Sermon from October 10: I Am Andrew

I Am Andrew
Pentecost XX; October 10, 2021
John 6:1-21

I am Andrew, disciple of Jesus, brother of Simon Peter. My brother and I had a fishing business together and did very well until Jesus came along and turned our lives upside-down. It was a good thing, to be sure, but my life did not end with a comfortable retirement in Bethsaida after a successful career in fishing, as I had expected. It ended on a Cross.

Well, I grew up in Bethsaida, learning fishing with my brother from our father. My friend Philip was also from Bethsaida and we were always good friends. When John the Baptizer started preaching at the Jordan River, I spent some time with him, and Philip did too, because I’ve always wanted to learn whatever I could to be a better follower of God. When Philip and I were with John one day this Jesus walked by and John said, “Look! Here is the lamb of God!” Well, that was a revelation. “Lamb of God” must mean that John thought this man was the one destined to be the salvation of Israel, so we left John there and followed Jesus. Jesus asked us why we were following him, and I said, “Rabbi, where are you staying?” He invited us in and we talked all day. I was convinced that John was right, so I went and found my brother and took him to Jesus. I said, “We have found the Messiah.”

That began three years of living with Jesus and learning from Jesus. It was a struggle, because his ideas were so strange, but compelling, you know? And we saw so many remarkable things. Our friends James and John, the sons of Zebedee, also became disciples, and somehow Simon – whom you call Peter – and James and John became Jesus’ inner circle. While those three clustered around the front, Philip and I hung together in the second rank, and then the others. Actually, Judas often seemed closer to Jesus than anyone, which made what happened later even more of a surprise.

It seemed to be my role to make connections whenever necessary. For example, when we were on a hillside and he was teaching and everyone was growing hungry, Jesus said to Philip, “How are we going to feed all these people?” Philip said that there was no way we could raise enough money to feed them. I said, “Well, here is a boy with five loaves of barley bread and two fish, but how far will that go with this many people?” You know what happened then; Jesus fed the crowd and then we gathered enough leftovers for the twelve of us each to have food for the next day.

Likewise, when were in Jerusalem that last week before Jesus’ crucifixion, some Greek visitors came to us and said to Philip, “We wish to see Jesus.” Perhaps they sought out Philip because he spoke such excellent Greek. Well, he wasn’t sure what to do, so he of course found me and together we went to Jesus. This must have been a sign Jesus was looking for, when foreigners would come to seek him, because he said, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” I was not sure why the arrival of some Greeks was a sign, but I understood what he meant when he said he was going to be “glorified:” the time had come for him to die for the salvation of Israel.

You know, I suppose, that after Jesus was arrested we all scattered and hid; we assumed they would come next for us. And probably they would have. Then we had those remarkable forty days after he was killed and raised to new life: we ate with him and drank with him; we enjoyed grilled fish at the lakeside; we had a chance to learn some more. And then, at last, he left us.

I do not know how much you know of what happened after that. The Holy Spirit came upon us in power and we had wonderful success in turning people’s hearts to Jesus. Thousands of people in Jerusalem came to believe that he was the Messiah and they trusted in him for salvation; it was a wonderful, exhilarating time. Then when the leaders of Judea began to feel threatened, the persecution began. My brother was imprisoned; our friend James was executed. We hid for a while and then we finally did what Jesus had told us we would do: we scattered to different directions in order to tell the world about Jesus.

I headed north to the Black Sea area; I spent much of my time in Byzantium, which was later called Constantinople and which you know as Istanbul. I made my way to Kyiv and then to Greece and was preaching about Jesus in the port city of Patras. The Governor there, Aegeas, ordered me to stop preaching about Jesus, but how could I stop telling the truth? So I defied his order, for which I was condemned to die by crucifixion. Well, crucifixion was the standard punishment for enemies of the State, but I felt myself unworthy to die the same way my Savior had died. So the Cross on which I was killed was an X-shape. One of the crosses you display here during Lent is called a St. Andrew’s Cross and your Pastor’s stoles have an X on the nape for the St. Andrew’s Cross.

Let me digress a moment by telling you a story about the Cross named for me. After I died, parts of my skeleton were preserved in different places. That was common among ancient Christians as a way of showing respect for the Apostles and other martyrs. Anyway, because of dangers from the east, early in the eighth century some of my relics were taken to Scotland, to the city now known as St. Andrews. You think of that city in connection with golf, but it’s named for me for a holier reason. Then during one of the many times the English sought to subject Scotland to their tyranny, Óengus II led a vastly outnumbered army of Picts and Scots against the Angles. Before the battle, he saw in a deep blue sky an X-shaped cross of fluffy white clouds, just like the cross on which I was executed. He vowed that if he won the battle, he would name me as the patron saint of Scotland. He did win, and I was so named, and the white X-shaped cross (called the Saltire) on a sky-blue field is the flag of Scotland, and November 30, St. Andrew’s Day, is the national day for Scottish people.

Well, what more should I say to you? I have sometimes reflected on my career as an apostle, and there are two things that stand out to me. One of them is that it seems that it was my job to bring other people to Jesus. I brought my brother Simon Peter to Jesus. I brought the boy with the five barley loaves and two fish to Jesus. And, with my buddy Philip, I brought those Greeks to Jesus. So it is no surprise to me that I should have brought people in Byzantium and Ukraine and Greece to Jesus, and that I would be sentenced to death because I refused to stop bringing people to Jesus. I wonder if some of you may not also be in that position: your job seems to be to bring other people to Jesus. They will doubtless remember you for it, even if you do not.

The other thing to say to you is that it would be easy, I suppose, for me to be envious. I brought my brother to Jesus. I helped Jesus to call James and John. So, Peter, Andrew, James, and John should have been the Big Four. But read your Gospels. Who went with Jesus into the room with Jairus when he raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead? Peter, James, and John. Who was on the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus? Peter, James, and John. Who was nearby in the Garden of Gethsemane? Peter, James, and John. Why was it always, “Peter, James, and John” and not, “Peter, Andrew, James, and John”?

I do not know. And after a long time of reflection I find that I do not care. I do not need to be honored as one of those at the center. I can be an also-ran. Are not some of you also-rans? You look at what your classmates from school have accomplished, and even though you have had a good life so far still you could be envious of them. Maybe you also have a famous sibling and you are tempted to be envious. I am Andrew, just Andrew. I’m not one of the Big Three; I’m not remembered as the First Pope or the first Apostle to be martyred or the author of a Gospel. It is nice that Scottish people have parties on the anniversary of my death. But I know that I am in the second rank, not at the center like my brother. And I’m fine with that. My job was not to become famous; my job was to bring people to Jesus. And that is what I did.

I am Andrew, disciple of Jesus. What can be more important than that?

Robert A. Keefer
Presbyterian Church of the Master
Omaha, Nebraska

Source information:

Whenever the Gospel accounts conflict, I went with John’s version, since the text for the day was from John.

Scripture sources: John 1:35-42; 6:8-9; 12:20-26; Mark 3:18; Acts 1:13

Information about his later ministry and martyrdom from Wikipedia and other online sources.

I extrapolate his friendship with Philip from the frequency with which they are mentioned together in the Bible.