Was Matthias a mistake?
These are my Ascensiontide thoughts.
Acts chapter 1 is a curious chapter. It starts with Jesus telling the disciples that the Holy Spirit is coming. Twice. The repetition is the important thing here, it isn’t really about rising into clouds, although that does teach us that Jesus did not lose his humanity when he ascended but took it back to heaven, which gives us the confidence to pray, knowing that there is someone in the Godhead who understands all that it means to be human, even when life throws shit at you.
But that is a tangent. What Luke was interested in in his Gospel was Jesus and what he meant, and here he is setting up the Holy Spirit being what his second book, Acts is about. It is not so much the Acts of the Apostles, more Acts of the Holy Spirit. But the Spirit has not been sent to the Church yet. They were told to wait in Jerusalem.
The rest of Acts chapter one is about an election. They were told to wait, so they held an election. True they had been told to wait in Jerusalem, and they were still in Jerusalem, so it can be argued that they were obedient by being there, but you know how it is with church business, it has to be done whether the Holy Spirit is there or not. So the Apostles got on with church business, even though there wasn’t really a church yet. A note to all churches having meetings, are you waiting on the Holy Spirit as your guide, have you invited the Holy Spirit to your meeting, or would his presence surprise you? Is the will of the congregation the thing that matters most?
The Apostles held an election and elected Matthias to replace Judas Iscariot and join the Apostles. Matthias has just appeared into the story of the church, and then just as quickly disappears. There are times when the Apostles are mentioned as a group and we can assume that Matthias was there. Matthias has a unique appointment. Before the Spirit came they had been personally appointed by Jesus, and after the Holy Spirit chose people for the task. Matthias then disappeared from the story. Also there appears to be no election of a successor to James after his martyrdom.
What about Barnabas?
The other candidate at the election, the loser, was Barnabas. Barnabas does not disappear from the story, Barnabas became a major player.
Barnabas turns up in Chapter four, selling a field to raise money for needy Christians.
Barnabas brings Saul, later known as Paul, to the Apostles.
Barnabas is sent to Antioch to see what is happening in that church, and goes and fetches Saul. Later he and Saul go on a missionary journey to Cyprus and then what is now Turkey. Later still Barnabas and Paul go on separate journeys, Barnabas returning to Cyprus with John Mark.
The loser becomes the one we are encouraged to be like.
But I am still in two minds about the election, was the church wrong to elect Matthias? Should they have waited until after the Holy Spirit had come? It looks to me that the ministry that Barnabas was called to was something that could not be done as one of the 12 Apostles. Right or wrong, the Holy Spirit used the people who were available. The Spirit continues those who are available today. Even those who have been disappointed.
Are you available?