Joseph Justus was a nobody. A man passed over for greatness (as we measure it).
Yet, he walked with Jesus from the time of His baptism. He saw our Lord speak, do miracles, give mercy, teach the public and teach in private, express outrage at hypocrisy, cast out demons, and patiently put up with His position-hungry disciples and their never-lacking advice on how Jesus should do this or that (or not do something). He saw our Lord die. He saw our Lord alive afterwards and Joseph Justus Barsabas was even likely there when our Lord rose into the heavens (Acts 1:21). Yes, the legacy of Rev. Joseph J. Barsabas—no, make that Right Reverend J. Justus Barsabas… well, he probably went by JJ,—was that he would give thousands of eye witness descriptions to followers in the years ahead.
He was regarded highly by the apostles and was recommended to be a potential replacement for Judas as one of the twelve. The lots fell, and the choice went to Matthias.
We are today very much concerned that others not be above us, that we are equal to others, to anyone. Most of us want recognition and to stand out, to be set apart, to be esteemed highly. It’s our nature (Matt 23:1-7); Mark 10:37). It is true we are all ordained for service.
Joseph Justus Barsabas was not chosen to be one of the twelve, eye-witnesses of our Lord’s life, ministry, death and resurrection and one of the twelve pillars in the Kingdom to come. But he was there at Pentecost. He was among the firstborn filled with the Spirit, uniquely demonstrated by tongues of fire. He spoke in unknown (to him) languages “the wonderful works of God.” Three thousand believed that day.
We do not highly esteem him. Most would not recognize his name. But he trusted God to choose, and was happy for God’s will to be done. He wasn’t focused on himself; he wasn’t striving to be someone. Joseph was fine without recognition, laboring unseen and unheralded. He had seen Jesus. He trusted him and was filled with Spirit, and he knew he could not be more loved by God. He knew nothing he did deserved God’s attention. He knew justice and fairness were not words appropriate on a Christian tongue–we who rightly deserve hell have not only been forgiven, our payment made by God’s own Son, but we have been made fully righteous. Nothing we do could make us more righteous, more accepted, more known by God, more loved by God.
This week I turned in my notice at work. I’m moving to a new job. I still work there for the next two weeks, but I am so much more relaxed. Why? I can’t be judged. I can’t screw up and lose my job. That doesn’t make me want to do poorly. I still work as hard and care about customers as much. But, there is this lightness. A calm peace.
This reminds me of my position today with God. I can serve without trying to achieve personal recognition and without fear of screwing up and being found out. I don’t have to manage my reputation and protect my standing. I don’t care who is ahead, or over me, or better at something than me. How full our hearts can be in His love and acceptance! How free of performance and safety we are!
Yes. I am an ordained priest of God. Sometimes we need to be reminded of that and to be encouraged that we have all of God’s authority in His word and all of His power in His Spirit within. Sometimes, we need to sit back and consider this wonderful unknown servant of God: Joseph Justus Barsabas. Oh, and everything JJ did was recorded and will be revealed, as is true of everything you are doing.
…let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith. -Gal 6:9-10