Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus with an identifiable kiss in a place where Jesus commonly retreated to get away from crowds and gather His thoughts. later, Judas agonized in this betrayal to the point of destroying himself. when the Lord resurrected and ascended into heaven, the eleven began to wait for the promise. they had no idea how long it would take before the promise arrived, but they prayed and studied the scriptures. Peter recognized one scripture in particular concerning Judas. this revelation may be the first time since the crucifixion that they understood the perfect will of God according to Judas’ actions. in the chosen discourse of Psalm 109, verse 8 speaks of, “let another take his office” (KVJ, Tyndale 1987). criteria were set for filling the vacated position; the candidate had to have been with them the whole time Jesus had been with them, from John’s baptism of Jesus to being a witness of the resurrection. two men were picked, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed, Justus, and Matthias. Matthias would be chosen by casting lots over Joseph.
i want to start my investigation of this event by asking, why these two? there were thousands of disciples. at least 70 disciples were entrusted to team up and share the good news with neighboring towns. in John triple-six, we read, “From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him” (John 6:66). according to this passage, Jesus asked the twelve if they would leave also? (v.67) there were times when the message was rejected, and maybe pressures from religious leaders were too much to bare. though Jesus speaks directly to the chosen, perhaps these two men were always in the background. the only evidence to support this claim is in Acts 1, when they are chosen as having been with the twelve from the beginning. the casting of lots was chosen, not as a game of chance, but to allow God to have a vote. these men, both deserving of the office, would be elected by the thoughts and intents of their hearts. not that one was harboring evil, but that God knows the orders and the appropriate person to fulfill His perfect will.
the lots fell on Matthias. the office of the twelfth had been filled, and this is the last time the Bible directly mentions either of these men. tradition says that Joseph Justus had traveled down the road 20 or 30 miles and started a church in a small village. maybe we hear so little of them because the book of Acts soon breaks off into the exploits of Peter and Paul on their missionary journeys and leaves from detailing other Apostles that were elsewhere from the writers of epistles. perhaps we hear little of them because they “did not doubt, backslide, misunderstand, betray, or seek personal glory” (Purpose Institute, #7203 – The Twelve Apostles, Lesson 3: Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, and James the Less, pg. 9, purposeinstitute.com).
if the historical account of Justus holds to be accurate, it speaks to his character. instead of wallowing in self-pity and bitterness over not being chosen, he continues to serve the Lord. any one of the twelve could have made an argument as to why Justus should have been picked. Justus had been there from the beginning with Matthias; he could have brought up a shameful act attributed to Matthias, long since repented of. he might have devised a fabrication of a tale that aimed at making the twelfth man look bad. When the counsels of the day were seeking those that would seemingly discredit the Law of Moses, he could have turned them all in for spite. Justus takes the high road. some 30 years later, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, would die a martyr for Christ if these traditional tales were true.
what lessons can be deciphered from this short introduction to the man, Justus? first, to be considered was a great honor! his life and the example he set were worthy of runner-up to the church’s forefathers; you cannot get any closer than that! give the Lord your best effort, and don’t do it for the recognition. allow Jesus to use you, and He will elevate you. secondly, support your leadership. Justus was not chosen for the position, but he continued tarrying for the promise in the upper room as one of the 120. when the Holy Ghost fell, he was ready to support Peter and help to baptize 3,000 new converts! next, allow God to change your orders. you may have been the best disciple for three and a half years, but now God wants you to start a church in a small village. if he had not embraced the growth and new direction, there would have been a village full of lost souls. lastly, stand for what you believe. if Justus had indeed been martyred for the cause of the Kingdom, he finished his race without backing down. whatever is done for Christ will last, and i can see that type of devotion being met in heaven by Jesus with open arms.
in conclusion, had Judas taken the opportunity to repent of his betrayal, we would most likely not have discussed his role in history nearly as much. whether your opinions side with Judas’ zeal to jumpstart a revolution, his sudden scheming at being filled with satan, or his downward spiral that began with embezzlement, had Judas fallen at the feet of the resurrected Lord, we may have had a different ending. forgiveness from betrayal would be a powerful testimony. this is not the case, however, and we gain a small glimpse into the workings of what would soon be the church. the ministry of the Lord is more significant than one person, and each of us must remain flexible. jealousy has no place in the church. the work is too important, and we are too close to the return of Jesus! let us each fulfill our role with integrity and humbleness to the glory of God!