Damariscotta Baptist Church
Tuesday, October 23, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

01/17/16 Sermon - Matthias Wins the Lottery

“Matthias Wins the Lottery”

Acts 1:12-26

 

3 people this week beat the 1 in 292.2 million odds and became winners of the largest payoff of the Powerball Lottery since it began.

The criteria necessary to be a winner was to pick the magic combination of 4, 8, 19, 27, 34 and Powerball 10. I am not sure if those that won actually picked those 6 numbers or if they let the machine pick them, regardless, they met the criteria and were chosen.

The replacement for Judas Iscariot was chosen in a similar manner. The remaining 11 disciples came up with a short list of only 2 criteria items rather than 6 numbers, so the odds of meeting these criteria were much better than the Powerball. The 11 disciples decided that the replacement had to:

1)      Have been in the company of men who stayed  together with them from the time Jesus was baptized by John, up to the day of ascension

2)      He also needed to have been a witness to Jesus’ resurrection

Only two men were nominated: Joseph Barsabbas, nicknamed Justus and Matthias

The disciples then prayed.

They then drew straws.

Matthias won.

Actually they most likely threw dice, but winning at dice sounds even less spiritual so many of the translations decided to use the drawing of straws technique. Either way, the choice was left up to chance, or was it? Technically, each man had a 50/50 chance of becoming the next disciple. In fact, the reason for having to choose another disciple to replace Judas started with Peter’s interpretation of Psalm 109:8, which reads,

“May his days be few: (referring to Judas Iscariot) may another take his place of leadership,”

Which according to many of the Bible commentaries I have been reading, is a tenuous interpretation, at best. We’ll leave that debate up to the scholars and go with it.

Peter then led the 11 disciples in what he felt was as fair an assessment as possible to determine who God was calling to fill in the vacancy. Both men met the stated criteria so rather than have the disciples choose, it was determined that by drawing straws, they were leaving the choice up to God.

Or was it fate?

Regardless, Matthais was chosen and the curious result, is this is the first and last time we read anything about Matthais. His name is not mentioned anywhere else in the Bible.

So we have two men mentioned in this passage. We have Judas Iscariot, whose name epitomizes treachery, and tragedy, and we have Matthais, and besides the fact that he was became the “thirteenth disciple”, and replaced Judas, historically he was consigned to obscurity and anonymity.

After spending time this week, thinking about these two gentlemen, and how or why they ended up the way they did……

I am left with the mystery of human decisions and divine destiny and how they manage to co-exist.

Let’s look at Judas.

His infamous kiss of betrayal labels Judas as the “guide for those who arrested Jesus” Acts 1:16

How could he have done such a terrible thing?

Why?

What was he thinking?

Three Scriptures explain how it was outside of and beyond Judas’ own choices.

One explanation is that Judas was “doomed to destruction”.

In the gospel of John, chapter 17, verse 12 it reads,  

“While I was with them, (Jesus is speaking) I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled,” as if to say some fate of doom overtook Judas.

Luke states in his gospel, chapter 22, verse 3, that “satan entered Judas” to betray Jesus.

To be honest, neither of these statements explain or illuminate the mystery for me.

There is a similar narrative in Exodus 9:12, in the story of Moses and Pharoah. Pharoah is said to have a “hard heart” which was described as both an act of God and the consequence of Pharoah’s own choices.

Doesn’t it seem unjust for God to harden Pharaoh’s heart and then to punish Pharaoh and Egypt for what Pharaoh decided when his heart was hardened?

Why would God harden Pharaoh’s heart just so He could judge Egypt more severely with additional plagues?

I’ll leave the answers to those questions for another message. Suffice it to say, the mystery remains.

I am not for a moment suggesting that Judas was a mere pawn in this situation. I suspect Judas had his own motives for doing what he did, whether it was for the “thirty pieces of silver” or some other factor that even he may have had difficulty articulating.

However, there were some gnostics who believed Judas to innocent, because around 150 years later a document was discovered which was a third or fourth century Coptic translation from the original Greek, portraying Judas as a hero, rather than a villain. The document claims Judas betrayed Jesus upon his request, in order to fulfill Scripture. Suffice it to say the document contains very little resemblance to anything specifically understood as “Christian” and is not accepted as authentic in the Christian community. It does however muddy the waters.

Let’s take a closer look at what we know to be true. There are at least three observations that can be made in spite of the unknown motives and tragic outcome,

One of which is, that Judas was not the only disciple who denied Jesus. In fact, Peter denied that he would ever deny Jesus yet did so three times. As for the other ten, they too made a promise to Jesus that they would stick with him through thick and thin, only to desert him and flee, as soon as he was arrested. Matthew 26:56

Second, after betraying and denying, both Judas and Peter responded in similar ways.

After the Sanhedrin decided to put Jesus to death, Judas was “seized with remorse and returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and elders” Matthew 27

After the rooster crowed for the third time, Peter remembered Jesus’ words and broke down and wept.

Finally, although the role Judas played was about as bad as one can get in history, somehow Judas took our place and was the catalyst that triggered the events that lead to the greatest thing that could have happened for all of humanity, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Demonstrating how God does what he does best and uses our sins to produce good.

The method of replacing Judas with Matthias is also nebulous. Peter and the disciples had no doubt that God had already chosen the right person, it was their task to determine who that person was. They did manage to do the spiritual thing called prayer, and then they resorted to “luck” in order to determine what God actually intended.

Matthias won.

So which is it, divine destiny or human choice?

Like I said last week, as we study the book of Acts, we may be left with more questions than answers.

Discerning God’s will is about listening to God. And many of the answers He has given us can be found in His Word.

Ephesians 1:3-5 New Living Translation (NLT)

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. 

God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.

 

Regardless of our past or how we become a child of the King, and regardless of how many mistakes we make once we accept the gift of salvation, being a child of the King is not based on our resume or our experiences.

Let’s look at some of those people whom God has chosen,

           

Moses, an eighty year-old shepherd, who had murder on his record

 

Aaron, who was an expert on making golden calf statutes

 

David, the youngest son, and also a shepherd

 

Mary, a little girl

 

Peter, a fisherman

 

Paul, a Pharisee

 

As I read through the Bible, I notice that God never picks the gorgeous, young, energetic person with fifteen years of experience in serving and can speak four languages.

 

Every time, God has chosen ordinary people to do extra-ordinary work, through Him.

The process and our humanness are not the focus here.

The focus is God.

God is going to accomplish His will with us our without us. It’s up to us to decide.

Does anyone have any straws?