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July 30, 2017

Sermon Acts 1:26 . . .“People to meet in heaven:  Matthias”

“People to meet in heaven:  Matthias”

Acts 1:26

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus.

In an article entitled, Should second fiddles be ashamed of their position?, author Chuck Violand, writes, “When you hear someone described as playing ‘second fiddle,’ it’s usually not a flattering term for the person wearing it…it conjures up images of being second-rate, living in the shadow of the one in first place, or riding someone else’s coattails.  Let’s be honest here—it’s not a position most people aspire to hold.”

But if you think about it, being “second fiddle” isn’t all bad.  After all, many “first fiddles” wouldn’t have achieved the success they had, had it not been for a second fiddle.

For example, everyone knows Elvis Presley and his famed rock-and-roll career.  But what you may not know is that it was another man, Scotty Moore, who served as his first guitarist and manager for fourteen years.  Elvis Presley couldn’t have been Elvis Presley without him.

Or think of presidents John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Harry S Truman, just to name a few.  Before they became “first fiddle” presidents, they were “second fiddle” vice-presidents.

Even more, where would the Lone Ranger be without his Tonto, or Batman without his Robin, or Bud Abbott without his Lou Costello, or Captain Kirk without his Mr. Spock, or Darryl Hall without his John Oates, or Sherlock Holmes without his Dr. Watson?

Maybe it’s not so bad to be “second fiddle” after all!

If you didn’t already know it, the Bible is not the Who’s Who Among Executives and Professionals.  It’s the story of how God, time after time, chose those whom the world would consider unlikely, if not downright unworthy.

David was the very youngest in his family.  That’s why, when the prophet Samuel came calling to anoint a new king over Israel, his father left him out in the fields with the sheep.  Mary was just a young peasant girl when the angel Gabriel came bearing startling news.  Peter was a bold, brash fisherman and Matthew was a despised tax collector.

So it was for a man named Matthias.  Anyone could have told you he too was just a second fiddle.  But suddenly, by the grace of God, he became an apostle, one of the very twelve disciples of the Lord.

Please turn in your Bible to page 1156 as I read the words of our text.  I’ll start where it says, “Matthias Chosen to Replace Judas,” at Acts chapter 1, verse 12:

“Then they 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 Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James.  All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and His brothers.”

Let’s step back for a moment to see what’s going on.

As you can tell by glancing at the text, Jesus had just returned to His Father in heaven.  As He raised His hands in blessing, a cloud took Him from their sight.  Then two angels, in white robes, came to say, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven?  This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw Him go into heaven.”

And in this time of great joy, wonder and expectation, the disciples returned to Jerusalem.  That’s when, as it says in verse 15, “Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) and said, ‘Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled…’”

One hundred and twenty, it said.  That’s interesting!  Who were the one hundred and twenty?

Well, we know about the disciples—Andrew and Philip, Thomas and Matthew, Peter, James and John.  And the women, probably Salome, Joanna and Mary Magdalene.  Also, Mary, Jesus’ mother, was there, with His brothers and sisters.

Then assuming the seventy-two that Jesus had once sent out were there, as well as two members of the Sanhedrin--Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, that leaves us with some thirty more we know nothing about.

Yet, there they were, all gathered together in that upper room, to worship, to fellowship and to pray.

And calling to mind the words of Psalm 109, “Let another take his office,” Peter sought to fill the place left empty because of Judas.

Why?  Because, in the Bible, that number twelve is a pretty important number.  In the breastplate of the high priest, there were twelve precious stones, and in the temple, there were twelve flat cakes of bread.  Think of the twelve sons of Jacob, the twelve tribes of Israel, the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, with its twelve gates of pearl and its walls 144 (that’s 12 times 12!) cubits high.

And how old was Jesus when He confounded the teachers of the Law?  Twelve.  How old was Jairus’ daughter whom He raised from the dead?  Twelve.  When men arrested Him in the Garden of Gethsemane, how many legions of angels did He say He could call?  Twelve.  And when He fed the five thousand men, (not to mention the women and children), how many basketfuls were leftover?  That’s right.  Twelve.

In the Bible, twelve is a pretty important number.  That’s why Peter found it necessary to fill Judas’ place.

But who would do it?  Who would qualify?

Look at verse 21:  “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 verse 23:  ‘And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, and Matthias.  And they prayed and said, ‘You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two You have 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 numbered with the eleven apostles.”

Think about it—Matthias was there when Jesus preached His Sermon on the Mount, and when He multiplied the fish and loaves beside the Sea of Galilee.  He witnessed the miraculous healings in Cana, Capernaum, Jericho and Chorazin.  His lips shouted “Hosanna!” on Palm Sunday.  And his heart was broken on that first Good Friday.

But words could not express his joy, glory and wonder to see Jesus risen from the dead!

For three years, Matthias had heard it all and seen it all, in total obscurity.  Yet even though the gospels never mentioned his name, he was there on every page.

And now by the grace of God, called to be a disciple, an apostle, one of the Twelve, he would experience the wind and fire of Pentecost.  He would suffer persecution and arrest.  He would preach and teach, heal and baptize.  And he would rejoice to be counted worthy to suffer for the sake of Jesus’ name.

What does all this mean for us?

In a way, Matthias was rather unremarkable.  As far as history is concerned, he’s just a footnote.  In this inspired record, he’s little more than just a name.

But even though he might seem so unremarkable to us, he was remarkable to God.

And so are we.  

As one author wrote:  “We are the ordinary who are extraordinary, only because of the riches of God’s grace in Christ, the mercy of His love to forgive us, the desire of His heart to redeem us, the wisdom of His Spirit to call us, the miracle of His work to teach us faith, and the mission that is ours for one brief shining moment while we live, and then it passes to others.”

Karl Paul Reinhold Niebuhr was an American pastor and professor, born in June of 1892.  His book, The Irony of American History, has been called, “the most important book ever written on U.S. foreign policy.”  Historian Arthur Schlesinger described him as “the most influential American theologian of the 20th century.”  Lyndon Johnson awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

But his life was never easy.  He was born in America of German immigrants, at a time when America and Germany were at war.  And he lived through the darkest days of the Second World War.

But hoping to provide some comfort in the midst of war, he wrote a prayer that many soldiers carried on a small white card as they went off to war.

This is what it said:  “God, grant me grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed; courage to change the things which should be changed; and the wisdom to know the difference.”

And he wrote:  “…living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; and taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is.  Not as I would have it, but trusting that You will make all things right, if I but surrender to Your will.  So that I may be reasonably happy in this life; and supremely happy with You forever, in the next.”

God doesn’t require you to be talented, smart or good-looking.  All He asks is that you be faithful, just like Matthias, to tell of the hope that is in you, of Jesus risen from the dead.

His mercy will cover the rest.

 

We thank You, dear Father, for Matthias, and for his call into service.  Help us, in our time and place, to know, to understand, and to do Your will, for Jesus’ sake.  Amen

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