Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent
Most historians agree that Andrew the Apostle was born between 5 and 10 AD in Bethsaida, Galilee. If correct, he would have been about the same age as Jesus. Andrew is a Greek name that means “manly” or “brave.” Among Jews, it appears to have been a popular choice as early as the second or third century BC. Interestingly, there is no proof that Andrew had a Hebrew or Aramaic name like his more well-known sibling. So, Andrew’s name is the very first thing that stands out. His family was willing to accept Hellenism, which is clear from the fact that his name is not Hebrew, as you might expect, but Greek. Andrew was born and raised in Galilee, a region in the first century that was historically and culturally as much Greek as Jewish.
Both Andrew and Simon (Peter) made their living as fishermen. This occupational choice seems to be why Jesus called them “fishers of men” in the gospels of Matthew and Mark. According to these narratives, Jesus was walking along the Sea of Galilee shore when he saw Simon and Andrew fishing and asked them to become his disciples. Jesus even stayed with these brothers in Capernaum after beginning his public ministry (Mark 1.29). It’s interesting that Luke, the physician, and the meticulous gospel author, doesn’t immediately mention Andrew’s presence or that he and Simon are brothers. According to Luke, Jesus used Simon’s boat twice: once to preach to the crowds on the shore and again to pull in a massive fish catch on a previously fruitless night. Even though Luke doesn’t name Andrew, he says that Simon (Peter) had help while trawling the waters when he caught the big fish Jesus told him to. Simon (Peter) called for backup and assistance from his friends in another boat after the massive fish trawl so that they could help him haul the fish ashore. Luke reveals that Andrew is Simon’s brother in the subsequent chapter. So, it’s safe to assume that Andrew was out fishing with Simon (Peter) at the time of the incident, which Luke records accurately. Luke shows that Andrew is often given less attention in the Bible than his better-known brother Simon (Peter). This is an interesting fact.
John devotes the most attention to Andrew. The Gospel of John states that Andrew followed the teachings of John the Baptist. Having been moved by the words of John the Baptist, Andrew and another of John the Baptist’s disciples decided to follow Jesus. When Andrew saw Jesus, he knew he was the Messiah and told his brother. Thus, the Eastern Orthodox Church reveres him as Protokletos, meaning “the first called.” Andrew wasn’t one of Jesus’ inner circle of disciples and apostles (i.e., Peter, James, and John). Still, he probably had more access to Jesus than other disciples and apostles because Peter was his brother. Andrew was with the other disciples on the Mount of Olives when Jesus made one of his rare appearances with “the four.” Andrew asked Jesus to explain what he meant when he said the temple would be destroyed and the world would end.
Most people think that Andrew is the one who sets up meetings between other people and Jesus. For example, Andrew introduced Peter to Jesus (John 1.40–42). Andrew also brought the boy with the bread and fish to Jesus (John 6.8–9). Finally, when some Greeks wanted to see Jesus, they went to Philip, who went to Andrew, knowing that the latter could arrange their introduction (John 12.21–23). In Acts 1.13, Luke mentions that Andrew is in the upper room with the 120. Unfortunately, this verse is the last time we hear about him in the New Testament. As a result, tradition is our only source of information about Andrew’s evangelistic career.
Both Origen and Eusebius credit Andrew with preaching in Scythia. Nestor’s Chronicle says that he also went from the Black Sea to the Dnieper River and then to Kyiv to preach. Afterward, he went to Novgorod (Russia). Consequently, the countries of Russia, Romania, and Ukraine revere Andrew as a patron saint. According to Hippolytus of Rome, Andrew preached in Thrace. The apocryphal Acts of Andrew connect Andrew to Byzantium or Constantinople. Basil of Seleucia claims that Andrew traveled to Thrace, Scythia, and Achaea to spread the gospel. Tradition says that Andrew died a martyr’s death in Greece, in the city of Patras, in 60 AD.
Gregory of Tours, a theologian who lived in the sixth century, read old texts that said Andrew died on a Latin cross like the one used to kill Jesus. But later, it became a tradition that Andrew asked that he be crucified on an X-shaped cross, which is now called a “Saint Andrew’s Cross.” However, we cannot date this explanation for Andrew’s martyrdom before the late Middle Ages. Whether the X-shaped cross is correct, the symbol lives on in many flags worldwide. For example, Alabama and Florida use it in their standards in the United States. Also, The Disciples of Christ and the Episcopals, among other groups, use the St. Andrews Cross in their logos.
What do we have to gain from observing Andrew? First, Andrew emphasizes the significance of personal evangelism. We typically think of preachers, elders, and those who teach Bible classes as winning souls for Christ from the lectern or podium. However, people are often led to Jesus by people they already know, as we see with Andrew. Even better than a good sermon is bringing about change on the inside and strengthening relationships with others. And yet, that doesn’t mean preaching and sharing your faith in public aren’t necessary. They are. Andrew, on the other hand, is not shown in the Bible giving speeches to big crowds, writing letters, or doing anything else to draw attention to himself. That was irrelevant. Andrew was humble in his service to God’s kingdom. And it seems that Andrew had already figured this out before Jesus gave the Great Commission.
Similar to what we learned in the first lesson on evangelism, Andrews demonstrates that some things are too good to keep to yourself. As the first disciple to meet Jesus, Andrew couldn’t keep quiet about the Messiah’s arrival on Earth. Instead, he had to share the good news of Jesus with his family and friends, including his older brother. Andrew engaged in “word-of-mouth” advertising through his enthusiasm. As statistics show, word-of-mouth marketing is effective. The opinions of others who have made that purchase sway most consumers to buy something, not the commercial or sales pitch. According to Nielsen, word-of-mouth is more effective than advertising at getting people to try new products. It never ceases to amaze me that we can have a perfectly reasonable conversation about anything from pop culture to sports with a stranger, but we’ll never bring up the subject of Jesus Christ. Just think of everything we could achieve if we did! Like Andrew, we must conclude that the treasure we have found in Christ is too precious to squirrel away.
Finally, faithfulness is more valuable than fame. Put Andrew in context with the other two apostles, Peter and Paul. This second group would go on to have highly visible and influential ministries. They would address massive audiences, winning many souls for Christ. They encouraged Christians with their letters, which we still read and cherish today. Yet many more gospel ministers have done their work in relative obscurity and seen fruit for it. Andrew was a follower who participated in this latter group. His name may be less familiar to you. Not many people have heard of him. Still, Andrew showed humility, compassion, and faith in Christ that modern Christians would do well to imitate by serving without seeking praise, leading individuals (not crowds) to Christ, and letting God use his gifts as He saw fit. The Andrews of the world can save more lives than the Peters and Pauls.