One of the gnarly things about the classical Christian tradition that I absolutely love is the peculiar practice of setting aside particular days to remember the most important elements of what Jude calls “the faith once delivered to the saints.” We have days set aside to celebrate with solemnity or feasting (or maybe even with both) the birth of our Lord Jesus, his presentation in the temple, his temptation in the wilderness, his death on the cross, his resurrection from the dead, his ascension into heaven, his sending of the Holy Spirit upon his church, and his imminent return to judge the earth. This is weighty and tremendous stuff, the kind of timekeeping that can engrain the Gospel in a person, a generation, and maybe even a culture.
And peppered throughout a church year dedicated to the life of Christ is a constellation of dates set aside to remember those through whom the Lord Christ established his church: the Apostles, Prophets, and Martyrs. His life is reflected in their lives, his acts are engraved in their acts, and if we pay attention, we may manage to get a clearer picture of our identity as the church when we study not only his life but their lives in him as well. These sporadic days are tasty and marvelous bits in the year, and help recall us back to our roots as a family, part of the household of God under his Son.
Today is the Feast of St. Andrew, brother of Simon Peter and Apostle of the Lord Jesus. According to Christian tradition Andrew, like all of the Lord’s Apostles, gave up his life to death at the hand of the enemies of the truth on behalf of what the Apostle John calls “the Word of God and the Testimony of Jesus Christ.” He like the others had been empowered on the day of Pentecost to bear witness to the resurrection of the Son of God and to teach all that he had spoken and done during his earthly ministry. Like them, Andrew went to his grave proclaiming the Good News that Jesus had died for sinners and was raised for sinners. He was, after all, an Apostle and a Martyr.
But I find that merely treating Andrew like a generic apostle misses all the nuance, all the personality, all the juice of what Scripture tells about him. It misses altogether the example and the encouragement in the life of Andrew in particular for sinners like me who seek to be found in and to follow Christ daily. And I find that, as a man preparing for the mission field, it is particularly important for me to pay careful attention to the life of Andrew.
Andrew does not immediately stand out as an Apostle to take much notice of in Scripture. Though fisherman Andrew is one of the first to come to Jesus, he does not make it into the inner apostolic circle of Peter, James, and John. Indeed, Andrew makes only occasional appearances in the Gospel narratives, and barely shows up at all in the Acts of the Apostles. But that does make him any less important than the other Apostles.
In fact, two things stand out in the life of Andrew. First, Andrew immediately answers the call to follow Jesus without delay. When John the Baptist identifies Jesus as the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world,” Andrew immediately leaves everything to follow Jesus. There is no hesitation, no delay, no looking back: he follows Jesus persistently and joyfully. Now, clearly, we are called as Christians to this kind of obedient response to the Gospel: how much more should we missionaries have quick and ready hearts to go where God calls us and do what he requires of us?
Second, Andrew always seems to be bringing people to Jesus. After he follows Jesus, Andrew brings his brother Simon Peter to meet him. Andrew brings the boy with loaves and fishes to meet Jesus despite his doubts. Andrew brings the Gentiles who desire to see Jesus and announces them to the Lord. Just as Peter is prone to action, Philip to speculation, and Thomas to emotion, Andrew is dedicated to connecting people with the Messiah whose words bring life and whose presence brings peace. It is certainly the case that we are also called as Christians to bring others to Christ in order to find life in him: how much more should we missionaries, whose professional calling is to proclaim Christ, be bringing the nations to walk in his light?
These twin attributes that we see in Andrew, a passion both quickly to follow and also to bring others to follow the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world,” do not just belong to Andrew: they spring from the very heart of God our heavenly Father. His desire from before the foundation of the world has been that we have life in him, and that we have it through his Son, Jesus Christ. In the life of Andrew we get a poignant if tiny and imperfect picture of the love of God and of his own passion that we obtain true and eternal life by believing in his Son. My hope is that, on this Feast of St. Andrew, we may, by considering his obedience, be encouraged to come not to him but to his Lord and ours, that Jesus who, in his goodness, has founded and established his church on the Apostles and Prophets, one of whom is Andrew.