Saint Matthias

Apostle Matthias

Saint Matthias
Saint Matthias

Matthias (also known as Saint Matthias in the Catholic church) was chosen by the remaining eleven disciples to replace the betrayer, Judas Iscariot before Jesus’ resurrection. The scriptural recommendation was for twelve disciples and so Apostle Peter declared that they must choose another disciple to take the place of Judas Iscariot.

Matthias was chosen as the twelfth Apostle since he was present with Jesus Christ during his time on Earth as well as through his crucifixion. While two men were chosen to take the twelfth place in the Apostles lots were drawn and Matthias was selected as the twelfth and final apostle.

Who was Saint Matthias?

According to the biblical “Acts of Apostles 1:21; Acts of Apostles 1:22; Acts of Apostles 1:23; Acts of Apostles 1:24; Acts of Apostles 1:25; Acts of Apostles 1:26,” Saint Matthias was a disciple chosen by the apostles as a replacement for Judas Iscariot after the latter’s betrayal of Jesus Christ. It was important that the community endured even after the crucifixion to spread the Christian faith all around the world, and it was crucial that the number of apostles remained 12, as 12 was the number of tribes of Israel and a twelfth apostle was required for the coming of the new Israel.

Apostel Mattias met speer S. Mathias (titel op object) Christus en de apostelen
Apostel Mattias met speer S. Mathias (titel op object) Christus en de apostelen

Jesus himself chose the original 12 apostles, and the rest of the apostles chose Saint Matthias after the Ascension. They cast their votes through lots and selected Matthias.

There is no further information about him in the New Testament. It is believed that Matthias placed his faith in Jesus Christ above everything else and was present with the other apostles at Pentecost. He embraced all the teachings of Jesus and sacrificed his life for the service of the Lord, even after being persecuted by many.

He also worked many miracles in the name of the Lord Jesus, which converted many to the Christian faith. He is a patron of carpenters, tailors, and those who are affected by smallpox.

Mattathias and the Apostate
Mattathias and the Apostate

Childhood & Early Life

Saint Matthias was born in the 1st century AD, at Judaea. In his early youth, he studied the Law of God under Saint Simeon. According to the acts, it is said that Matthias had accompanied the Lord from the time of his baptism and was among the 72 disciples paired off and dispatched by Jesus.

The Gospel of Matthias

The Gospel of Matthias is a lost text which claims to be written by Matthias. The early church had mixed opinions on its authenticity, and we only know about it from the writings of others.

Clement of Alexandria quotes it while describing a heretical sect of Christianity known as the Nicolaitanes—whose teachings John the Revelator claims Jesus hated (Revelation 2:6)—telling us it says,

“We must combat our flesh, set no value upon it, and concede to it nothing that can flatter it, but rather increase the growth of our soul by faith and knowledge”.

Clement of Alexandria

Eusebius claimed it was written by heretics as well. But without the text itself, it’s impossible to say what value it may have had.

Saint Matthias
Saint Matthias

Missionary

As one of the Twelve, Matthias was an apostle, which meant he was charged with preaching the gospel and helping it spread throughout the known world. The word we translate as an apostle (Apostolos) literally means “one who is sent,” and all of the apostles were sent somewhere. But where exactly Matthias went depends on which tradition you follow.

Ministry

According to tradition, it is believed that, after the Descent of the Holy Spirit, Matthias ministered and preached the Gospel at Jerusalem and in Judaea with the other apostles.

From Jerusalem, he went to the Syrian Antioch and was present in the city of Titanium and Sinope. During his time here, Saint Matthias was imprisoned but was freed miraculously by Saint Andrew the First-Called. After this, he traveled to the city of Amasea, which was on the shore of the Caspian Sea.

He accompanied Apostle Andrew during a three-year journey and was with him at Edessa and Sebaste. According to tradition, he preached at Pontine Ethiopia (presently known as Western Georgia) and Macedonia. He was constantly persecuted by the people there but kept preaching the Gospel to them.

St Matthias Church Richmond Greater London
St Matthias Church Richmond Greater London

In one version of the story, the Pontine Ethiopians were considered to be pagans and barbarians, and they forced the saint to drink poison. But he remained unharmed because he had the Lord’s protection, and he even healed other prisoners who were blinded by the poison.

Saint Matthias left the prison, and this enraged the pagans who kept searching for him in vain. They intended to kill the saint, and according to the story, the earth opened up and engulfed them.

After this, he returned to Judaea and continued enlightening his countrymen about Christ’s teachings. He also told them how he was able to perform miracles in the name of the Lord Jesus and motivated many to have faith in Christ.

This enraged the Jewish High Priest Ananias, who hated Christ. He had already ordered the execution of Apostle James in the past and decided to arrest Matthias. The saint was brought for judgment before the Sanhedrin at Jerusalem.

During the hearing, High Priest Ananias slandered the Lord with a blasphemous speech. But Matthias, using the prophecies of the Old Testament, explained that Jesus Christ is “the True God, the promised Messiah, the Son of God, Consubstantial and Coeternal with God the Father.”

Mathias (Winterhalder) - St. Margarethen, Waldkirch
Mathias (Winterhalder) - St. Margarethen, Waldkirch

Reflection

What was the holiness of Matthias? Obviously, he was suited for apostleship by the experience of being with Jesus from his baptism to his ascension. He must also have been suited personally, or he would not have been nominated for so great a responsibility.

Must we not remind ourselves that the fundamental holiness of Matthias was his receiving gladly the relationship with the Father offered him by Jesus and completed by the Holy Spirit?

If the apostles are the foundations of our faith by their witness, they must also be reminders, if only implicitly, that holiness is entirely a matter of God’s giving, and it is offered to all, in the everyday circumstances of life. We receive, and even for this God supplies the power of freedom.

Death & Legacy

According to Nicephorus, Saint Matthias was stoned to death in Ethiopia (modern-day Georgia). An extant Coptic “Acts of Andrew and Matthias,” validates this story. A marker that is placed on the ruins of the Roman fortress at Gonia claims that the saint is buried at that site.

The Synopsis of Dorotheus also talks about a similar story. It claims that Matthias was preaching the Gospel in the sea harbor of Hyssus and at the mouth of the river Phasis. He died at Sebastopolis and was buried near the Temple of the Sun.

Stadtpfarrkirche RO OÖ Hochaltar - Apostel Matthias 1710
Stadtpfarrkirche RO OÖ Hochaltar - Apostel Matthias 1710

In another tradition, Saint Matthias was stoned by the people of Jerusalem after he enraged Ananias. After his death, he was beheaded by the Jews to conceal their crime. His killers then branded him as an enemy of Caesar. According to Hippolytus of Rome, the saint died of old age in Jerusalem.

It is said that Empress Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine I, brought the saint’s remains to Italy. Part of these relics was placed in the Abbey of Santa Giustina and the remaining in the Abbey of St. Matthias.

The Latin Church celebrates the feast of Saint Matthias on the 14th of May, and the Greek Church celebrates it on the 9th of August.

Key Takeaway

Matthias, whose name means “gift of God”, was the disciple chosen to replace Judas as one of the twelve Apostles. The Acts of the Apostles state that he was also one of the 72 disciples that the Lord Jesus sent out to preach the good news. Matthias was with the Lord since His Baptism, and was “a witness to Christ’s Resurrection,” according to St. Peter in Acts. He remained with Jesus until His Ascension.

According to various traditions, Matthias preached in Cappadocia, Jerusalem, the shores of the Caspian Sea (in modern-day Turkey), and Ethiopia. He is said to have met his death by crucifixion in Colchis or by stoning in Jerusalem.

There is evidence cited in some of the early Church fathers that there was a Gospel according to Matthias in circulation, but it has since been lost and was declared apocryphal by Pope Gelasius.

He is invoked for assistance against alcoholism, and support from recovered alcoholics.

Saint Matthias, ca. 1317–19, Workshop of Simone Martini Italian
Saint Matthiasca. 1317–19
Workshop of Simone Martini Italian

Characteristics

The remaining eleven disciples chose characteristics of Saint Matthias to replace the betrayer, Judas Iscariot, before Jesus’ resurrection. According to the characteristics of the 12 apostles, it was believed that these twelve witnesses would represent the twelve tribes of Israel. Thus, these followers of Christ gathered together to cast lots between two candidates: Joseph called Barsabas (Justus), and Matthias.

Missionary

As one of the Twelve, Matthias was an apostle, which meant he was charged with preaching the gospel and helping it spread throughout the known world. The word we translate as Apostle (Apostolos) means “one who is sent,” and all of the apostles were sent somewhere. But where exactly Matthias went depends on which tradition you follow.

Nikephoros Kallistos Xanthopoulos was a fourteenth-century historian who built on the work of his predecessors and had access to important texts that no longer exist. He claimed Matthias preached in Judea, then Aethiopia (modern-day Georgia).

St. Matthias, from Christ, the Apostles and St. Paul with the Creed
St. Matthias, from Christ, the Apostles and St. Paul with the Creed

One of the Seventy

In the Gospel of Luke, we learn that Jesus appointed 70 disciples (or depending on the manuscript, 72) to spread the gospel in pairs of two; these believers were sent out to test the hospitality of the towns Jesus was heading to and gauge their receptiveness to the gospel.

They were given the authority to heal the sick and cast out demons (Luke 10:9Luke 10:17), and they preached the gospel.

Interestingly, Luke is the only gospel writer to mention them, and he doesn’t tell us their names (that’d be about as thrilling to read as Matthew’s genealogy).

While that saves us from slogging through seventy (or seventy-two) names of people we’d likely never read about again, it also, unfortunately, prevents us from learning about these important early followers of Jesus. They were probably leaders in the first-century church.

Witness the Resurrection

The first qualification is laid out in verse 22:

‘He must become a witness with us of His resurrection.’

This is interesting phrasing as he would have witnessed the resurrection having been with Jesus from baptism to ascension.

I think the emphasis here is that he must be prepared to become united with them in their witness. Given that the atmosphere of the church was one of unity and prayer, the new person needed to commit to this and become a witness ‘with us.’ There was no space here for a different plan.

This was a group of people that would be witnessing the resurrection amidst opposition. The church would be staking its reputation on the resurrection of Jesus. This crucial doctrine was foundational teaching, and the new member of the Twelve needed to be prepared to witness this.

Purity of Heart

A shortlist of two men is drawn up. Both, Joseph called Barsabbas (who was also called Justus), and Matthias are ideal candidates. The final decision is committed to God in prayer before lots are drawn. God is addressed as the One ‘who knows the hearts of all men’ or the ‘heart-knower, and He is asked to choose the man He wants.

Ultimately, this is both the most important characteristic of the new Apostle and the one most hidden from us. Who can know the real motives of a man’s heart? Only God. He alone knows our hidden and deep motives. The fact that Matthias is selected speaks volumes of his character.

So Matthias, a man of exemplary character and a persevering witness of the resurrection, is selected by lot and is ‘added to the eleven apostles. Exciting times are ahead for all the apostles as the church is birthed at Pentecost and established throughout the known world.

The Election of Saint Matthias
"One day Peter stood up to speak to the brothers – there were about a hundred and twenty persons in the congregation: ‘Brothers, the passage of scripture had to be fulfilled in which the Holy Spirit, speaking through David, foretells the fate of Judas, who offered himself as a guide to the men who arrested Jesus – after having been one of our number and actually sharing this ministry of ours. Now in the Book of Psalms it says: Let someone else take his office. ‘We must therefore choose someone who has been with us the whole time that the Lord Jesus was travelling round with us, someone who was with us right from the time when John was baptising until the day when he was taken up from us – and he can act with us as a witness to his resurrection.’ Having nominated two candidates, Joseph known as Barsabbas, whose surname was Justus, and Matthias, they prayed, ‘Lord, you can read everyone’s heart; show us therefore which of these two you have chosen to take over this ministry and apostolate, which Judas abandoned to go to his proper place.’ They then drew lots for them, and as the lot fell to Matthias, he was listed as one of the twelve apostles." – Acts 1:15-17,20-26, which is today's First Reading for the feast of St Matthias. This stained glass window is from St Mary's Episcopal Cathedral in Glasgow.

Perseverance

The last qualification is that he must be one of ‘the men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us – beginning with the baptism of John until the day that He was taken up from us’. He must have been present throughout Jesus’ ministry.

This was a new movement and the people who were to ensure that the church got off the ground needed to be people who had seen the whole story unfold. They needed to have been part of what was going on when Jesus was conducting His earthly ministry. They needed to be people who could answer the cynics who questioned who Jesus was.

They needed to be people who could accurately report what Jesus had taught so that they could combat any dubious perversions of His teaching. They needed to be people who Jesus had commissioned to go out preaching the message of the kingdom and healing the sick.

This was an issue of credibility and was important since the new church was being established in an atmosphere of hostility. The individual who was chosen therefore needed to have proven that they had perseverance and not left Jesus when the teaching became difficult or when opposition from the authorities had come.

Summary Characteristics

Before 120 followers of Christ, Peter gave an account of the life, ministry, and death of Judas Iscariot. Because of the loss of Judas, a replacement was to fill the gap within the original twelve disciples. It was necessary to select one who had known them since the Lord’s baptism by John to the resurrection of the Son of Man.

“And they drew lots for them, and the lots fell to Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles”

Acts 1:26

Many believe that Barsabbas and Matthias were among the seventy disciples who were sent out to proclaim the gospel (Luke 10:1). However, neither one has been mentioned again in Scripture, nor is there any account for their later ministries.

Read more about Saint Matthias in the Bible.

Resources Characteristics of Saint Matthias

https://www.exploringlifesmysteries.com/twelve-disciples/#thaddeus
https://www.blueletterbible.org/study/misc/apostles.cfm
https://overviewbible.com/matthias-the-apostle/

Conclusion Saint Matthias

The Bible tells us almost nothing about Matthias. But what we do know is that he’d been following Jesus from the beginning despite not receiving a personal invitation, like the original members of the Twelve. And whether Matthias being an apostle was God’s design or Peter’s, he became an integral leader in the first-century church and played an important role in spreading the gospel throughout the world.

Resources

https://overviewbible.com/matthias-the-apostle/
https://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/saint-matthias-37245.php
https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-matthias

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