So, “Judas went out and hanged himself”. There was a gap for an apostle. They held an election. By lottery: the lottery-chosen apostle.
The story comes in Acts 1:20-26, where Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias were two who’s names were put forward as potential replacements. They were undoubtably both part of the ’72’ disciples. Lots were chosen to decide between them. St. Matthias was chosen.
I have long had a soft spot for Matthias. For a while, back in 2000, I was priest in charge of a church dedicated to St Matthias. And as 14 May is St Matthias Day in the CofE calendar, it brought him to mind.
Yet, in other places, St Matthias is celebrated on 24 February. Like in the calendar of Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia. And it was on 24 February 2000, St. Matthias’ Day, that I was licensed to St. Matthias, Panmure, Auckland, NZ by the then bishop of Auckland, the Rt Rev’d John Paterson. It was a significant day for Bishop John too, as he had been consecrated Bishop of Auckland on the feast of St. Matthias in 1994; and he preached that day on the saint, his election, and ‘filling in’.
There is something wonderful about being chosen – even by lottery – to be part of something special.
My feelings are even more with Justus, Joseph Barsabbas, though. To be -almost- chosen as one of ‘The Twelve’. But not. To have been “one of those who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us”, and then only recorded as an also-ran. Like one of those left standing, one of the last chosen for a team on the school playing field.
We hear no more of Justus. But then, we hear no more of Matthias either. Both had been close to Jesus throughout his ministry; both were considered worthy of consideration. One was chosen: one wasn’t. That is just how the lottery can go. However that didn’t actually change what went on before. Or afterwards. For either of them. Don’t get too worried about the lottery. But do rejoice in God’s unexpected surprises.