Biblical People

Biblical People: Barsabbas (1)

As we covered in the last chapter, Matthias and Barsabbas are both nominated to become the twelfth disciple, a role only one of them can fill.

They each have the needed credentials, having hung out with the disciples for three years, starting with Jesus’s baptism through to his return to heaven. They also both witnessed Jesus’s resurrection, his victory over death.

We don’t know anything else about Barsabbas, except that he has a couple of other names too: Joseph (7) and Justus.

As mentioned, both men are qualified, but only one can be chosen.

Though voting seems the fair way—the democratic approach—the disciples have a better idea. Instead of letting people decide, they’re going to let God pick.

To do this they will draw straws (literally, they’ll throw dice). They do this with prayerful confidence that God will cause the person he wants to draw the long straw.

Barsabbas gets a short straw. Bummer.

God picks Matthias over him. 

How humiliating for Barsabbas. We’re left to wonder how he reacts. Does he stomp off in a huff, mad that God selected someone else, or does he push forward in faith, striving to overcome this disappointment?

We do encounter the name Barsabbas again in the Bible—fully engaged and elevated to a leadership position—but we don’t know if this is the same man or not. It’s perplexing because this Barsabbas has a different nickname: Judas.

Personally, I want this to be the same man. It gives me hope that if we persevere in faith, we can overcome disappointment and be used by God later.

How can we respond to profound disappointment in a way that honors God?

[Discover more about Barsabbas in Acts 1:21–26 and Acts 15:22.]

Read more about other biblical characters in The Friends and Foes of Jesus, now available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

A lifelong student of the Bible, Peter DeHaan, PhD, wrote the 1,000-page website to encourage people to explore the Bible. His main blog and many books urge Christians to push past the status quo and reconsider how they practice their faith in every area of their lives.

By Peter DeHaan

Peter writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and make a faith that matters. Learn more at