Remember trying out for a team in school, or maybe waiting to see what teacher you were assigned to at the start of the year? I suppose that this process varied by location years ago, and it is probably more digitized now than when I was young, but I remember how the results would be posted on a sheet of paper, taped to a door or wall. Students would wait eagerly for the results, and then crowd around to see the post (a literal posting, as a predecessor to today’s web “posts”). It was exciting to see your name on the list, but it could also be disappointing to not find your name after reading through the list a few times.
After Jesus had been raised from the dead, appeared to many people, and then went into Heaven, the apostles selected two candidates to replace Judas Iscariot.
So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias.
Acts of the Apostles 1:23 NLT
After the apostles asked for God’s help in making the decision (which is a good example for all of us to follow), Matthias was selected (see verses 24-26). Although being an apostle often resulted in persecution and martyrdom, I think that being selected as one of the twelve apostle would be considered by most of us to be a pretty big deal. When you get to play a part in fulfilling a prophecy of Jesus (see Matthew 19:28, for instance), that has to be significant.
As we read through the events that God shared with us in the Bible, our minds may start to wonder about the other guy, Joseph “Justus” Barsabbas. Was he disappointed to not have been selected for this role? Did he get frustrated and leave the body of disciples? Or, did he see the wisdom of God’s selection, congratulate Matthias, and continue to serve elsewhere within the early church? Was he present at Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was poured out on believers? Did he still seek to help the Kingdom of God grow?
I don’t know these answers (although tradition offers some possible outcomes), but we do know some things about Justus that are pretty impressive. Verses 21 and 22 establish that the criteria for his nomination in the first place was to have spent time with Jesus during His ministry, and that he could testify to Jesus’ resurrection.
“So now we must choose a replacement for Judas from among the men who were with us the entire time we were traveling with the Lord Jesus— from the time he was baptized by John until the day he was taken from us. Whoever is chosen will join us as a witness of Jesus’ resurrection.”
Acts of the Apostles 1:21-22 NLT
Think about that for a moment: Justus had personally heard Jesus’ teachings, walked with Him through His ministry, and even saw Jesus after His resurrection. Of the people in the first century Middle East (not to mention the population of the world throughout history), only a certain fraction of people met both of these criteria. While thousands had heard Jesus speak, I doubt that nearly that many were with Him for this entire time. Even though Jesus appeared to hundreds of people after His resurrection (see 1 Corinthians 15:3-8), I don’t think that He personally visited everyone in first-century Jerusalem.
So, I don’t think that we need to feel sorry for Justus. He may not have been selected as an apostle, but He walked with Jesus.
And, when we think about it, is our goal any different? If we want to experience the truth and life that Jesus offers, what better goal could we have than walking with Jesus, and seeing Him when He returns (or when we go to meet Him)? In light of the joy and privilege of walking in the truth, worshiping our Savior, and looking forward to spending eternity with Him, things of this world seem pretty puny.
So, if you aren’t a leader in the church, don’t feel like you aren’t important in the Body of Christ. If you don’t get selected as the choir director, or chairman of the elders, or even the person who is sharing a communion meditation, don’t resent that someone else was chosen. Celebrate that you get to walk with Jesus, and the allocation of some people for certain roles just leaves another role for you. And, don’t forget that the explanation of the different parts of the church in 1 Corinthians 12:4-31 is followed by an even better instruction: the definition of love in 1 Corinthians 13.
God has selected you. Not as one of the twelve apostles, but definitely for a specific role. Don’t feel bad that you weren’t chosen for something else.
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.