Here we have the calling of the Twelve Apostles. Saint Luke’s account includes the detail that Christ our Lord specifically named them Apostles at this time. This was not simply a name given to them later on. He designated them to be His Apostles, meaning those whom He was sending out with particular authority from Him to preach, teach, and administer the Sacraments.
This is an important occasion, since our Lord was building His Church upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets. These men would serve as the bedrock upon which the Kingdom of Christ would stand. Yet this is not the men in themselves, but the men as those sent by Christ to proclaim His Gospel. These men would establish the Church by spreading the benefits of what their Lord has done.
There are some interesting details here. In the same account in Saints Matthew and Mark, the Apostle Simon Peter is always mentioned first. Peter is the first among equals. He is not the pope to rule over the others. Yet he was often the spokesperson for the Twelve, especially when he confessed Christ to be the Son of the Living God.
Matthew and Luke both put the Apostle Andrew next, although Mark puts Andrew further down the list. The Apostles James and John stand either right before Andrew or right after him.
Those four were the earliest to be called as disciples. Peter, James, and John were often invited by Christ to special events, such as the Transfiguration and being closest to Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane.
The Apostles Philip and Bartholomew are next. Bartholomew is not named in John’s Gospel, and he likely is the same man whom John calls Nathaniel.
After that we get a jumble of Apostles, not necessarily in the same order or with the same names. Matthew and Thomas are there and James the son of Alphaeus. Thaddaeus is named by Matthew and Mark’s account. Luke instead has Judas the son of James, who is almost certainly the same as Thaddaeus. Simon the Cananaean in Matthew and Mark seem to be the same person as Luke’s Simon the Zealot.
Then there’s Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Christ.
Where is Saint Matthias? He is not mentioned. Matthew is certainly not Matthias. Yet Matthias is considered one of the Apostles.
At this time, Matthias was around, although he is not mentioned. At this time, the Lord did not choose Matthias to be one of the Twelve. Instead, in Acts One, Matthias was chosen to replace Judas, who had hung himself. That is how Matthias became an Apostle.
So why bother having this Gospel on the Day that commemorates Matthias? Answer: This is a warning, and a promise.
When we look at Judas, we notice that he is listed among those called by Christ as one of the Apostles. This feels weird to us. Judas here is an Apostle. But we know what happened: the betrayal, the kiss in the Garden, the thirty pieces of silver.
It is worth noting that Luke uses a slightly different description for Judas. Matthew and Mark say, “Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Him.” But Luke says, “Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.” The word for “traitor” is somewhat related to the word for “betray”, yet has a broader meaning. Betrayal particularly emphasizes the act of handing something or someone over, or to reveal something that ought not be revealed. On the other hand, to be a traitor is to commit treason, which is the particular betrayal of one’s country or monarch and/or giving aid to an enemy.
We could use Luke’s broader word to say that Judas was a traitor who betrayed His own King. He gave aid to the enemy, which is not just the Pharisees and Jewish rulers, but is actually satan, the ancient serpent who was against Christ in the most hateful way since the beginning of the world.
An Apostle did this, someone whom Christ specifically picked to serve as His representative. We can only assume that Judas was faithful at this point in Luke six. Otherwise, the other disciples would say, “Why did you choose that horrible man? He is so nasty and unreliable!” But there is no sign of Judas’ corruption until later in the Gospels.
A separate question is how much Christ knew. As the Son of Man, He knew all things. But He did not always use that knowledge. At some point, He knew that Judas would betray Him. But we cannot say for certain anything about exactly when He knew that.
The lesson for us is this: You must be diligent and faithful at all times. It does not matter how established and recognized you are as a follower of Christ. Judas was called by Christ to the highest position Christ could bestow! If he can fall, so can you.
The key is to continue in repentance. Notice the ways that you sin, rather than justifying them. Judas kept sinning, piling greed and unfaithfulness into a stinking pile that culminated in treason against the Son of God. If only Judas had noticed early on that he was going astray. What might have happened if he had knelt at the feet of Christ and said, “Forgive me, Lord, for I have sinned”?
Guard yourself. Repent.
Besides that warning, there is also a promise. The Church and her blessings do not depend on the performance of sinful men. When Judas fell, you might imagine this shaking up a Church that was just getting started. Scandal and betrayal at such a high level can easily destroy any human organization.
But this is not merely a human organization. The Lord of the Church is in control. The blessings of the Church are the gifts that Christ won by His life, death, and resurrection. He suffered so that the Church will always have eternal life to give out through her called ministers.
When we experience betrayal, pain, heartache, traitors in our midst, whatever horrible things satan can unleash against us, nevertheless, Christ the Lord is giving out His gifts. If your minister loses his mind and betrays you, nevertheless, the eternal benefits of your Lord’s Passion are given out. If you feel that you have been hurt in a way that can never be healed, you are wrong, because Christ suffered hell for you so that you will have healing forever.
Yes, Judases may betray the Church. But Christ will always have a Matthias ready to serve His people. He will see that you receive all the blessings He has for you.
In His Name, the gracious Lord of the Church. Amen.
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