Christians around the world remembered this past Monday as “Saint Andrew’s Day”. Within many Christian denominations and movements that follow a more traditional liturgical calendar, Andrew – one of the original Twelve Apostles – is remembered every year on November 30.
What do we know about Andrew? What can we learn from him? And how might his example challenge and inspire us as we follow the same Lord – Jesus Christ – who called him in the New Testament?
First, the Bible tells us that Andrew was Simon Peter’s brother, and was originally from Bethsaida (interestingly, Andrew’s name is Greek, though Andrew himself was Jewish). Second, we know from the Gospels of Matthew and Mark that Andrew and Peter were both fishermen by trade. Andrew heard Jesus’s famous call from Matthew 4:19 and Mark 1:17: “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” And third, we know from the Gospel of John that Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist before he began following Jesus. Andrew heard John the Baptist call Jesus “the Lamb of God” (John 1:35-37).
Other than those few passages, Andrew doesn’t feature prominently in the New Testament. He pops up here and there: for example, in passages like John 6:1-15, when Jesus feeds the 5,000; and in Mark 13:3-13, when he asks Jesus for clarity concerning his prophecy about the destruction of the Jewish Temple. Andrew’s final appearance in the New Testament comes in Acts 1:12-26, when he and other ten remaining Apostles cast lots to replace Judas following Jesus’s death, resurrection, and ascension.
Why do we know so little about Andrew? Perhaps being Peter’s sibling – arguably the most boisterous of the Twelve Apostles – left Andrew constantly standing in his brother’s shadow.
But in addition to what we examined above, there is a bit more to Andrew’s story that may help us get to know him better – and may challenge and inspire us in our own discipleship.
Returning to John 1, it’s Andrew who brings his brother to Jesus in the first place. John 1:41-42 tells us that Andrew hunted Peter down and told him he had “found the Messiah”, and then “brought him to Jesus”. Once again in John 12, Andrew plays a role in other people coming into Jesus’s presence.
It appears that Andrew may have been quite the evangelist! He must have taken Jesus’s command to be a “fisher of men” seriously. In post-Biblical (thus not “inspired”, though not necessarily untrue) legend, Andrew went on to preach the gospel in the Mediterranean region, Eastern and Western Europe, and even to the border of Asia. So if nothing else, perhaps remembering Andrew – the oft-overlooked, under-appreciated brother of Peter – can challenge and inspire us in our own mission of bringing people who are far from Jesus much closer to him.
Now, can you MAKE someone believe in Jesus? No. Not even the most polished preacher, the most brilliant theologian, or the most charismatic disciple can change the heart and mind of a sinner; that’s the work of God’s Spirit and God’s Word. But can you INTRODUCE someone to Jesus, and let God do the heavy lifting from there? Yes! In fact, God may even graciously use you as a tool to accomplish that work along the way.
Can telling people about Jesus be scary, intimidating, or even risky? Absolutely! Surely at one point or another, Andrew experienced all the things we fear could happen to us if we’re too loud about Jesus: ridicule, alienation, or even suffering. But Andrew found something – or rather, someone – worth dying for. Andrew found Jesus so captivating that he had to tell others – from his own brother, to a group of Greeks, to the surrounding nations – about him. If we share Andrew’s faith, may we pray for God’s grace to help us overcome our fear, and courage to introduce that neighbor, coworker, relative, or friend to Jesus.
Returning again to the post-Biblical tales, Andrew is said to have died by crucifixion. But instead of being crucified on the same sort of cross as Jesus, Andrew was crucified on an x-shaped cross. This was because Andrew considered himself unworthy of dying in a manner that too closely resembled the death of his Lord.
Andrew’s example of telling people about Jesus – even to the point of suffering – is worth remembering. May we follow in Andrew’s footsteps, as Andrew followed Christ. Knowing Jesus as “the lamb of God” who has taken away our sins, may we too become “fishers of men”.