The great tragedy of the story of Matthias, the thirteenth disciple, is that it is the story of a man exalted by men.
We saw yesterday how Matthias appears to be very worthy of this honor. He has invested just as much in the ministry of Jesus as the twelve whom Jesus called. That was one of the fundamental criteria that the disciples had in choosing a replacement for Judas - it has to be one of us. It has to be someone who has been there with us from the very beginning.
And we can assume that Matthias met some pretty stringent character requirements, as well. After all, if you are replacing a betrayer, you want to make absolutely sure you do not "mess up" this time and pick another man who is going to turn out to be some kind of moral failure and thus, one more embarrassment on the name of Jesus.
And of course, he was fortunate enough that the dice fell in his favor.
But despite his worthiness, his character, and his luck, Matthias is still the recipient of the honor of men, not of God. Because it is not Jesus who chose him to be one of the twelve; it was only the eleven, who felt somehow incomplete after the loss of Judas.
That's not to say that Jesus doesn't have an opinion on Matthias. He does. He knows the man by name. He understands how much Matthias gave up to be His disciple, just as the other twelve had. He probably remembers that at all the major events of His ministry, Matthias was there. They likely knew each other intimately. Jesus knows Matthias. And I believe Jesus has a plan for this disciple, as well.
That plan, however, does not include replacing Judas. Judas was and always will be one of the twelve. Matthias will always be number 13.
So can you imagine what it must be like to give your whole life to this Jesus thing, to invest yourself wholly in the ministry just like the twelve special disciples that Jesus called, to finally have the chance to step up into an even greater role in the story when one of those disciples experiences a tremendous moral failure, to have everything finally fall in your favor...and then you one day die, get to Heaven, and see Judas face-to-face?
Not only do you see Judas, but you find that he is sitting in what you thought would be your seat.
Not only is he sitting in your seat, but Judas has become your judge. This man, this moral failure, this guy whose disaster paved the way for you to finally get your chance, sits in judgment of you. Because even after all of this, he is still one of God's chosen twelve. And you, though exalted by men, are number thirteen.
It's got to be heartbreaking.
And yet, I fear this will be the testimony of many of us. For it is all too often that we find ourselves exalted by men at the cost of knowing our true position in Christ.
Matthias had a very real role in the ministry of Jesus. He was a very real part of it. He was not the central part of it, was not one of the figures of special election within Jesus' ministry, but that does not diminish the role that Matthias played as a faithful disciple of Christ. Though he is not mentioned by name in the Gospels, we can be fairly sure that Matthias was doing much of the same kind of quiet work that so many of us are called to. He just...wanted more. We all want more.
But that's not up to us. Our job is to play alongside the Jesus character in whatever role He has cast us in. We are but a cast of characters, some with speaking parts and others without. Some of us may find that we spend our whole lives dressed as a tree, standing on the stage as part of the scenery of the developing story of God. Others may discover that we have but one line. Still others, many. Whoever we are, we must play our role faithfully. We must be content to be who God has called us to be and to play the part He has called us to play.
There may come a day when our hard work is recognized, when others see all that we have put into it, when the dice roll in our favor and this world gives us a chance to step up. But we must be careful. For it is far too easy to live a life exalted by men and still find ourselves in obscurity. (Matthias is never mentioned again.)
Far too easy to live a life exalted by men only to come into the presence of God and find someone else sitting in the seat we were never meant to occupy.
For even exalted, we may never be more than number thirteen.