Tag Archives: Acts

St. Matthias the Apostle

St. Matthias the Apostle

February 24, 2021 AD

Epistle: Acts 1:15-26

Gospel: Matthew 11:25-30


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On the night when He was betrayed, after the last supper, in His sublime great high priestly prayer, the Lord Jesus prayed for His disciples saying, “Holy Father…While I was with them, I kept them in Thy name which Thou hast given me; I have guarded them, and none of them is lost but the son of perdition, that the scriptures might be fulfilled.”

At the last supper Jesus said to His troubled disciples: “Truly, truly I say to you, one of you will betray me.” John the beloved disciple, prompted by Peter, then asked Him, “Lord, who is it?” and Jesus replied, “It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread when I have dipped it.” And when Jesus had dipped the morsel He gave it to Judas. Saint John tells us that after Judas had received the morsel Satan entered into him and that Judas then “immediately went out and it was night.” “And it was night” – night not only in the sense that the sun had set, but night in the sense that all the powers of darkness aided among others by Judas now gathered all their strength to destroy, as Saint John writes, the true Light that enlightens everyone coming into the world. There are those chilling words of John: “And this is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world and men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.” This describes not only what was happening on that dark night, but it is in a real sense a summary of the long history of humankind’s love for the darkness and rejection of the light culminating in that night when the Lord of Light and Love was betrayed by Judas who had shared the intimate fellowship of that last earthly supper of the Lord. Long centuries before the psalmist had prayed as in the psalm we prayed this evening, “Even my close friend, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.”

What Judas did on that dark and doleful night was in a way only the culmination of what he had already been doing for a long time. He was, you might say, the treasurer for Jesus and those who followed Him, and Judas had already been in the habit of stealing. Finally he agrees with the High Priest’s council to betray his Lord for thirty pieces of silver. In this sad case of Judas we see how habitual sin steadily becomes worse and at a point known only by God can finally make repentance impossible. But the fact is that Judas still was not completely blinded by sin. After he had betrayed his Lord the voice of conscience still spoke. Judas came to realize what he had done and tried to give back the money to the temple authorities but they would not have it. Then, as we heard in the Epistle from Saint Luke’s Book of Acts, we learn that Judas then used the money to buy a field and that having bought the field “fell headlong, burst open in the middle, and all his bowels gushed out.” Saint Luke tells us that this became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem so that that field became known as Akeldama which means field – of blood. Saint Luke also sees in all of this the fulfillment of some words spoken long before by the psalmist: “Let his habitation become desolate and let there be no one to live in it” and “His office let another take.”

As it in fact happened Judas’ office, his work, his position of one of the twelve apostles was not TAKEN by another. Rather God Himself filled that office in this way.

During the ten days between Jesus’ ascension into heaven and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, Saint Peter led the eleven remaining apostles in filling the office, telling the eleven that one of the men who had been an eyewitness to Jesus’ ministry from His baptism to His ascension must be chosen to fill the vacant place.

Two men were nominated: one who was named Joseph who was called Justus, the other one Matthias. Then they prayed saying, “Lord, You that know all hearts, show us 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.” Then they cast lots and the lot fell on Matthias and he was numbered with the apostles. In THIS way GOD chose Matthias to be an apostle.

More than this we do not know with certainty. But early tradition tells us that Matthias later worked in Cappadocia which is an area of present day Turkey bordering on the Black Sea, and that he perhaps also preached in the country of Georgia. And finally sealed his witness to the Saviour with his own blood.

Be all that as it may, we remember Matthias with thanksgiving because he was an apostle. And what is an apostle? An apostle is one who was sent by Jesus to be a witness to His life and death and resurrection and ascension. The word apostle comes from a verb which means ‘to send.’ The apostle is one sent by Christ to preach and teach with authority. And what the apostles in fact taught is found in the Holy Scripture: the New Testament is but the WRITTEN deposit of the apostles’ teaching and to that teaching the Church of Christ is bound until He returns in glory.

At the last supper the Lord Jesus had promised that the Holy Spirit would bring to the apostles’ remembrance all that He said and had done. That promise was wonderfully fulfilled in the teaching and preaching of the apostles beginning with Saint Peter’s wonderful sermon on Pentecost. The sermon St. Luke records in Acts 2. And that teaching was then written down by inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

The task assigned by the Lord Jesus to Matthias and all the apostles continues today as the pastors of the Church hand down the apostles’ teaching through their own preaching and teaching. And if a pastor does not do that or contradicts the teaching of the apostles, he walks not in steps of the holy apostles but of Judas who betrayed the Lord. And that is why in the Collect or “appointed prayer” for Saint Matthias’ Day we pray:

Almighty God, You chose Your servant Matthias to be numbered among the Twelve. Grant that Your church, ever preserved from false teachers, may be taught and guided by faithful and true pastors; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen

Pentecost (2016)


May 15, 2016 AD

Old Testament: Genesis 11:1-9

Epistle: Acts 2:1-21

Gospel: John 14:23-31

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Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father, and from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

The text for my sermon this Pentecost is from the twelfth chapter of First Corinthians, the third verse:

“I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says, ‘Jesus be cursed!’ and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.”

On this fiftieth day following our Lord’s resurrection from the dead, we Christians throughout the world celebrate with great joy the coming of God the Holy Spirit who works in our hearts the miracle of faith.

On Good Friday the work of our salvation was accomplished, and that is clear from Jesus’ cry of victory from the cross: “It is finished!” What was finished? The victory of love. For when all His enemies, visible and invisible, attacked Jesus, love remained love: “Father, forgive,” Jesus prays and goes on loving to the end. And because He did, all our lack of love— for God and for others— our sin is atoned for and so the sins of the world are forgiven.

On Good Friday that wonderful victory was accomplished. On Easter Day the victory was revealed in the Jesus’ glorious resurrection from the dead. Jesus’ resurrection is God the Father’s declaration that the sins of the world are forgiven and death itself is dead. And now on this fiftieth day after Easter, this Day of Pentecost— Pentecost means fiftieth— Christ’s victory was openly proclaimed. On Good Friday the victory was accomplished, on Easter the victory was revealed, now on Pentecost the victory was proclaimed, and no less than three thousand souls were brought to faith through Peter’s and the other disciples’ proclamation of our Jesus’ saving death and resurrection. And so it will continue until the end of time, when the risen and ascended Lord at last appears in glory and brings to completion that work of redeeming love begun in the manger, fulfilled on the cross, revealed at the open tomb. You and I are Christians today, believers, because the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost and continues to come through the preaching of Jesus, through the holy Sacraments, always pointing to Jesus, Our Savior.

In his First Letter to the Church at Corinth, Saint Paul writes: “I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says, ‘Jesus be cursed!’ and no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord!’ except by the Holy Spirit.” To say “Jesus is Lord” is to confess that I myself am not Lord: I am not my own Maker and most certainly not my own Savior, but rather an utterly dependent creature, and therefore not myself the judge of good and evil, truth and error, right and wrong; I am but a mortal sinner. But that is not the whole story, and if it were, how sad a story it would be. But when I say, “Jesus is Lord,” I am saying that the Father who created me out of love sent His Son to redeem me out of love and so has become my Lord through love. No one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit, and that is the miracle of faith.

How beautifully Dr. Luther expresses that in his explanation to the Third Article of Creed:

I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to Him, but the Holy Ghost has called me through the Gospel…

…the Gospel which is the good news of Jesus. The Holy Spirit points not to Himself but always to Jesus, just as Jesus said in the upper room on the night before He died for us: “When the Comforter comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth…He will bear witness to me…”

“I believe that I cannot…believe…but the Holy Spirit has called me.” And this is the miracle of faith. It was John Wesley who once said: “The change accomplished by the Holy Spirit in the heart is no less than all outward miracles as showing the same power which gave sight to the blind, feet to the lame, and life to the dead.” That is the miracle of faith! And our whole faith as Christians is miracle from beginning to end. It is all miracle— the miracle of our Savior’s birth from one both virgin and mother, the miracle of His atoning death, the miracle of His resurrection and ascension, and the still-awaited miracle of His coming again in glory. It is all miracle, the miracle of God, and the greatest of all miracles is this: that I a poor sinner can say, “Jesus loved me and gave himself for me.”

And so if you are able to say “Jesus is Lord,” this is the work of the Holy Spirit in you, the miracle of faith, wrought by the Holy Spirit in every penitent heart.

And that is why beginning on the first Pentecost and continuing to the end of the world, the Church which was born on this day, has continued to preach repentance and forgiveness of sins to the whole world. Saint Peter did that very thing on the first Pentecost when he convicted of sin that whole crowd gathered in Jerusalem, so that hearing his word, they could only cry out, “Brothers what shall we do?” And what was Peter’s answer? “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” In your baptism you received the gift of the Spirit who continues to create and sustain faith in your heart by the simple word of preaching, through the word of Pardon, and through the gift of the Savior’s mysteriously yet truly present body and blood in the Sacrament of the Altar.

And so it will continue until the end which is not end but the beginning of new and eternal life. The Holy Spirit who came this day as wind and flame continues to work the miracle of faith in the hearts of sinners like you and me so that like the first disciples and the 3000 converted on this day, we may with eyes of faith see our glorious risen Lord, hear His word of perfect peace, and be glad. And to Him be glory and honor now and forever. Amen.

And the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. +Amen.