Matthias who?

Pierre Whalon
4 min readNov 11, 2022

Let’s reflect on this obscure fellow, Matthias, who was chosen by lot to replace Judas Iscariot. His story gives us an important lesson about what being Christian means.

Peter said, “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 must become a witness with us to his resurrection.” (Acts 1: 21–22)

The immediate issue is the suicide of Judas. Having betrayed Jesus, he apparently could no longer live with himself. We might linger at the mystery of this man, disciple of Jesus, described in various ways, most damningly by the writer of the Gospel of John. But as Peter says, they need a replacement for Judas, right now.

Job description for an apostle

The qualifications of this person are interesting. It needs to be a man (!), and one who has been part of the Jesus movement since the baptism of John, where it all began for them. This points to a reality that the Gospels mention but do not linger over, that John the Baptist baptized Jesus and those who would become his disciples. And this man must have stayed the course with Jesus through his ups and downs, right up through the crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of the Lord.

And he is to replace not just any disciple, but one of the Twelve. In other words, he is to become an apostle. The difference is this: a disciple is someone who is learning about Jesus, an apostle is sent with the duty of telling the story of Jesus. The word “apostle” means “sent with a message.”

There were two candidates, Barsabbas (also known as Justus), and Matthias. Lots were cast and Mathias got the nod. Barsabbas drops out of sight even faster than the winner.

Twelve again

Now there were twelve apostles again, including this Matthias, who appears only in this story to replace Judas and disappears just as quickly. There are a few stories about him, told much later, that he went to Ethiopia to preach the Good News, but that is all. Of course, the number of apostles grew, especially to include Paul, who himself mentions several others he calls apostles, including some women.

But it is significant that Peter sets out the requirement that the one to be elected has to have been among the first who knew Jesus when he was with John, and who stuck it out until the…

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Pierre Whalon

Bishop in charge, Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, 2001–2019. French-American. Musician, composer, author, happily married. www.pierrewhalon.info