I started 2012 with a few resolutions:
- To learn how to do a proper blow-out.
- To get great arms.
- And… whatever else sounded good each and every minute leading to midnight on New Year’s Eve.
Upon New Year’s Day, I found myself soberly sitting in my living room. I was feeling the aftermath of an irrational decision and wanted to dive into the Bible for a feel-good. As I sat holding my study Bible in my hands (it is pretty heavy and I was dead set on achieving resolution #2 at any cost), I realized how I wasn’t going to get far.
You see, I wanted God’s word to be a band-aid. Rather than approaching it as a source of truth, I wanted it to be a cure-all so I could stop sulking and start bopping around again. I was deflated. I didn’t know which book to turn to as I wasn’t sure there was anything that addressed my circumstances with the specificity that I ached for. Within minute I was crying. Big, wet, tears. As I flipped through the pages I came across a table in the back that offered a reading plan to read the Bible in a year. The next thing I knew I was laughing and feeling a wave of relief coming over me. If I wanted the Bible to be meaningful and more than a toy for me to manipulate, shouldn’t I know it well? Shouldn’t I read it in its entirety? Before I knew it, I had found my third resolution and it wasn’t going to be changing anytime soon.
Flash forward to now. It’s February and I’m reading from Genesis, the Psalms, 2 Chronicles and Acts every day (by God’s grace I’m sticking with it – the arm resolution, however, has run out of steam). I had initially decided to read Acts in its entirety to gain a perspective on the growth of the Christian church back in December before I had any idea that I’d be reading it and much, much more this year. As such, I was excited to dive in and read about the mass baptisms, the coming of the Holy Spirit and the rapid rate of conversions that happened in the days and weeks after Jesus returned to heaven. As I finished chapter 1, however, something else caught my attention entirely (warning: more than ten verses ahead):
In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) and said, “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. For he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.” (Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness, and falling headlong he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their own language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) “For it is written in the Book of Psalms,
“‘May his camp become desolate, and let there be no one to dwell in it’; and“‘Let another take his office.’
So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.” And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, and Matthias. And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.
(Acts 1:15-26 ESV)
These verses conclude chapter 1 and I’ll admit that all I could think about was what had happened to Justus? My concern was not so much about why they hadn’t picked him (clearly they casted lots) but rather I just felt bad for the guy. I mean, he had walked with Jesus from the baptism of John through Jesus’ resurrection. Among the “chaos” after Christ’s ascension, he stuck with the early church. And finally, when Peter felt led to replace Judas, he (out of 120 other men) was one of two to be singled out, to be prayed over, and then… the lot wasn’t cast in his favor in front of (most likely) everyone.
Let me tell you… if we eagerly watch reality TV shows such as Survivor or America’s Next Top Model with bated breath, how much more hope and expectation could there be in being named as one of the twelve disciples? Again, I just felt bad for the guy.
So… what happened next? Well, I frankly thought it would be only logical for Justus to drop into the background. After forcing a smile and hugging Matthias, he would fade from the front lines of ministry. He would return to his hometown and his family, pick up his prior day job and faithfully send in his financial support as the other disciples built the early church. On the holidays he would commiserate with his friends, recalling the fervor and excitement of the days he was one of the 120 seeing Jesus perform miracles and rebuking the religious. Because he had been one of them, he would have to keep appearances, of course. Only in the dark of the evening as he lay awake would he give in to the darkest thoughts… “Why wasn’t it me?” There, he would cross-examine every interaction, every word he had spoken during his time of ministry. Had he insulted Peter in a casual conversation? Had he not been faithful enough? What did Matthias have that he didn’t?
In other words, I couldn’t blame Justus if he had been human. I mean, here he was at the pinnacle of his life with the opportunity to be a major character in history and he had missed out. He was second best. I haven’t been shy about sharing my experiences with you regarding how placing second nearly drove me to my wit’s end. Losing out on titles and prestige is hard for most of us, especially in such a competitive and accomplishment-oriented culture. Thankfully, my tailspin led me to Jesus. But what about, Justus?
Well, thankfully, Justus remembered the Gospel. Rather than sulk, or question, or have an internal temper tantrum, Justus remembered the last words of his Savior, Jesus Christ:
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
(Matthew 28:18-20 ESV)
Although my research is merely limited to a Bing search, several sources confirm that Justus remained a leader in the early church and one even suggests that he was a martyr of the faith. He didn’t cower at his lost title but instead stood up into his place in Jesus’ kingdom. He was faithful and, to me, a great encouragement. So, thanks Justus… for not only preventing pride from getting the better side of you but for responding to Jesus’ calling and leading by example.