Andrew, the First Apostle

Andrew was the brother of Simon Peter. Whether he was younger or older than Simon is not certain. One is inclined to consider him as the younger of the two, despite his well-balanced personality and agreeable nature. He lived, together with Simon, in the highly honored house in which our Lord Himself stayed as a guest during His journey to Galilee. This abode served as Christ's first-church and pulpit.

It is possible that, after the early death of his father Jona (John) of Bethsaida, Andrew left his native village and went to Capharnaum. Here he lived under his brother's roof, with Simon and the latter's wife, children, and mother-in-law. Perhaps this domestic situation is what prompted Christian peoples of long ago to choose Andrew as their patron saint for good marriages and for good weather.

Still, it could be that this pair of brothers with the same occupation only worked together. Both were fishermen, and together they managed a modest but always profitable trade, as the Gospel indicates. At the time the abundance of fish in Lake Genesareth and the flourishing business in fish at the markets assured them a good income.

It is certainly noteworthy that our Lord chose some of His first apostles from the ranks of ordinary fisherman. Different walks of life were well-represented in the college of apostles: James the Younger and his brother Thaddeus were farmers; Paul was a scholar; Matthew-not to mention Judas was a trader and businessman. But at least six of the twelve were fisherman. Only those who knew the currents and tides, the wind and weather, only those not blinded by the sun or frightened by a storm, only those who were observant and patient as fishermen, could be good and useful apostles. Since Andrew, with his brother Simon, could cast his nets into the quiet, blue sea and after many long hours draw them out, sometimes full, sometimes empty, he was already well-instructed in the beginnings of the apostolate. The two brothers had never surmised that one day they would dedicate the rest of their lives to the Ichthys, Jesus Christ.

Possibly, of course, such a pious thought was not too far from their minds. They must have had a stong inclination toward religion. The Gospels do not present this pair only on the sea as fishermen; they are also on the Jordan with John's disciples. The preaching of John the Baptist-" 'The kingdom of heaven is now at hand'"-aroused these two brothers from their simple and quiet life. They were made ready, and they listened for the footsteps of Him who was to come. And it was here with John the Baptist that Andrew met Jesus. It was the great hour of his life. Andrew did not have to search long for the Messias, for Jesus was soon to come to him.

Again the next day John was standing there, and two of his disciples. And looking upon Jesus as he walked by, he said, "Behold the lamb of God!" And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.

But Jesus turned around, and seeing them following him, said to them, "What is it you seek?" They said to him. "Rabbi (which interpreted means Master), where dwellest thou? He said to them, "Come and see." They came and saw where he was staying; and they stayed with him that day. It was about the tenth hour.

Now Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who had heard John and had followed him.

Andrew was, with John, the first of all to follow Jesus. For this reason many old manuscripts gave him the title of honor "the first-called." His name heads the list of millions who were to follow Christ. Here the proverb was true: "A name is an omen." A name can indicate much. Whoever dares to follow Christ must be andreios-brave, an Andrew.

Andrew was also the first of the apostles to call and bring others to Christ. "He found first his brother Simon and said to him, "We have found the Messias (which interpreted is Christ).'" And he led him to Jesus." This same brother of Andrew was later, in a critical hour of his life to confess before Jesus, "'Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.'" Certainly this confession of Peter is a climax in the public work of Jesus; it is much more mature and profound than Andrew's loud and happy summons to Peter to go and meet the promised Redeemer. But the credit for having planted the word of the Messias, Christ, the anointed one, in the soul of his brother as the seed of faith belongs to Andrew. His was the honor of introducing Jesus to Simon, and Simon to Jesus. He was given the privilege of "fishing" the first man. From the very beginning, Andrew was truly a "fisher of men," an apostle.

It is not surprising that such a high-minded and courageous man as Andrew left everything to follow the Redeemer. However, almost a year after the first meeting with Jesus on the River Jordan, Simon's brother had returned to the sea, to his boat and his fishnet. But his thoughts were no longer on his work. Secretly, Andrew hoped to return to Christ, hoped Christ would return to him. And then Christ did return. This time the Messias called, not just for one journey or for one sermon or for one miracle, but for a lifetime with Him.

St Luke's account of the calling of the first disciples also includes the miraculous catch of fish. In great astonishment, Andrew stared with the others at the teeming wonder in the nets. After they had taken nothing the whole night, the Lord, who was no fisherman, told them to try once more. They did, and caught so many fish that their nets, which could not hold them all, began to break; and they had to call for help.

On the Jordan it was the personality of Jesus that won Andrew; here on Lake Genesareth it was Jesus' divine power. He heard his brother stammer in embarrassed confusion: "'Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.'" But the Messias had come to call Peter, not to send him away. "And he said to them, 'Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.' And at once they left the nets, and followed him." The small boats rested on the shore, deserted. Andrew was puzzled and saddened when some others left the Lord and walked away. He had come to the shore to embark on the sea of life; it was a wider, deeper, brave, andreios. He was Andrew, the first one, the great one.

Andrew holds a prominent place in the four listings of the apostles in Holy Scripture. His name is always among the first four, at the top of the lists, together with the three in whom Jesus especially confided. The evangelists Matthew and Luke place Andrew in the second place, immediately after Simon Peter, even before James and John. In the Canon of the Holy Mass his name also comes immediately after those of Peter and Paul, the two leaders of the apostles. Pope Gregory the Great even added his name in the Embolismus (prayer) after the Pater Noster, along with the names of Mary, Peter, and Paul, whose intercession we request for special favors. Today, Andrew also holds a special place among the faithful; the many and various customs still observed over the world on St Andrew 's Day, November 30, testify to this. Andrew holds a place of preeminence among the apostles, and in some respects he is the first among the apostles.

Andrew, the Silent Apostle

It is very surprising that Andrew remains so silent throughout the Gospels. He is heard even less in the Acts of the Apostles. None of his work remain. No Epistles he wrote has been preserved. In addition to the occasion on which he was called to the apostolate, he is mentioned only three other times in the Gospels.

The first occured on the shores of the Sea of Tiberias where Jesus miraculously fed a crowd of five thousand. The apostles stood helplessly before the hungry masses who followed Christ, Philip was partly dejected and partly frightened when Christ asked him where they could buy enough bread to feed so many. He hesitated to answer, "'Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not enough for them, that each one may receive a little.'" Then, unobstrusively, almost shyly, Andrew inquired about the provisions on hand. He could report only a pitifully meager result: " 'There is a young boy here who has five barley loaves and two fishes.'" and then, feeling almost personally responsible that there was so little to offer, he apologetically added, " 'But what are those among so many?'" And quickly he stepped back again to stand quietly on the side.

A second appearance of Andrew is mentioned by St John who- as one might conclude from seeing the two together on the Jordan-always kept a loving eye on this friend of his youth. There were certain converts from among the pagans who had come to Jerusalem to worship God on the day of the Passover. It was Christ's last celebration of this great feast of the Jews, only days before His passion and death. These proselytes approached Philip and inquired, "'Sir, we wish to see Jesus'" The somewhat fussy Philip did not want to take this to the Lord. He could refuse and forget. So, undecided, he took their request, his cause of anxiety, to Andrew. He did not go to Peter, or to John, but to the benevolent Andrew, his close compatriot.

In this seemingly unimportant incident Andrew showed his real character. He did not approach the Lord apologetically, but with an air of importance: "Andrew and Philip spoke to Jesus." The evangelist did not mention whether Jesus granted them their request or not he observed, however, that the Lord looked at Andrew and said, "'unless the grain of wheat fall into the ground and die, it remains alone. But if it die, it brings forth much fruit.'"

The third incident in which Andrew played a part, although only a cursory mention is given to it, occured several days after the second, The Lord had prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem, an event that upset every Jew to the depths of his soul.

And as he was sitting on the Mount of Olives, opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, "Tell us, when are these things to happen, and what will be the sign when all these will begin to come to pass?"

Apart from these three passages, Andrew remained silent and in the background of the Gospels. This is astonishing. How often and how importantly Peter spoke out! How naively James and John, the sons of Zebedee, had pressed forward: "'Grant to us that we may sit, one at thy right hand and the other at thy left hand, in thy glory.'"Such a presumptuous request from Andrew cannot be imagined.

But more curious and unusual is the fact that our Lord Himself let Andrew stand by in silence. Jesus had not called him to a place of superiority among His disciples; it was his brother Simon, who owed his acquaintance with Jesus to Andrew, whom our Lord had called to be the leader of the apostles. But would not Peter's brother also have been capable of holding the keys of the kingdom of heaven, even more fit than the impetuous Peter? And it was not Andrew whom our Lord permitted to rest on His bosom, but John. Did Andrew therefore love his Master less than John? No. He too experienced with John the joy of the "tenth hour."

Andrew simply did not belong to the circle of the entrusted three whom our Lord especially had chosed to witness the most important hours of his life; at least not directly as did Peter, James, and John. When Christ was raising the daughter of Jairus to life, certainly this apostle was waiting with the other eight outside the small room. With them he remained behind also when our Lord took Peter, James, and his brother John and ascended Mount Tabor for the Transfiguration. Even in the Garden of Olives, Andrew had to remained with the other apostles; he was not permitted to go off a distance with our Lord and the privileged three-although he might have been the only one to keep a watch and pray and not fall asleep.

The fact that Andrew was sometimes with the three "elite" apostles and sometimes with the other eight is clearly revealed in the four list of the apostles in Holy Scripture. In St. Mark's Gospel and, what is more surprising, in St Luke's Acts, his name is placed fourth on the list and not in the second place. In these two lists the sons of Zebedee assume the place of honor and Andrew is seemingly crowded out on the brink of the first group. Since Mark's Gospel is based on the words of Peter, it may have been Peter himself, Andrew's brother, who was responsible for this, as Peter may not have wanted to praise a member of his own household. Luke placed St John in the second place on his list to show John's important position in the Church.

It it no accident John twice mention Andrew together with Philip, as is shown in the two passages cited above. In the four scriptural enumerations of the Twelve, Philip is always the fifth apostle mentioned, the first of the second group. Andrew, fourth on the lists, often sought the company of his companion, Philip the farmer, when he could not go along with the privileged three. St Andrew was one of the first, but the last of the first; and he was one of the silent men of greatness, a great man of silence.

It cannot be said that our Lord considered Andrew less important than the first three apostles. On the contrary, what seems to be an oversight on the part of Christ is a great act of trust and confidence. Andrew was the first one to be called, the first born apostle. Between Jesus and him there was a good understanding-and what better testimony is there of this than a silence?-a good understanding such as exists between a father and his oldest son. An oldest son understands the father, even if he is with him in all places and at all times. He know what he wants without special order and instructions. He is loved even when there are no special favors. There is a silence between them, but no two could be closer. This, it can be rightly judged, was the relationship between Jesus and Andrew, a silent understanding and love, a real happiness.

The lesson Scripture teaches through this position of the apostle Andrew is that the one who holds a place of honor must not always be the one to speak; and if he is the first, he should also be as the last. It is easier to fall from a high place than from a low place. Andrew, the great last one, showed that it is possible, though difficult, for a great person to practice true humility. He lived according to the words of the Lord: "'Let him who is greatest among you become as the youngest, and him who is the chief as the servant.'" Prosperous and happy is the group that has more great men than high positions; for it is much better if a great man has a small position than if a small man has a great position.

 
Copyright © 2011 Georg Pintz & Partners LLC