In Arlington National Cemetery, there is a tomb; a beautiful tomb, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers. In this tomb lie the remains of soldiers who were not able to be identified after their deaths from America’s wars since the 1st World War. Britain, Australia, France, Belgium, Bulgaria, Serbia, and a host of other countries also honor their unknown warriors. Those who lie in repose have no known names, no known family, no known history, but they are celebrated for what they did, for what they represent. They gave their all.
In the church, we don’t necessarily have a “Tomb of the Unknowns” but we do have a Feast Day to honor our unknown heroes. That day is, of course, 1 November, The Solemnity of All Saints, in honor of all the saints, known and unknown.
Now you’re saying to me, what in the world does All Saints Day have to do with the last Sunday in Eastertide???? Well, let’s think about that for a minute. In the first reading of the Scriptures appointed for today, from the first chapter of Acts, we learn that a new Apostle is chosen to replace Judas Iscariot. It would seem that there were two choices for the job. Matthias and Judas Barsabbas. Both of these men had been with Jesus FROM THE BEGINNING WHEN JESUS WAS BAPTIZED. What? There were more than the 12 original disciples? We tend to forget that, don’t we? In Luke 10: 1-24, we are told that Jesus sent out 70 men, 2 by 2 into every place that he was planning on going.
Church tradition holds that both of these men were 2 of that 70.
In the first sentence of our readings today, we learn that Peter was speaking to 120 folks.
Now, granted, you can ask just about anyone who knows me, and they will tell you that I’m pretty inept when it comes to math, but I DO know that 70 minus 2 is 68, and 120 – 2 is 118. Which leads me to ask, “Who are these people? Who are these 118 people who figured so prominently in spreading the Gospel? Who are these 118 people who were so devoted to Jesus that they risked imprisonment, some of them death; who risked losing everything to hang out in Jerusalem after the crucifixion and resurrection because Jesus told them to be there and to wait?”
Let’s think about that for a minute. We can whittle that number down some more…… Acts 1:13-15 says, “And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James. These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.” So there are a few of them. And then, we would expect that those mentioned in Acts 6:5 had been among the 70 and the 120 (Stephen, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, Nicolas), also Barnabas. These were men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom.
Women were also identified to be among the 120. The wives of the apostles were there (1 Cor. 9:5 “Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?”). Each of the wives was a devout believer in Christ. Part of the number of women would be those mentioned in Luke 8:1-3. “And it came to pass afterward, that he went throughout every city and village, preaching and shewing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the twelve were with him, And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils, And Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others, which ministered unto him of their substance.” See also Matt. 27:55-56; Luke 23:49,55. We would expect that the sisters of Jesus were also believers by this time, as His brothers had become.
Jesus brothers, had not been believers before the Crucifixion (John 7:3-5). Now they were firm in their faith and devotion to Him. These were: James, Joses, Simon, Judas (Matt. 13:55-56). James the Just was the leader of the Jerusalem Church in Acts 15:13. He is called an apostle in Gal. 1:19, although not one of the Twelve. James was the author of the Book of James. Judas was the author of the Book of Jude.
So….that leaves us with how many folks we don’t know? I lost count, I hate math, and it really doesn’t matter does it? What DOES matter is that we don’t know who, exactly, all of these people were. What we DO know, is what they did.
These were they who supported the Apostles. These were they who were in the upper room on the day of Pentecost. These were they who worked so diligently, some to the point of sacrificing their lives, to spread the message of the Gospel. These were they who were on fire for Christ. These were they to whom we look to be, or we should look to be, examples.
Who were they? Their names don’t matter. They lived 2000 years ago and they are lost to us. In 2000 years, in 100 years, most of our names will be lost. But what matters is what won’t be lost. What matters is what we do and say and proclaim, so that those who come after us will know, will experience, will be able to live, the truth and the joy of the Gospel.
My dear friends, we do not live in a vacuum. Everything that we do, everything that we say, has an effect on someone. And that someone has an effect on someone else. We see this everyday of our lives. You hear of things ‘going viral’ on the internet. Someone had to start it. Some ONE posted something that was liked….and liked….and shared and shared and shared. Is this not what those 120 people in the upper room did? Is this not what we are called to do?
In your everyday life, how often do you reference Christ? Now, I’m not talking about quoting Scripture. I’m talking about demonstrating who Christ is, showing the world Christ’s love, his Salvation? What is it that you do, or say, or write, or post, that will touch someone in a way you never imagined? I dare say you will never know. BUT, we all of us need to remember that we DO touch lives, lives we don’t even know exist. We touch lives that are unknown to us. We are touched by people who are unknown to us.
Besides those 100+ folks in the upper room, besides us, how many others have there been? How many saints? How many martyrs? How many unnamed, unwritten about people have left us with the legacy of Our Lord? Revelations 7 tells us: “I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” The unnamed disciples.
I plan on being in that ‘great multitude.’ I plan on being one of those “unnamed disciples.” Won’t you join me? Won’t you work to spread the love, the message, the salvation of our Lord and Savior? Amen.