What do we know about Andrew? He was a fisherman from Bethsaida on the shore of lake Galilee and brother of Simon Peter (Matthew 4.18, Mark 1.16); John’s gospel tells us he was originally a disciple of John the Baptist (John 1:35ff). John directed Andrew to Jesus (John 1:25-42). Andrew then found his brother, Simon, and brought him to Jesus, saying “We have found the Messiah” (v41).
Andrew and Simon become disciples of Jesus and are appointed as apostles (Matthew 10.2, Mark 3.18). They seem to have shared a house in Capernaum where Jesus healed Simon’s mother-in-law of a fever (Mark 1:21, 29-31).
Andrew is present with the other apostles at key events in the gospels. He is specifically mentioned (Mark 13:3) when Jesus talks about the coming destruction of the temple as asking, with Peter, James and John, ‘when will this be?’
We also come across him in John’s account of the feeding of the multitude (John 6.3-13).
8One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, 9‘There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?’
The next time we hear of him is when some Greeks tell Philip they want to see Jesus. Philip and Andrew then tell Jesus, and Jesus talks about his death. (The mission to the gentiles won’t begin in earnest until after the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.) (John 12:20ff).
Andrew is with the others at the start of the Acts of the Apostles when they are awaiting the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 1:1-18).
The Orthodox Christian tradition (which refers to him as Πρωτόκλητος, the ‘first called’) claims Andrew as the first Patriarch in the same way that the Roman Catholic tradition claims Peter as the first Pope. And the connection with Scotland? The story that, in the C8th, relics of Saint Andrew were brought to the town now known as St Andrews, where you’ll find Scotland’s oldest university and ‘the home of golf’.
What I like about Andrew is that he often seems to be a crucial link in a chain that brings others to Jesus: his brother, Simon; the boy with the loaves and the fish; the gentile Greeks who are looking for Jesus.
As churches we face significant challenges – declining attendance, ageing congregations, and increased expenditure. It looks like Mission Impossible! And it is: none of us can meet the challenges that the church faces, unless every member of the church sees themselves as a link in a chain. Andrew links his brother to Jesus. We have family and friends who know us as church people. How can we bring them closer to Jesus? Andrew is a link for the gentile Greeks who want to see Jesus. We all have links to the wider community. How can we reach out to them? Our neighbours may not know that it’s Jesus they want to see – but they might want to see a Christmas tree festival or sing some carols. You are the links that can bring others closer to Jesus. In the feeding of the multitude, Andrew is the link that releases resources to meet the need. We’d like to put a kitchen in this building, not to feed the 5,000 but to offer hospitality to our community – not just regular churchgoers. We need the whole church family to be links in the chain that will release those resources.
Just as Andrew was called to be a link in a chain that drew others to Jesus, so are we.
Happy St Andrew’s Day!