Was replacing Judas (who had betrayed Jesus) with Matthias a mistake? Was it a very early example of the human desire to institutionalize church? Perhaps.
The Book of Acts begins with the resurrected Jesus spending 40 days with the apostles (which is a Greek word meaning sent ones) and giving “many convincing proofs that he was alive.” He taught them about “the kingdom of God” and then told them not to leave Jerusalem, but to “wait for the gift” of the Holy Spirit. Then Jesus rose up into the sky and vanished into a cloud.
The apostles went into the city of Jerusalem and gathered in a second story room and began praying. There were about 120 people in all including Mary (Jesus’ mother) and His brothers.
At some point, Peter stood up and began to talk about Judas. He quoted two verses from different places in the Book of Psalms that said different things, and applied them to Judas. One said: “Let his place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in it.” The other said: “May another take his place of leadership.”
Then Peter concluded: “Therefore it is necessary to choose” a replacement. The 120 nominated two men: Barsabbas (or Justus) and Matthais. Then they prayed and asked God to show them “which of these two men You have chosen.” Finally they cast lots (which was a game of chance somewhat like dice or drawing straws). Luke, the author of Acts, writes: “. . . and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.”
A few days later a sound like a violent wind suddenly appeared in the upper room and flames of fire “came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak” in languages they didn’t know. This led to chaos and drew a large crowd of which 3,000 became Christians on that day.
So was Matthias chosen by God? Or was he picked by Peter and a game of chance because of the human need to order, structure, and program spirituality? I believe it was the latter. Here’s why:
* Jesus told them to wait for the Holy Spirit, however, Peter went ahead and took action to turn the apostles into an organizational structure, before the Holy Spirit came. If Jesus had wanted to replace Judas, why didn’t He do it, Himself, or tell them to do it later? Instead He told them to wait for the Spirit. I believe that Peter, as he sometimes did in the Gospels, jumped the gun.
* Jesus pointed out that the apostles made mistakes in the Gospels, so why couldn’t they have made one in Acts, before the Holy Spirit came?
* When Peter told the 120 that it was necessary to replace Judas, Luke, the author of Acts, simply writes that “Peter said,” however, in other places when there were important decisions to be made, Luke makes it clear that God directed Peter by saying things like “the Spirit said to him” or “a voice told him” or he had a “vision.”
* The two verses from Psalms that Peter uses to justify his action say opposite things.
* The 120 pick two men and then assume that God has chosen one of their two choices, so they ask God to show which one He wants by a game of chance. Chance, however, is not a reliable form of spiritual guidance. When the lots have been cast, Luke doesn’t say; “And God chose Matthias.” He only states: “. . . and the lot fell to Matthias.”
* When the Spirit comes, flames of fire come on each of the 120 and all of the 120 were filled with the Spirit and spoke in languages that they didn’t know. If God wanted to confirm the choice of Matthias, He could have had the fire come only on the 12 apostles (or only the 12 speak in tongues), but instead all 120 experienced those things. This tells me that there is no hierarchy or special positions in the church — there are spiritual gifts rather than offices.
Conclusion: I think that appointing Matthias was the result of the human need to organize and institutionalize the church rather than the leading of God. What do you think?
For more of my revelations from Scripture, go to: The Joy Of Early Christianity.