May 14 – Matthias, Simon, Jude

These weekly “People to Commemorate” posts are a kind of calendar for the commemoration of the saints, reproduced here from a Uniting Church Assembly document which can be found in full here. They are intended for copying and pasting into congregational pew sheets on the Sunday closest to the nominated date.

Images (where provided) are of icons by Peter Blackwood; click on the image to download a high resolution copy of the image.

Matthias, Simon, Jude,  apostles

Matthias filled the place left vacant by Judas Iscariot after his betrayal of Jesus subsequent demise (Acts 1:23-26). Peter depicts his death as foreshadowed in scripture and then points to the need to replace him as apostle with someone who had been with them throughout Jesus’ ministry. “So they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias” (Acts 1:23). Having prayed, they cast lots, and Matthias was chosen. The author, Luke, assumes that praying and doing the equivalent of tossing a coin would achieve the desired outcome. We hear nothing more of Matthias. Luke’s story of Matthias reflects his view that there were (and needed to be) twelve apostles, almost certainly as symbolic of the twelve tribes of Israel. Limiting who could be called an apostle to the twelve stands in some tension with Paul’s view, who claimed also to be an apostle (1 Cor 9:1). In his day some denied his right to be so, possibly because they understood “apostle” as Luke or Luke’s source had done, although Luke also knew stories which called Paul and Barnabas “apostles” (14:14). Otherwise we know nothing of Mattias except for sayings attributed to him as part of a Gospel or Tradition of Matthias believed to have been composed early in the second century.

Simon, named as one of the twelve disciples, is sometimes called the “Cananean”, an Aramaic word (Matt 10:4; Mark 3:18), which Luke translates as “Zealot” (Luke 6:13; Acts 1:13). A group called “Zealots” were part of the uprising against Rome in Jerusalem which Rome crushed in 70 CE, but the term could also be used for zealous devout Jews, although readers of the gospels which appeared after 70 CE may well have understood him to have been a sympathiser with those who resisted Rome. He is not to be confused with Simon Peter, Simon the brother of Jesus (Mark 6:3), Simon of Cyrene (Mark 15:21), Simon the magician (Acts 8:9), or Simon the tanner (Acts 9:43).

Jude (also called Judas) was one of Jesus’ brothers along with James (Jacob), Joses (Joseph), and Simon (Simeon, not “the Zealot”). He is not to be confused with the two disciples with that name among the twelve: Judas Iscariot and “Judas, son of James” (Luke 6:16; Acts 1:13; John 14:22), nor with Judas of Damascus (Acts 9:11), nor with “Judas called Barsabbas” (Acts 15:22). Mark tells us that he and his family once wanted to take Jesus home because they thought he was beside himself (3:20-21) and that his family did not accept him (6:4). The image of Jesus’ family in Matthew and Luke is more positive. Eventually we find his brother James running the church in Jerusalem, but also Jude being attributed with leadership and penning the Letter of Jude. He may have done so, although many conclude that it was more likely written in his name much later like the Letter attributed to James.

William Loader