When You Become God’s Surprise Witness

How Matthias reveals our insignificance is seen by God.

Sometimes God surprises us with opportunities we never sought, never expected, and never even imagined. Often these moments come in the middle of our ho-hum lives.

When You Become God's Surprise Witness

(Photo by Photodune)

It happened with Matthias.

Ever since John the Baptist had prepared the way for the Messiah, Matthias 
had followed. He had walked in Jesus’ footsteps from the Jordan River to the rugged hills of Galilee. He had followed the Savior with passion and persuasion—and without recognition.

Matthias was a willing unknown.

Then one day it all changed.

Qualified but Not Chosen

Early on, Jesus had chosen His twelve apostles from among the many disciples who shadowed Him. Even though Matthias qualified as much as any of the twelve who made the list, he wasn’t selected.

But that didn’t matter. Matthias followed anyway.

  • He listened with amazement to the Sermon on the Mount that day beside the Sea of Galilee.
  • He ate his fill of fish and loaves on the Plain of Bethsaida.
  • He witnessed the miraculous healings in Capernaum and Chorazin.
  • He lent his voice to the throng that praised Jesus as He rode the donkey down the Mount of Olives for that final Passover with Jesus.
  • One week later, Matthias witnessed his world turn upside down—as the One he had faithfully followed died on a Roman cross.

For more than three years, Matthias had witnessed it all—in absolute obscurity. The Gospels never mention his name; yet he was there on every page.

Sunset over Sea of Galilee

(Photo: The Sea of Galilee, where Matthias followed Jesus. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Jesus’ glorious resurrection had given the disillusioned group of disciples a new hope and a new purpose—a goal beyond the personal greatness they had chased for more than three years. Jesus had commissioned His disciples to make disciples of all nations.

As Jesus ascended to heaven, He told His many followers standing on the Mount of Olives:

You shall be My witnesses. —Acts 1:8

Matthias heard it himself. He, too, had seen Jesus ascend.

Why Judas Had to Be Replaced

Not long after, everyone in the Upper Room knew Jesus had promised the twelve apostles they would sit on twelve thrones over the twelve tribes of Israel. In the same room where Jesus had predicted Judas’s betrayal, Peter explained, through the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, Scripture’s prediction that Judas would need to be replaced (Acts 1:20–22).

  • After all, Jesus’ followers expected the promised Holy Spirit at any time.
  • They lived in anticipation of Jesus’ imminent coming to take them to heaven before His return to rule (John 14:1–3; Acts 1:6–8).
The Upper Room

(Photo: The Upper Room. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

The need to fill the hole Judas left suggested he had never placed his faith in Jesus (1:25)—a point that would soon be affirmed when James surrendered his head to the sword and no one saw the need to replace him. James will rise again to sit on a throne in Israel. Judas’s resurrection will have a very different destiny (Rev. 20:14–15).

God’s Surprise Witness

God revealed that He had chosen Matthias to serve in Judas’s place as an apostle and as a witness of Jesus’ resurrection. Most likely, no one was more surprised than Matthias.

  • Matthias never followed Jesus in order to serve as an apostle.
  • He didn’t stick around to fill the first vacancy.
  • He didn’t even climb the steps to the Upper Room that day to fish for votes.

Matthias simply followed Jesus from the very beginning—with no motive but faithfulness.


(Painting: “Apostle Matthias,” by Wolfgang Sauber. Own work. CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

No Motive But Faithfulness

Repeatedly in Scripture we see individuals who began with obscure faithfulness—people like Joseph, Ruth, David, Daniel, Esther, and even Jesus—and then God expanded their influence for His glory.

In each case, God alone gave the promotion.

It’s the same with us. When we beg God to rescue us from our insignificant lives, believing nothing important is happening with us, Matthias reminds us that just the opposite is true. We need to see our obscurity as our significant opportunity (Matt. 25:21).

Matthias never appears again in the book of Acts or anywhere else in Scripture. He emerges for a moment and then vanishes again into obscurity—a willing unknown who followed God with only the motive of faithfulness.

Just like us.

Tell me what you think: Do you see obscurity as your opportunity to honor an audience of one—God alone? To leave a comment, just click here.

Post adapted from Wayne Stiles, “Matthias: God’s Surprise Witness,” from Shaping the Modern Disciple (IFL Publishing House, 2014), 74-77.

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