Earlier this summer I attended the ordination and installation service of William Schubert as the pastor of our sister congregation Heritage Lutheran in Lindenhurst. Pastor Schubert is a 2018 graduate of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary in Mequon, WI and was assigned a call as the pastor of the congregation in Lindenhurst. About thirty graduates from the seminary were assigned to congregations and have now been ordained and installed in those positions over the summer.
I can pretty much assure you that all of these pastoral graduates had one thing in common at their ordination and installation. They were filled with excitement and enthusiasm and have all kinds of dreams and hopes and expectations for their ministries.
All that excitement and all those hopes and dreams are a good thing. That’s the way it should be. But quite soon a new and young pastor is going to learn that the devil is lurking very nearby to disrupt his excitement and all his plans and hopes for his ministry. It’s at this point that he may begin to wonder if he chose the right profession. But if he’s wise he’ll endure because God is teaching him a lesson. And the lesson that God is teaching him is one that Jesus once taught to his twelve disciples: “You didn’t choose me. I chose you.” The young pastor needs to understand that he didn’t really choose this profession or this calling as a pastor. God chose him long ago to be one of his ministers.
Today we’re going to consider Matthias the last of the disciples in our series. The choice of Matthias as the 12th disciple impresses on us that while individuals may choose to enter the public ministry, and while congregations may choose whom they will call to be their pastor, it’s finally God himself who chooses and calls pastors for his ministry.
Today as we conclude our sermon series on the disciples we consider
MATTHIAS, THE LAST DISCIPLE CHOSEN
After Jesus had ascended into heaven the eleven disciples, other disciples and followers of Jesus, and many of the woman who had faithfully followed Jesus, a group of about 120 people, regularly gathered together to pray and worship. In one of those gatherings the disciple Peter stood up and explained that it was necessary for them to choose another disciple to replace Judas who had betrayed Jesus and had committed suicide.
Just as a side light, it’s interesting that the disciples found it necessary to choose a 12th disciple to replace Judas. For some reason not completely revealed to us it was Jesus’ desire that there be twelve disciples. Humanly speaking we could say they could carry on with eleven disciples. Whoever would become a 12th disciple was in fact already a disciple or follower of Jesus along with many others. But there was something significant about having twelve disciples just as there were twelve tribes of Israel in the Old Testament.
Therefore Peter told the group that it was necessary for them to choose that 12th disciple. There were requirements for him. He had to be a man who had been a follower of Jesus from the very beginning. That meant that he had to be a follower from three years earlier when John the Baptist was preaching. In other words he had to be someone who had faithfully stood the test of time, and in that time had seen and heard and learned all the same things that the group of twelve disciples had. And, most important of all, he had to be one of those who was an eyewitness of Jesus risen from the dead.
There no doubt were a number of men who met those requirements, but they proposed two men who apparently were best qualified, Barsabbas and Matthias. Then we’re told, “They prayed, ‘Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.’ Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.” In simple terms they chose two qualified men, prayed that God would show whom he had chosen, and, so to speak, “pulled the name out of the hat” the name of the new disciple.
Be sure to note that Matthias, the last disciple chosen, was chosen in a different way than the other eleven. The other disciples were directly called by Jesus. Jesus knew whom he wanted in his group of twelve, and he personally went to them and told them to follow him. So you may remember how Jesus was at the Sea of Galilee and personally called Peter, James, and John to leave their fishing boats and follow him. He would make them fishers of men. Or Jesus called Matthew to leave his tax collector booth and follow him.
But now Jesus had ascended into heaven. He was no longer present visibly to call this man or that man or to say, “This is the man I want” or “Come, follow me.” Jesus didn’t appear before Matthias and say, “I want you to be one of my twelve disciples.”
Matthias’ call to be one of the twelve was what we would call an indirect call. There was a human component in this choice of Matthias as a disciple. The other disciples used their wisdom, knowledge, and judgment to select two qualified men.
But then there was a divine component as well. The disciples prayed and asked God to direct their decision. By faith they depended on God to make the choice between the two. That choice was made evident by casting lots.
It’s important for us to take note how these disciples chose Matthias. It’s important because how we select and call pastors and teachers in our church and synod is not much different than what these first disciples did in choosing Matthias.
Like Matthias the calls we extend to pastors and teachers are indirect calls. So that means there’s a human component in the call. A district president or the director for Lutheran Schools chooses candidates qualified for the position. And the qualifications are similar to those of Matthias. Someone who has been a believer in Jesus for more than just a few years. Someone who has been trained to preach or to teach. Someone who is in agreement with sound Lutheran teaching.
In a meeting the congregation considers the names along with a short biography. Then they pray that God would guide their decision, and a vote is taken. A call is extended to the person with the most votes. It is surprisingly similar to the disciples casting lots. There is a heavy dependence on God to guide the process and the decision. That’s why we also call it a divine call. There may be a human element in the process, but it’s finally the hand of God that makes the choice and sends a pastor or teacher to a congregation.
It’s also important for us to note the solemnity and seriousness with which they called Matthias. Peter noted the tragic situation that had arisen because of Judas’ betrayal. He quoted scripture to show the need to replace Judas. They chose well qualified, faithful men. They prayed that God would reveal his decision. And God chose Matthias and added him to the twelve.
It’s also important to note that this call of Matthias was not so much about Matthias as it was about Jesus and the gospel. It’s significant that this call of Matthias is the last we hear about Matthias in the Bible. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t important or didn’t do the work he was called to do. He most certainly did. We can be sure that he was present when the Holy Spirit was miraculously poured out on the disciples on Pentecost. But the point is that it was not Matthias who was to be noted or remembered. It was Jesus who was to be preached and remembered.
That’s why we know just a bit about Peter, James, and John and practically nothing of the ministries of James the Less, Philip, Andrew, Nathanael, Matthew, Thomas, Simon the Zealot, or the other Judas. That’s the way it was supposed to be. When we spoke in our sermon series about James the Less we noted that nothing was really known about him at all. He lived in the shadow of the better known James, the son of Zebedee, John’s brother. We actually know more from the Bible about his mother than we do about him. That’s the way it should be. It was Jesus who was to be preached, remembered, exalted, and glorified.
That’s another important lesson that this choice of Matthias teaches. It’s a lesson that a new and young pastor needs to learn. It’s not his ministry. It’s God’s ministry. It’s Jesus’ ministry. It’s all about Jesus. Jesus will guide and direct. Jesus will bring about the results. And Jesus will be glorified.
It’s a lesson that we as a congregation always want to remember and understand more clearly. This is Jesus’ church. The ministry here is Jesus’ ministry. He will guide and direct. Jesus will bring about the results he desires. And Jesus will be glorified.
We actually wouldn’t need to know the names of any of the twelve disciples or even of the Apostle Paul. The important thing is that we know, believe in, and worship Jesus. He is the Son of God. He died on a cross to save us from our sins. He rose again from the dead to assure us that our sins are all forgiven and eternal life is our through faith in him.
And before he left the world he commissioned his disciples to preach this gospel to the world. That’s why Jesus established the public ministry and continues today to call people to serve as his ministers. In his letter to the Ephesians Paul writes, “It was [Jesus] who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”
That’s why Matthias was chosen. That’s why Peter, James, and John were chosen. That’s why James the Less and Philip and Andrew and Nathanael and Matthew and Thomas and Simon the Zealot and the other Judas were chosen. It’s why God has chosen thousands to preach the gospel of Jesus down through the centuries – so that you and I would know Jesus, so that you and I would know the forgiveness of sins, so that you and I could worship and exalt Jesus our Savior now and forever. Amen.