I have a friend, a retired minister of the Church of Scotland, who lives in Edinburgh. So while our son was in Edinburgh recently for Hogmanay, my friend welcomed him and helped him to settle in. I keep in touch irregularly with this friend; some years ago, on 30 November, I called him by phone. For those who don’t recall, 30 November is St Andrew’s Day, and Andrew is very much the patron saint of Scotland.
I rang on St Andrew’s Day partly just to hear my friend’s voice, and partly because I’d realised one of the Church of Scotland’s official prayer resources had prayers for other saints’ days but no prayer for St Andrew’s Day. I asked him why the Church of Scotland (of all churches!) had no prayer for St Andrew’s Day? And why on earth did it have a prayer for Peter but not Andrew? He replied in his delightful Edinburgh brogue, “Och, he’s just the little brother.”
Poor Andrew, he’s only Simon Peter’s little brother—living in Peter’s shade and second in line.
And that’s basically the way the New Testament tells it.
We might think Andrew would have ‘issues’. He may have if he lived in our narcissistic age; he may have felt that no one understood him, or that he still deserved his fifteen minutes of fame. But that’s not what we see.
What do we see?
In the ‘Synoptic’ Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke—Andrew is very definitely second fiddle. Matthew mentions him twice, Mark four times, Luke once, all in lists and all somewhere down the line. He’s mentioned once in the Book of Acts. In the middle of a list. Andrew is very much a two-dimensional figure in the first three Gospels and in Acts.
The Gospel According to John mentions Andrew several times. John fleshes Andrew out a bit for us.
One time, in John’s version of the feeding of the 5000, Andrew brings a young lad to to Jesus. This lad has five buns and two fish, nowhere near enough for the crowd. But Andrew brings him anyway. We don’t know what was in Andrew’s mind, we only know one thing: he brought the lad to Jesus to see what Jesus could do with these paltry resources.
Another time, some ‘Greeks’ want to see Jesus. These people may have been Gentiles or Greek-speaking Jews from far away, we don’t know. They came to Philip, perhaps because Philip was a Greek name, but Philip didn’t go straight to Jesus. He went to Andrew first. Andrew went with him to Jesus. It seems that Andrew had a name among the disciples. He had Jesus’ ear. If you wanted something done, talk to Andrew.
Today’s reading is the first time Andrew appears in the Gospel According to John. In John’s story of Jesus, Andrew was first a follower of John the Baptist. Andrew hears John the Baptist say, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” So he and a friend follow Jesus and spend the day with him. Andrew doesn’t muck around. If he latches on to the truth, he won’t let it go. And he wants to share it with others.
So the ‘first’ thing he does is find his brother Simon. There’s an urgency about Andrew. He doesn’t let the grass grow under his feet! Andrew brings his brother to Jesus, and Jesus says to him
You are Simon son of John. You are to be called ‘Cephas’…
which is the Aramaic word for ‘Peter’; which is the Greek word for ‘Rock’.
Jesus gives Simon a new name, he calls him ‘Rocky’.
There’s no new name for Andrew. But Andrew doesn’t care, he has a great heart and a generous spirit. He is happy to take his place, as one of the group of people around Jesus, sharing in the new things that Jesus is doing. Simon Peter will be Jesus’ wingmate; that’s ok by Andrew. After all, he was the one who brought Simon Peter to Jesus.
The Gospel According to John gives us a consistent picture of Andrew. He is a truth seeker. When John the Baptist points him to the Messiah, to God’s Anointed One, to the Christ, Andrew follows straight away.
Andrew brings people to Jesus. He is obedient to the voice of the Spirit within him. He may be just one of the group, but he doesn’t put himself down. He allows God to use his strengths.
Andrew has a generous spirit. He doesn’t claim credit for himself. He is glad when Jesus praises others. He’s a team player.
Andrew has qualities that we can all share: truth-seeking, speaking to people about Jesus, being a generous team player.
That doesn’t mean though that we should all become little Andrews. We can’t all be ‘the little brother’.
Who does God want you to be? God doesn’t want you to be just like Andrew, God wanted Andrew to be just like Andrew.
God wants you and me to be the person we truly are in Christ. God has a dream for each of us, and God wants to realise that dream within us. God calls us to something quite different from being like Andrew: God calls us to put aside our own ideas of who and what we are, and let God make us who we were truly meant to be.
Some of us are Andrews, some are Simon Peters. Some are Pauls, some are Isaiahs. Some are Marys, some Deborahs or Ruths or Junias. Never heard of Junia? She was a woman who Paul called an apostle, a woman he honoured. You’ll find her tucked away in Romans 16, mentioned in dispatches.
In God’s eyes, each of us has a part to play. We bring our time, talents and money into the service of God’s kingdom. We share in the worship, witness and service of God’s Church. We become the community of grace that God is calling into being. We are salt and light for the world.
Andrew played his part. But what is your part? What are your gifts? What may you bring to God to be multiplied and used to bring the kingdom on earth as in heaven?