We are so accustomed to the idea that Jesus called his disciples to help him with his preaching, that it comes as a surprise to realize that, although this was one of the reasons for their call, it was not the first one. Mark informs us that “he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach, and to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out devils” (Mark 3:14-15). It is clear, therefore, that he valued their companionship, and that there was something that the disciple could give to his Lord.
It is a valuable thought that the twelve, in spite of their limitations, could help Jesus with their fellowship, and that their presence made it easier for him to face the immense difficulties which he overcame. In fact, their association was a partnership in which the devotion of the disciples, misdirected as it sometimes was, repaid in some measure his services to them.
The development of the band of men who were afterwards to carry the gospel throughout the world was one of the supreme achievements of Jesus. The insight with which he realized their good points, and the skill with which he developed these qualities until they came to full fruition, are among the noblest manifestations of his grace. His care for them is instanced by many occurrences in the Gospel stories which show his peculiar ability to bring the best out in them.
“What seek ye?”
Although there are not many references to Andrew in the Gospels, the few that exist are eloquent of his development under the hand of Jesus. We first read of him as a follower of John the Baptist (John 1:35, 40), and are told that in company with another disciple he was standing by on the day when Jesus passed by, and John the Baptist was led to exclaim, “Behold the Lamb of God!” (v. 36).
As Jesus moved away Andrew and his companion followed him. To their surprise Jesus turned round and addressed them: “What seek ye?”; to which, in their apparent embarrassment they could only reply: “Master… where dwellest thou?” They received the gracious reply: “Come and see.”
Taking Jesus at his word, they went with him and spent the rest of the day with him. What transpired during their visit we are not told, except that it is clear that Andrew became convinced that Jesus was the Messiah. The result of it, however, gives us our first clue to his character. He had heard during the day things which had convinced him that Jesus was even greater than his previously adopted leader, John the Baptist. The news to him was glorious. It was such as could not remain locked up in his own breast. He must share it. With whom should he share it? Why not begin at home?
His brother Peter was a warmhearted man, and these tidings would seem good to him also. Andrew, therefore, “first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias” (John 1:41). To his joy Peter responded, and he brought him to Jesus.
Doubtless Andrew in later years performed many services for Jesus, but never one greater than his first. Who shall measure the gain to the Christian movement because Andrew’s work started at home?
There seems to have been a wide difference between Peter and Andrew. The former was a brilliant man, able to sway multitudes by his eloquence, and from time to time to have intuitions which led him to speak words which, once said, could never be forgotten: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt 16:16), said he, and Jesus replied that man had not told him that, but God.
There is no evidence that Andrew had these gifts. He seems to have been cast in a quieter mold, and the call of Peter shows his ability as a quiet introducer of the gospel message. If he could not emulate the public deeds of his brother, he was not jealous of him. In his own way he could yet with quiet charm reason privately the value of the things which he had learned of Jesus. This phase of his character has been well expressed by the poet:
“A brother’s heart had Andrew, joy beyond.
All joy to him the promised Christ to find,
But heavenly joy may not be duty blind:
He cannot rest, his bliss is incomplete,
Till Simon sits with him at Jesus’ feet,
His brother then by more than natural bond.”
Although Andrew and Peter had thus become acquainted with Jesus and had accepted his Messiahship, it does not appear that they realized at this stage the full nature of the demands he was to make on them. They continued to ply their trade of fishing in the Sea of Galilee, until the day when Jesus came to them and said, “Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men” (Mark 1:17). The preliminary work of Jesus had had its due effect on them, and Mark is able to say that straightway they left their nets, and followed him (v. 18).
A return visit
In the same chapter Mark recounts how Jesus returned the visit previously paid to him by Andrew, and went to the house jointly occupied by the disciple and his brother in Capernaum (v. 29). He arrived at an opportune time, for Peter’s mother-in-law was in need of his aid, being ill with fever. The healing hand of Jesus was soon applied, however; and so effective was it that she was able to help in the entertainment of the guests, who included James and John. Tidings of what had happened spread quickly into the city, and as the sun was setting a large concourse of people, many of them ill and diseased, surrounded the door. Jesus did not fail them. A fountain of healing was opened, and many had cause to be thankful for the friendship which had been formed between Jesus, Andrew, and Peter.
Another side of the character of Andrew is shown by a later event, which is described in John 6. On the slopes of a mountain near the Sea of Tiberias Jesus and his disciples were surrounded by a huge company of men and women, anxious to see him perform some sign. As was his wont, Jesus had a care for the physical needs of those who followed him, and turning to Philip he asked where bread could be obtained to feed the people. Being a native of the neighboring city of Bethsaida, Philip might be expected to know where food could be bought. Philip failed to perceive that Jesus was testing him, and exclaimed that much more would be required than the resources of the disciples could afford. Andrew was standing by, however, and his watchful eye had seen the lad with his five loaves and two fishes. He drew attention to the supply, perhaps wondering whether Jesus would perform a miracle; but, as if half afraid of his temerity, immediately added, “but what are they among so many?” (John 6:9). His desire to be helpful, however, was not in vain, for his suggestion was the means of providing for the feeding of the whole company by Jesus.
In this case Andrew appears as a man standing by looking for an opportunity to be of use. Such men and women of tactful helpfulness are of the utmost value to any cause or company, and we may be sure that the quality which Andrew displayed on this occasion was often manifested in the day-to-day life of Jesus and his colleagues. The poet again has drawn attention to this side of the disciple’s character:
“Quick eye had Andrew. He it was amid
The thronging multitudes that marked the lad,
And what his basket, and how much it had.
Two fishes small, and loaves of barley five,
Rewarded eye to trivial things alive.
In that poor basket, what rich mercy hid!”
Almost the last incident in which Andrew appears as a leading figure is also recounted for us by John (12:20-22). A number of Greeks had come to Jerusalem for the Passover, and, having heard of Jesus, desired to meet him. Approaching Philip they said to him, “Sir, we would see Jesus.” This apparently simple request put Philip in a difficulty. He and all his colleagues had observed the heavy strain which was imposed upon Jesus by his constant labors. Their leader was at every man’s beck and call, and no sincere enquirer was ever sent empty away. Solitude, even for prayer, was denied him, except in the hours of night. Devoted to him as they were, the disciples could not but be concerned at his heavy burden, and be desirous of sparing him as much as possible. If, therefore, the desire of the Greeks was idle curiosity, Philip would wish to keep them from Jesus; on the other hand, if their request was sincere and serious, he knew that Jesus would not thank him for failing to introduce them to him. In his difficulty to whom did Philip turn? Andrew was the one who he thought would be able to help him. To Andrew he went, and after discussion the two of them told Jesus. The narrative does not say that Jesus saw the Greeks, but the nature of his discourse makes it almost certain that he did so. What he said about the death of the wheat was calculated to appeal to men who, being Greeks, would probably have some acquaintance with the Greek nature religions.
In this incident Andrew exhibits both his particular qualities; as a tactful helper, and an introducer of men to Jesus, he enriches the occasion.
The encouragement of lowliness
In many ways Andrew is the most encouraging of the disciples from the standpoint of the ordinary follower of Christ. None of us can hope to achieve the power of Peter, or to acquire that full sympathy with the Savior which John came to enjoy. When, however, we think of Andrew, it is immediately apparent that his qualities are, in some degree at least, within our reach. Rejoicing, as he did in the Master beyond compare, we can surely find the means to convey the secret of our rejoicing to others, not perhaps in public words, or even in words at all, but by the quiet confidence and joyousness of our lives. Moreover, who, having known the fellowship of Jesus, can fail to have the desire to find some small sphere in his service, in which he can tactfully help forward the work, either of the individual, or of the body of believers as a whole? However humble we may be, we can find comfort and encouragement in the example of Andrew.F.E. Mitchell Reprinted from The Testimony, January, 1938