Barsabbas and Matthias were the two candidates for the 12th position on the disciples team and one of them would take the place of the traitor Judas.
Recently, I was looking through some old diaries and pictures and, for some reason, I got thinking of an event and wondered if I might have once played a similar role to Barsabbas.
My story goes like this: Many years ago, I was at one of our conferences in an Asian city with hundreds of other delegates from our organization. At such times we elected the President of our corporation, as well as other officers.
One would think—if one thinks of such things—that the President of a Corporation could be appointed by the Board of that organization. But not in our case: elections were times of great emotional catharsis and a certain amount of prayer. But we didn’t pull straws like they did for Judas’s replacement: we used the democratic method and had honest elections. There wasn’t an element of chance that we wanted to interfere with the predestination of God. Pulling straws would be “the luck of the draw” and we did not believe in luck.
Although I found out that some of our members were not opposed to the lottery, bingo, sweepstakes and other types of “drawings”, that was not the point. In such cases, if they won, it was a blessing at best and perhaps a windfall at least. But, despite the biblical examples of drawing lots, our company has never drawn straws to determine our leaders. No such luck.
To return to my story, the incumbent President of our organization was available and would surely be re-elected. She was capable, had served admirably with her husband in a war-torn land, had even been captured by the enemy for a period of time and, above all else, she was healthy and available. I was healthy and available, but I had no other credentials.
The difficult measure was that our constitution specified that each person running for office must have an “opponent” or, as it was more likely to have been stated, “a contender”. Now it came to be that the Chairman of the Board thought that I should play that part. I had no wish to do so—I was quite happy with the incumbent and could not see myself in that role. I was a sometime overseer in a local portion of our organization in a country that, at the time, was quite peaceful and somewhat obscure, both fitting to my nature as well.
However, the Chairman was not to be outdone: the Constitution demanded that two people “run” (a poor semantic choice) and, accustomed as I was to jogging, he foresaw me as the natural name to be placed in a ballot alongside the incumbent. I, perhaps like Barsabbas, reluctantly agreed. I don’t know how well he and Matthias knew each other; all I know is that Barsabbas was defeated and never heard from again—unless that is he who is with Silas in Acts 15:22. (Well, we don’t hear much about Matthias either, but that is a different story.)
When the final tally of the votes came in it was something like 225 for the incumbent and 0 (zero) for the challenger (me). (I hadn’t even the nerve to vote for myself or there would have been one positive vote.)
But what if I (or Barsabbas) had not been willing to “stand” (another semantic oddity) for office? Would our Constitution have needed revision or, perhaps, even a kind of “nuclear” vote? The whole democratic process might have laid in ruins without my bargain.
So, in one sense, I—like Barsabbas—helped the whole egalitarian process. He got the short straw, so at least he had something to hold on to. I got an empty ballot and threw it away. I should have kept it and put the appropriate Scripture verse on it—Acts 1:23—to remind me of my admirable defeat.
No one congratulated me on being the electoral scapegoat (Leviticus 16:8). In the OT story, lots were cast for two goats, and the loser was sent into the wilderness. In addition, after the scapegoat was released, the liberating mediator could not come into the camp until he washed his clothes and took a bath. I should check and see the one who presented my name as a scapegoat for the ballot had to perform the same ceremony.
Well, the scapegoat did make the atonement possible, and I can only hope my deed accomplished some similar purpose, perhaps in holding the constitution and the conference together. I’ll never know—people seemed to shy away from me after the vote.
However, I am happy to report that I was never asked to perform such a noble act again—but then how could I? I was, metaphorically of course, still out in the wilderness.
Reflecting in Texas
Many years later