I hated recess when I was a kid. Mostly because I was always picked last for those old playground games. Do you remember games like kickball, wiffle ball and freeze-tag? Just name the team game, and I was bad at it. However, there was one game at which I excelled. Red-Rover. Oh, ya. For those of you unfamiliar with this spectacular specimen of childhood lore, let me explain. Two teams form two parallel lines facing each other, joining hands with their teammates. One team would agree on who to call over, and they’d shout, “Red Rover, Red Rover, Send Susie Q over!”I hated recess when I was a kid. Mostly because I was always picked last for those old playground games. Do you remember games like kickball, wiffle ball and freeze-tag? Just name the team game, and I was bad at it. However, there was one game at which I excelled. Red-Rover. Oh, ya. For those of you unfamiliar with this spectacular specimen of childhood lore, let me explain. Two teams form two parallel lines facing each other, joining hands with their teammates. One team would agree on who to call over, and they’d shout, “Red Rover, Red Rover, Send Susie Q over!” At that point, Susie Q would run from the other team’s line and try to break through the beckoning team’s locked hands. If Susie Q broke through, Hooray! If she didn’t, Boo! I could explain further, but let me just say that because I was a rather big and strong girl…I excelled at Red Rover! I was seldom chosen last for this one! So what is it about being chosen last that is so hurtful? The only thing worse is not being chosen at all. Check that…the only thing worse would be to go unchosen by God. Is that what happed to this disciple? I’ll let you decide…
Acts 1:12-15 – “Then [after Jesus ascended to heaven] they returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city. When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers. In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty).”
A group of 120 believers huddled together in Jerusalem after Jesus told them to wait for instructions in Jerusalem. Luke records names of the eleven remaining disciples, “the women” groupies that followed Jesus’ three-year ministry (Matt. 27:55–56; Mark 15:40–41; Luke 8:3), and Jesus’ mom and brothers (Mark 6:3 – James, Joses, Judas, and Simon). A conservative estimate of those listed by name or station still leaves 75-90 committed believers unidentified in this gathering. Who were they? No names, no descriptions, no credit, no clippings or blog posts. I think they represent the ANONYMOUS FAITHFUL who fill our churches. They may not have been chosen first for the team, or placed in the starring roles of the early church drama, but they were faithful. Like the unnamed believers, you may never have a starring role in your church’s roster, but the more important consideration is this: Are you faithful and obedient—as these believers were—to be where God has called, doing what He’s asked?
Acts 1:16-20 – “and [Peter] said, ‘Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through the mouth of David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus—he was one of our number and shared in this ministry.’ (With the reward he got for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called that field in their language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) ‘For,’ said Peter, ‘it is written in the book of Psalms, “‘May his place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in it,’ and, “‘May another take his place of leadership.”
Sometimes star players crash and burn. Sad but true. Those in the spotlight carry a heavy burden and are susceptible to grave temptation. I wonder if the remaining eleven disciples were more diligent after having seen Judas fall to temptation? Wait…come to think of it, the guy giving this speech also fell to temptation. Peter also betrayed Jesus on the night of His crucifixion. A major difference defined Judas and Peter. Judas sinned (stealing from the money purse—Jn.12:6) and then looked into Jesus’ eyes and sinned again and again; leading to his ultimate betrayal. Peter betrayed Christ, but when he looked his Savior in the eye, he repented. The difference between Judas and Peter wasn’t that one was a betrayer and the other a perfect follower. They were both betrayers. The difference was that one was broken by Jesus’ love and the other refused to let love change him.
Acts 1:21-26 – [Peter continued,] “Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.’ So they proposed two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. Then they prayed, ‘Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.’ Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.”
Joseph/Barsabbas/Justus and Matthias had both been with Jesus as long as the original twelve disciples. Already passed over when Jesus made his original choice of the twelve, how do you think good ol’ JBJustus felt when the lot fell to Matthias? Did he feel rejected by God? Bitter and betrayed? Or perhaps the godly man felt resolved and supportive? But here’s the interesting part. Neither Matthias nor Justus are ever heard of again in the written cannon of Scripture. In fact, the Book of Acts mentions only three of the disciples at all. Peter gets the first nine chapters. John is mentioned three times, and his brother James only once. In choosing Judas’ replacement, the disciples faithfully fulfilled David’s prophecy of Psalm 109:8, but isn’t it interesting that what seemed to be the greatest honor (naming the twelfth man) became less earth-moving in the grander scheme? Hmmm, perhaps we should remember that the next time our churches have business meetings, deacon meetings, elder councils, whatever you call them in your context. Be sober minded and faithful. But realize that NOT getting chosen for the “team” doesn’t mean you’re disqualified to win the prize.
- Lord, redefine my concept of Your “team.” Show me the value of being “chosen” to do Your will and Your work even when recognition isn’t part of the deal. Show me the value of having already been chosen as Your child, Your beloved. When I feel that I’m not in the “IN” crowd at church or in a circle of believers, give me Your understanding to address the issue—either to confront or ignore. If I’ve excluded others from the “IN” crowd at my church, forgive me, Lord; and show me how to be more inclusive of all participants in this effort of winning souls for You.