Jesus called Simon and Andrew, James and John. he called a tax collector, Matthew. He called a betrayer, Judas. Come, He said, follow me. And they did. The twelve, as we call them, went everywhere with Jesus. They ate with Him, walked with Him, prayed with Him, ministered with Him, sailed with Him.... They did everything with Him.
And so did at least two others.
I'm talking about Joseph and Matthias, who we meet for the first time in Acts 1. Judas has betrayed his Lord and himself and is no longer among the twelve (or the living, for that matter). As they set about to begin their ministry work in this world, they decide they must choose another disciple to replace Judas among them because, I assume, they understand that twelve was the number for a reason. They debate who might be a good choice and decide that whoever comes to join their ranks must be a man who has "been with us through everything," a man who has been there for just as much of Jesus' ministry as they have. They come up with two: Joseph and Matthias.
I kind of feel for these guys. I mean, here are two guys who gave up just as much as twelve other guys, but they are nowhere to be found in the stories. We know they gave up just as much because the disciples tell us as much - these two have been there from the beginning. They, too, have wandered without a place to call home. They, too, have left family and job and security to follow either a madman or a Messiah.
And for what? To become trivia answers after a betrayer whose name we'll never forget kills himself. Oh, and one of them gets to be a disciple, now that the Discipler is gone, too, if he's so fortunate as to win a dice game that it's not clear he even gets to play in.
Not a lot of reward for three years of sacrifice.
But I tell you this - these men are still among us, and many of us can take great heart from their stories. Because there are big names out there, men and women doing what seem like such big things for God. Men and women who have been called to do the big things. Authors, speakers, actors, bloggers, humanitarians, philanthropists, preachers, teachers, elders. We know many of these men and women by name. We follow them on social media. We tune in to watch them on television. We hear them on the radio. We buy their books. We listen to their podcasts. We stand in their lines. Yes, there are some big names in our world for God.
But there are a ton more names we will never know. There are many more Josephs and Matthiases than there are Peters and Pauls. There are thousands upon thousands more men and women who do the little things every day whose names seem like such small blips on the bigger story when the truth is that these men and women are the story.
Who is Jesus without the crowds? Who is He without the multitudes? He's a voice in the marketplace, a noise in the wilderness, a madman shouting to a world that doesn't listen. What if Jesus walks this earth and no one comes out to meet Him? He does no miracles. He teaches no lessons. He feeds no thousands. He raises no dead. Or if He does, it doesn't matter. No one knows. He's another quiet prophet. Maybe He dies a tragic death; maybe there's no reason to kill Him. With the chosen few, He's a great teacher; without the unchosen many, that's all He is.
The story of God dwells not in the twelve but in the towns. The story of God is on the sides of the roads, not in the ruts of them. The story of God is in the people whose names we may never know, but who choose day after day to do the little things anyway because they believe. They believe in this God that walks among them. They believe in this God who speaks. They believe in this God who heals, who teaches, who triumphs. And they're doing His works whether He makes them fishers of men or simply feeds them fish from a little boy's lunchbox.
Joseph and Matthias are two of these men. We know the names of women who did much the same - Mary, Salome, Joanna, Susanna, and more. People who lived their lives in the little things for God even though they were never to be called among the twelve. Even though when we speak of God's story, we speak more of a betrayer than we do of their faithfulness. Even though we know now their names and so very little more of them.
One day, these two men got their chance. And they were ready. They were qualified by their quiet service, by their disciplined dedication. They were qualified for the bigger things by all the little things they had done. They could be chosen only because they had given themselves.
Most of us spend our lives longing to be a part of the chosen few. Wanting to be Peter or Paul. Wanting to be one of the big names that tells God's story. And that's a special something, sure. But while some men and women are called to tell God's story, God's story is being told through many more who have been called only to this quiet service, these faithful steps, this unknown life. And that's something, too.