Twelfth Man

Saint Matthias

Feast Day: 14th May

"Let someone else take his office." Peter, speaking to the disciples and the Christian congregation of Jerusalem, was calling for an election. The office was that of treasurer and member of the 12 man team of apostles. This post was vacant because of Judas' defection and suicide.

Jesus had chosen 12, probably a symbolic number to represent the 12 tribes of Israel. Peter evidently felt that this number should be maintained and both Matthias and Joseph Barsabbas appeared to be suitable. It was only with the guidance of the Holy Spirit that Matthias was chosen.

He had a good deal to recommend him having been with the apostles continuously since the beginning of Jesus' ministry. He had shown himself to be loyal and reliable, and had witnessed Jesus' death and resurrection so he would be able to preach and give evidence from first-hand experience. Above all, he had the blessing of the Holy Spirit, which must have given him courage to take up this new responsibility. He knew he was replacing Judas, a man who had betrayed all his friends, and Matthias must have been anxious to prove that he was worthy of the trust being placed in him.

Very little is known of Matthias following his election. In fact, the New Testament does not mention him again, but he would have been with his fellow-apostles at Pentecost when they all received the special gifts of the Holy Spirit. It was then that the apostles began their various missions, and according to Greek tradition Matthias worked among the pagans in Cappadocia, now central Turkey. We have no written reports of his ministry. He did not distinguish himself as a leader like Peter nor was he a prolific Ietter-writer like Paul. Perhaps it would be fair to say that he was a modest, unassuming man who quietly carried out the work he was given without looking for recognition. He did no canvassing for his own election, but waited to be invited.

One wonders why Matthias was not chosen as one of the 12 originally. But when the time was right he was to be the man for the job. There are many people who never seek the limelight but are content to do a worthwhile job unobtrusively. Perhaps one day God may call some of us to a more responsible office. Like Matthias, may we accept it humbly and perform it faithfully, for Jesus' sake.