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BIOGRAPHY & LEGEND
According to Acts 1:15-26, during the days after the Ascension, Peter stood up in the midst of the brothers (about 120 of Jesus’ followers). Now that Judas had betrayed his ministry, it was necessary, Peter said, to fulfill the scriptural recommendation that another should take his office. “Therefore, it is necessary that one of the men who accompanied us the whole time the Lord Jesus came and went among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day on which he was taken up from us, become with us a witness to his resurrection” (Acts 1:21-22).
They nominated two men: Joseph Barsabbas and Matthias. They prayed and drew lots. The choice fell upon Matthias, who was added to the Eleven.
Matthias is not mentioned by name anywhere else in the New Testament.
An apocryphal story tells us that the Apostle Matthias preached the “Good News” to the inhabitants of Ethiopia and Macedonia. In Ethiopia the heathen dragged him over the ground, beat him, hung him from a pillar and tore his stomach with an iron blade and burned him with fire. St. Matthias suffered many trials in the name of Christ.
One of the towns that Matthias preached in was called the “city of the man-eaters.” This was a town where cannibalism was practiced. It is recorded in the Anti-Nicene fathers that Matthias was captured by these man-eaters. When Matthias entered this town, the men of that city took hold of him and thrust out his eyes and made him drink poison and sent him to the prison where he sat for thirty days waiting to be eaten and die. The Lord appeared to Matthias and said, “Be of good courage, our Matthias, and be not dismayed; for I shall not by any means forsake you.” The Lord gave Matthias back his eyesight, as well as the other prisoners with him who had suffered the same fate, and promised that He would send the Apostle Andrew to release him and the others. The Lord wanted Matthias to stay in the prison until the arrival of Andrew so that the other souls would be edified by his preaching of the Gospel. The Apostle Andrew was sent to rescue Matthias, and as Andrew approached the gates of the prison, the doors opened of their own accord. Matthias and the others were released.
Toward the end of his travels Matthias returned to Galilee to preach to the Jews once again. The Jews, filled with malice and anger, seized Matthias and presented him to the High Priest, Annas. The High Priest, Annas, who hated all Christians and was responsible for the death of James, the first bishop of Jerusalem, ordered that Matthias be stoned. When Matthias was taken to be stoned he said to the Jews,
“You hypocrites, rightly did the Prophet David speak to those like you: ‘they shall hunt down the soul of the righteous man, and the innocent blood shall they condemn'” (Psalm 93:21).
After Matthias spoke these words, two witnesses who claimed that he blasphemed picked up stones to be the first two to stone him. St. Matthias asked that these stones be buried with him as a testimony of his suffering for the Lord. They stoned St. Matthias to death, and as an added insult, they also beheaded him to express that he was an enemy of Rome.
Such was the faith and conviction of the Holy Apostle Matthias.