what has happened or to provide guidance for what should be done. In verse 20 it serves both purposes (see Psalms 69:25 and 109:8).

We hear nothing more of Matthias (or of many of the other Apostles). Their ministry is not recorded.

 

To Ponder:

  • What would be the merits and demerits of reintroducing selection by lot?
  • What do you think are the essential qualifications for a Christian leader today?
  • Has history been too hard on Judas?
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