St. Matthias (7th Day of Lent)
24 February 2010
Dear friends in Christ. Today the Church remembers one of our Lord’s apostles who was never included in the listing of the apostles recorded in the Gospels. Today we remember St. Matthias. He was the man chosen to be the replacement for Judas who had betrayed our Lord. Although there would have been forgiveness and restoration for Judas as there had been for Peter, Judas despaired and killed himself. Now there had to be a replacement for Judas. This, too, was in fulfillment of Scripture, as Peter quotes the psalm (109.8): Let another take his office.
All that we know for sure about Matthias is in today’s reading. Peter (Ac1.21-2) spells out the qualifications for being an apostle: men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism to that day when He was taken up from us, one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection. Matthias, although not one of the 12 originally, was with Jesus all during His earthly ministry. He saw His miracles; he heard Jesus’ teaching. He saw the resurrected Christ; he saw Jesus’ ascension. In short, Matthias was an ear and eyewitness. Only one like Matthias could be an apostle; thus, there are no apostles today.
After today’s reading, there is no further mention of Matthias in the NT—just like with most of our Lord’s apostles. Remember: the book of The Acts of the Apostles is the book of some of the acts of some of the apostles. According to tradition Matthias made his way to Ethiopia where he was killed on account of his faith and confession of Christ.
As we look at the account of today’s reading, there were two who met the qualifications for apostleship: Joseph also known as Barsabas or Justus, and Matthias. If the name Joseph was known by “Justus,” that is, the “just,” meant anything, it would seem that he was known for his piety and one would think he would have the inside track for being Judas’ replacement. But Peter and the rest leave it to the Lord. In a short, simple, prayer they ask Jesus to show them which of the two He chose.
Just as the original 12 were directly chosen and called by Jesus Himself, so now is Matthias. The Holy Spirit says in the OT (Prov. 16.33): A lot is cast into a lap, but how it will come out is decided by the Lord. By the casting of the lots, which He directed, Jesus shows that He chose Matthias. This was Matthias’ direct call from the Lord. Through the 12, and through the Church, Jesus would continue His work of seeking out the lost and bringing them His blessings of forgiveness of sin and eternal life.
Not only does the risen and ascended Christ direct and lead His Church but He also directs the affairs of believers for their eternal good. One comfort each of us can take is that Jesus is directly involved in His Church and in our lives personally. All that happens is not fluke or accident or chance but the Lord’s working for our spiritual good. As He works for the good of His Church and as He worked for the good of Matthias, so too does Jesus work for the good of each of us.
In this Lenten season, it does us well to consider the first words of the prayer Peter prayed to Jesus: You, O Lord…know the hearts of all… and a wonderful commentary on those words are the words of the OT reading:
Thus says the Lord: "Heaven is My throne, And earth is My footstool. What is the house that you will build Me? And what is the place of My rest? 2 For all those things My hand has made, And all those things exist," Says the Lord. "But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, And who trembles at My word.
The Lord knows our heart. How this must cause us to stop and ponder the condition of our heart! What an appropriate time to do so—in Lent. We can deceive others; we can even deceive ourselves; but we can’t fool the Lord.
The situation at the time of Isaiah was that the people were putting on a show of outward piety. They kept to the temple ceremonies but they were disobedient as they fell away from the faith in the true God. They put their trust and confidence in things other than the true God. They went about with the intention of sinning. They didn’t care that they sinned—after all they had the sacrifices and ceremonies to take care of things, to throw God a bone. They did not fight against sin and give glory to God by their lives of faith and good works.
Their sin blinded them as to who the true God really is. They thought they could keep God in the box of the temple. They could look “holy” to the outsiders, always going to the temple, always giving a sacrifice. But how is the heart? The Lord is the holy God who fills heaven and earth. Heaven is My throne, And earth is My footstool. What is the house that you will build Me? And what is the place of My rest? All these things that the people could offer the Lord—money, sacrifices, the temple itself are all His to begin with. He made them! For all those things My hand has made, And all those things exist.
The call of Lent is a call to examine our own hearts. Is my life filled with all sorts of outwardly holy life and behavior—but is that it, just outward? How is the heart? The Lord knows the heart of all. So yes, we may be in church faithfully, we may support the church, we may be pillars of the community, but is that merely outward, merely “throwing God a bone”? Again, we can fool everybody, even ourselves, but not the Lord! How we are then humbled! How it does us well to heed Lent’s call and examine our hearts, to recognize and confess our sin and in faith hold fast the Lord’s forgiveness.
As we see in our text, the unbelieving people wanted to do all sorts of outward things for the Lord, thinking that that is what He wanted, thinking that that is “good enough.” But by the Lord’s response in our text, we see that He didn’t want the temple or the worship of those who forsook Him. Again, worship is not outward obedience or ceremonies but it is faith in the heart, faith that receives the Lord’s forgiveness in Christ, that forgiveness He won and brought about for us by His life, suffering and death; confirmed for us by His resurrection and ascension.
The Lord looks at the heart and is not “bribed” by outward acts. He does not accept false worship. The only worship pleasing to Him is one that flows from faith, faith that recognizes Him, the Triune God, as God alone and alone our Savior. Faith, whether it is there is not, is only known to the Lord. Outward acts can deceive everyone but the Lord.
It is rather scary and humbling to realize that the Lord knows our heart, whether it is right, that is, whether it is full of faith and love of Him; that we cannot “trick” Him. How this then drives us to heed Lent’s call to self-examination: Do I truly recognize that I am a sinner? That my sin condemns me to hell? That nothing I do can save me? That Jesus is my only Savior? Is this true faith in my heart?
To all those who take Lent’s call to repent seriously, who recognize their sin, who are sorry for their sin, it is a very comforting thought that the Lord knows the hearts of all. He knows that the true faith is there, faith that knows and loves Him and receives forgiveness, that makes Jesus’ holiness its own.
It is precisely the task of God’s Law and our Lenten examination of our hearts and lives to make it all the more clear to us that we truly are sinners who from our end can do nothing to reconcile ourselves with God, that left to ourselves we earn and deserve nothing but His wrath and punishment now and forever. Precisely then, when we are struck by the enormity of our sin against a just and holy God, that nothing we do can save us, when we are truly humbled by our sin and earnestly desire God’s forgiveness to us in Christ, it is precisely then that the humble spark of faith rejoices that the Lord knows our heart, knows that it desires His forgiveness and grace. What a glorious comfort, joy, and lifting us up that we know the Lord knows that in spite of all our sins and unworthiness, our hearts are yearning for His mercy and forgiveness. That is the true worship that He seeks. And what does the Lord tell us in our text: "But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, And who trembles at My word.
Here is the great blessing and benefit of using Lent rightly, as a time of self-examination and repentance. Our starting point is then the recognition of our spiritual poverty and our desiring of God’s grace. And upon hearing these words of the Lord, that it is precisely the ones humbled by His law and who desire His mercy, how we are encouraged and made joyful. As we see and feel our sin in us, what joy—God does not turn away from us, but precisely then, knowing our heart’s desire, gives us His forgiveness and righteousness.
As we fight against sin, and often lose the battle against the temptations from the devil, world and our own sinful self, and our lives are seemingly outwardly marked by sin, the Lord knows our heart’s desire for Him, knows our love of Him, our fear of displeasing Him and our desire to do His will even though we are too sin weakened to carry it out. Precisely to His dear struggling, stumbling Christian the Lord looks with grace and favor, mercy and forgiveness.
The good news here is that not only does God look upon us humbled and stricken of spirit, those crushed by His law and desiring His mercy, but the very God, whom the heavens cannot contain, who is high and exalted, who does not live in human temples, condescends to be enshrined in the hearts of the contrite and lowly, His dear Christians desiring His mercy and forgiveness. The trembling hearts of His dear Christians are the palaces and temples of the holy God. St. Paul (1 Co. 3.16) asks: Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? The Lord, who knows our hearts, who looks to His poor, humbled Christians, doesn’t just leave us in our sorrow and misery but He comes and in grace delights to dwell in our hearts. Earlier Isaiah (57.15) says: For thus says the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” And through David (Ps. 34.18): The Lord is near those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit.
The only way the Lord can dwell in us is if we are crushed by our sin, if we recognize that we are sinners worthy only of damnation. First then can He come and give us the comfort of the forgiveness of sins in Christ; first then can He come and show us mercy; first then are the hearts empty of all presumption and false works; first then is there room. Again, that’s why there’s the penitential season of Lent—to crush us with the knowledge of our sins and to point us to the Savior from those sins.
When we recognize our sin and desire God’s grace and forgiveness in Jesus, then He has already come to us and is dwelling in our hearts. He comes and creates faith in us to receive and to welcome Him into our hearts. As the holy God dwells in our hearts, He fills, guides and leads us; He strengthens us to avoid evil and to do His will. As He is in us, we love Him and strive to do His will.
The Lord Christ knows our hearts. Yes, this humbles us and drives us to self-examination and repentance; but it is also a source of great comfort for when we recognize our sin and seek His mercy, He knows our heart and comes to us with grace and every blessing. INJ