7th Sunday of Easter – C LSB #’s 861, 468, 856
Text – Acts 1:26
And they cast lots for them, & the lot fell on Matthias, & he was numbered with the eleven apostles.
AND THE LOT FELL…
Casting lots appears at least 70 times in the OT. In reality there’s nothing all that special about it. It’s just a means of making a selection. In our world, children use rock, paper, scissors. Lining up & counting off by numbers was a common method in my high school gym classes. Then, there’s the time-honored method of having a volunteer step forward.
I was on our volunteer fire department at the time. The ambulance had just arrived with a shooting victim & we were waiting for the helicopter to land. It was going to transport him the rest of the way to the hospital. Four of us were standing there when the ambulance driver said he needed a volunteer to do chest compressions on the victim.
The other three men with me immediately took a step backwards, thus ‘selecting’ me as the chosen one. You could say, the lot fell on me, but there wasn’t time to waste griping about it. Another time I was on the board of trustees & elections were coming up. As the board was voting for its chairman I ended up getting two of the five votes.
It had never occurred to me that I’d even get one. I was only 28 years old. Everyone else on the board was 60 & older, so much more experienced. There’s no way I should have been voted for, & while I wasn’t elected in that case, I had time to feel put upon. Drawing the short straw is not considered a blessing, because it means you’re getting “stuck” with the job.
That’s often how we look at it. There was a guy in the OT named Jonah who strongly agreed with us, so much so, that he got on a boat & sailed in the totally opposite direction. Fortunately for him, God did not strike him dead, but gave Jonah time & incentive to change his mind while he was in the belly of a great fish. We can also remember Lot’s wife. She too was chosen to escape the fire & brimstone destruction of Sodom & Gomorrah, yet she was disappointed in being chosen, & it cost her her life.
“And they cast lots for them, & the lot fell on Matthias, & he was numbered with the eleven apostles.” Matthias was never heard from again. At least, the Bible never mentions his name after that illustrious election. So why all the bother & trouble to choose someone who would replace Judas, if he never has another word written about him in all of Holy Scripture?
Actually, it’s a common technique used by the Holy Spirit as He inspires the writing of God’s Word. We see it clearly in the parable of the Prodigal Son. As Jesus nears the ending, we hear the older son berating his father for celebrating when the derelict younger son returns home. Then, we are left with these final words from the father to the older son:
“Son, you are always with me, & all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate & be glad, for this your brother was dead, & is alive; he was lost, & is found.” (Luke 15:1 ESV) Nothing is said of how that son responds. The conclusion is left hanging because the intent of God’s Spirit appears to be this – You are to place yourself into the older son’s shoes.
The derelict younger son was indeed dead, but now he’s been found alive. Can’t you celebrate that good news? The Gospel message has done its work & brought the younger son home, to life & to salvation. That same Gospel message is inviting you. How will you respond? What is your answer? Will you join the celebration?
Going back to this morning’s reading from the book of Acts, what happens to Matthias is never reported. Again, we’re left hanging. Nothing is said of how Matthias responds. Could it be that we are meant also to place ourselves into the shoes of Matthias? How would we respond if chosen to be one of Jesus’ disciples? What is your answer? What will we do with the good news, & with the blessings, each of us has received from our Father in heaven? Do we respond with feelings of having been ‘put upon’ by Christ? Do you react with the feeling that you have been ‘stuck’ with the job?
Mother’s often get ‘stuck’ taking care of business – doing laundry, cleaning the house, chasing after all the activities the children are involved in. Like Matthias, they frequently receive little credit for their effort. However, at Mark 9:35, Jesus encourages them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all & servant of all.”
Doesn’t that sound like a job description for mothers? So we celebrate Mother’s Day to thank them for coming through in the clutch. But that doesn’t leave the rest of us children of God off the hook. The love Jesus displayed on the cross motivates our saintly nature as well.
We too are compelled to respond by what God’s Son did for us on the cross, for we too have been chosen. Sure, our sinful nature always feels put upon by God’s love. It feels put upon for being chosen. Our saintly nature disciplines itself in order to turn away from our selfish desires & looks out for the good of those around us.
Jesus calls us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. That is what Jesus chooses us for. He’s already prepared the good works in advance that we are to do. All He asks of us is to make ourselves available. Don’t run away. Don’t make excuses. Just step up & answer His calling. Our heavenly Father provides the strength. He provides the courage.
What is your answer? That seems to be the message with the choosing of Matthias. Now, what will you do with the good news, with the blessings, each of you has received from our Father in heaven? In the Gospel of John, Jesus explained God’s plan this way:
“You did not choose me, but I chose you & appointed you that you should go & bear fruit & that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, He may give it to you.” (John 15:16 ESV) Jesus himself had called Judas & numbered him among the twelve. Yet, Judas betrayed His Lord & Master. His story serves as a warning to every follower of Jesus to “take heed lest he fall.” It calls for daily repentance & belief in the forgiveness of sin.
Satan is at war with us, even if we don’t believe we are not at war with him. The battle is ongoing. Will you be a victim? Will your children, or grandchildren? Imagine how put upon you’d feel then? Nevertheless, we are impossibly weak & incapable of the battle. Our Savior has already won the war, but battle still rages on. How do we keep going?
You might remember these verses from the book of Hebrews:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, & sin which clings so closely, & let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder & perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, & is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (12:1-2 ESV)
For the joy that was set before Him, Jesus endured the suffering & death that was ours. The reading this morning from Revelation gives us a glimpse of that joy which was set before Christ. It’s a rendition of the life each of us has been chosen for:
“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God & of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God & of the Lamb will be in it, & His servants will worship Him. They will see His face, & His name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, & they will reign forever & ever.” (Revelation 22:1-5)
That is the life we will be ‘stuck’ with in heaven. It’s easy to celebrate that on Easter morning, because everything is geared up for that big day. So what about this morning? If you don’t feel all that special today, if you feel ‘put upon’ & the lot has fallen on you, are you still able to rejoice at the good news that Jesus is risen? Can you still worship Him this here & now? Yes, Jesus has won the war, but the battle is ongoing for every last soul. We should look forward to the glorious life of the heaven to come, in order to keep running the race with endurance. Our salvation does NOT depend upon it, but we have the Good News which other people need to hear so they can join us in heaven.
In today’s reading from Acts 1, Peter’s message doesn’t spend much time recounting the past, or dwelling on the pain of Judas’ betrayal, or trying to explain it away. Peter notes the pain simply & quickly as a reminder of the fulfillment of the Word of God in their midst. Even the betrayal was foretold, & God’s prophecy had come true.
Then Peter turns to the hope of their future. He uses the pain to focus on the resurrection. He uses the death of Judas to focus on the new life. The remaining 11 disciples had spent three momentous years with him. They shared an incredible journey, & he was as close to them as a blood brother.
The sole reason Peter can preach a word at all in the trauma of betrayal & death is because of the other dead Man they had spent three years with – the dead Man who is raised from the dead. Peter & his fellow disciples have hope in the face of the one man’s death because they are witnesses to the other Man’s resurrection.
“And they cast lots for them, & the lot fell on Matthias, & he was numbered with the eleven apostles.” Could it be that the reason we never hear of Matthias again is because his story is our story? And with Jesus, what a story it will be! Amen.
I am content! My Jesus is my Light, my radiant sun of grace. His cheering rays beams blessings forth for all, sweet comfort, hope & peace. This Easter sun has brought salvation & everlasting exultation. I am content! At length I shall be free, awakened from the dead, arising glorious evermore to be with You, my living head. The chains that hold my body, sever; then shall my soul rejoice forever. I am content! I am content! Amen. LSB 468:3-4
 1 Corinthians 10:12
 Acts 1:26
Pastor Dean R. Poellet