✠ In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit ✠
Sibling rivalries are fairly common in families. But sometimes it’s not just the normal squabbling of brothers and sisters, but jealousies that are involved. One of the children does better at sports or in school or in music or in their career, and so he or she gets most of the recognition and approval. The other children never get quite as much attention. They may even get introduced as “so-and-so’s brother or sister.” It can be a challenge sometimes to live more in the background like that.
It must have been that way for Andrew. For he was the brother of Simon Peter. Andrew lived in his brother’s shadow. Out of the dozen or so times his name occurs in Scripture, only once does it appear without Peter’s name being mentioned, too. In fact Andrew is most often referred to as “Simon’s Peter’s brother,” as he is in today’s Gospel. Andrew was the first one to follow Jesus; but it was his brother who would become first among the apostles and be in Jesus’ inner circle–Peter, James, and John. In fact that name, “Peter” or “Cephas” was a special name given by Jesus, meaning “a rock.” Andrew would simply be one of the twelve.
But in this case we don’t have any evidence at all that Andrew was jealous of his brother; nor should we feel badly for Andrew, as if he was being treated unfairly. For he had his own special, God-given place and role as an apostle. Not everyone is called to be the prominent one. And in fact it is a uniquely Christian virtue not to seek glory and honor and the first place, but to be humble and lowly, considering others better than yourself (Philippians 2:3).
This was the way of Andrew, even as it was the way of Andrew’s first teacher and rabbi, John the Baptizer. John’s task was to prepare the way of the Lord, to point to Jesus and say, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” John’s purpose was not to gain permanent disciples for himself but to lose his disciples to Jesus, to lead people to Him who is the Christ. Later John would say of Jesus, “He must increase, I must decrease” (John 3:30, NKJV). It was time for John to fade from the scene and for Jesus to become the focus, so that all may know that He is the One to follow, the fulfillment of prophecy, the promised Messiah.
“He must increase, I must decrease.” That is true not only for John or Andrew but for all of us as well, especially during this penitential season of Advent. You are to decrease, to die to yourself and your own desires, so that Jesus might come forth and be magnified in you with His abounding mercy and life. It is written in Galatians 2, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me. And the life I live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved Me and gave Himself for Me.” Having been baptized into Jesus’ death, your old Adam is to fade from the scene and be drowned through repentance, so that the new man, Christ may arise in you to live by faith toward the Father and by love toward your neighbor.
“He must increase, I must decrease.” This saying showed itself in Andrew’s life in the way that he directed others not to himself but to Christ. He brought people to Jesus. For instance, in John 6, when the disciples were trying to figure out how to feed the 5000, Andrew brought a young boy to Jesus and said, “Here is a lad with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” Andrew didn’t know if what he did would help, but he brought the boy and his food to Jesus anyway, so that the Lord might do His work. And indeed the Lord did miraculous things with that boy’s food. Also, in John 12 some Greeks wanted to see Jesus. Andrew, along with Philip, brought this request to Jesus, so that the Greeks might have an audience with Him and hear His Word. For the Gospel of Christ is the power of God for the salvation of both Jew and Greek. And in today’s Gospel, it is written that Andrew brought Peter to Jesus. Andrew believed that Jesus was the Messiah, and that faith immediately led him to seek out his brother and tell him. It was the first thing that he did, the Gospel says. Andrew may not have been the most prominent of the apostles, but he was the one who saw to it that Peter came to know Jesus.
You also get to be like Andrew. You may not be the most prominent one in the congregation. But you can do things to help lead people to Jesus. When you see to it that a child is brought to church to be baptized, you are being like Andrew; for Jesus is present at the font to do His miraculous, saving work for that little one. When you invite or give someone a ride to divine service or a Bible study, you are being like Andrew. For Jesus is the Word made flesh; He is living and active in the proclamation of His words to save those who hear and believe. Just as Andrew led Peter to the place where Jesus was staying, so also you get to welcome others to come and see where Jesus abides for us with His life-giving gifts. We decrease and Christ increases as we direct people away from ourselves to Him, the only Savior.
It is fitting that Jesus became your Savior by taking the least and the lowest place for Himself. He humbled Himself to be born of a virgin, subjecting Himself to the curse of our self-exalting sin. He decreased to the point of death on a cross for you so that you might increase with the riches of His forgiveness and grace. Jesus is truly the Lamb of God, whose shed blood causes death to pass over you. The Blessed Virgin Mary had a little Lamb who makes your crimson sins as white as snow. You are covered with the pure fleece of Jesus’ righteousness. He who was humbled is now risen and exalted to the highest place and given the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow.
Andrew was called and sent to preach that name of Jesus, so that many more might confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Tradition has it that Andrew, a former fisherman, became a fisher of men in Greece. Even as he had previously told Jesus of the Greeks’ request to see Him, so now He would preach the Gospel to the Greeks that they might truly see Jesus and be saved.
Andrew made converts of many in a town called Patras. This angered the pagan proconsul of the town. Andrew ended up being jailed. The Christian citizenry became enraged at this, and a riot would have broken out had not Andrew urged the people to imitate the patience and humility of the Savior. Eventually Andrew’s death was decreed. He would be crucified on a cross in the shape of an X. It is said that Andrew greeted his cross with these words: “Hail, precious cross, that has been consecrated by the body of my Lord, and adorned with His limbs as with rich jewels. I come to you exulting and glad. O good cross, that has received beauty from our Lord’s limbs: receive me into your arms, taking me from among men, and present me to my Master, that He who redeemed me on you, may receive me by you.” Andrew preached Christ for two days on that cross, continuing to point people to Him, before his suffering finally ended and he died.
In this way Andrew’s life as a disciple came full circle. For when Andrew first met Jesus, our Lord said to him, “Come and you will see (the place where I am staying).” Now at the last, Andrew again went to where our Lord was. For Jesus said, “I am going to prepare a place for you. And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am (John 14:2-3).” Andrew is with Christ. We join together with Andrew, along with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven, in lauding and magnifying the glorious name of our Redeemer. For we know and believe that Jesus will surely also come back for us who have been marked with the holy cross. He will take us to be with Himself–in soul at our death and in body at the resurrection on the Last Day.
Since we have this sure hope in Christ, let us learn from the example of Andrew’s humility this Advent tide. Let us humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift us up in due time (I Peter 5:6).
✠ In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit ✠