Episode 43: Andrew | 10 MGJ Devotional Podcast
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10 Minutes with the Gospel of John

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Episode 43: Andrew


     Who is the disciple of Jesus known as Andrew the brother of Simon Peter? What does his interaction with Jesus teach a modern reader of John’s Gospel?

Elsewhere in the New Testament

     In Matthew’s Gospel, Andrew is called to follow Jesus at the same time as his brother (Matthew 4:18, Mark 1:16). Andrew’s name is also included in the listing of disciples. Matthew and Luke list him second following Simon Peter while Mark lists Andrew in the fourth spot, after James and John and just before Philip (Matthew 10:2; Mark 3:16; Luke 6:13). The Gospel of Mark draws attention to Andrew in two additional places. After Jesus heals the man with an unclean spirit in a synagogue, Jesus leaves and goes to the home of Simon and Andrew, where he heals Simon’s mother-in-law (Mark 1:23–31). As Mark’s Gospel reaches the passion, four disciples sit privately with Jesus asking him about the meaning of his words regarding future events: Peter, James, John, and Andrew (Mark 13:3–4). Andrew evidently holds some status among the disciples of Jesus that may not always be acknowledged.

In the Gospel of John

     Andrew takes a prominent role from the beginning of the Gospel of John. John the Baptizer proclaims Jesus as the Lamb of God on two occasions. On the second, Andrew is identified as leaving John the Baptizer behind and seeking to follow this teacher whom John claims to be greater than himself. On the following day Andrew goes to tell his brother, Simon, that the awaited Messiah has been identified. He then brings Simon to Jesus, thus becoming the first “link in the chain” for those who would follow Jesus and then tell others about Jesus (John 1:35–42).

     Later in the Gospel, Andrew demonstrates his attentiveness to the present moment. He overhears Jesus speaking to Philip concerning the current matter of feeding this multitude of followers. We don’t know how long it took, but Andrew brings a young boy savvy enough to bring along his own food, consisting of five loaves made from barley grain and two fish. Yet Andrew recognizes the insufficient nature of these resources among such a vast crowd of people. Jesus does not indicate the bread and fish would be sufficient, he simply takes them and gives instruction for the people to sit (John 6:4–11).

     When Andrew is named a third time he is once more in the company of Philip. This time some non-Jewish individuals at the Passover festival approach Philip and request to see Jesus. Philip tells Andrew then the two disciples report the Greek’s desire to Jesus. Andrew plays a role of gatekeeper to Jesus, especially at this moment when some outsiders are seeking access to their Master (John 12:20–22).

What to do with Andrew?

     A first thing a reader will notice about Andrew is his connection with his brother, the famous Simon Peter. In John 1:40–44, Andrew is named three times; on each occasion his name is associated with Peter. When Andrew is introduced in the gospel story he is called “Simon Peter’s brother” after which he goes to find “his own brother, Simon.” In reality, a person who willingly follows Jesus will introduce others to Jesus. Some of these individuals will excel and become better known than you or me. Our value as a person does not come from who, or how many, we point toward Jesus as Messiah but in how faithfully we follow Jesus. Andrew demonstrates that when we “find” the Messiah we should tell others who are also looking for the Messiah.

     A second aspect Andrew illustrates is that living in the present is important. What does Jesus want us to see at this point in time? The writer of John’s Gospel describes Jesus as “sitting down” and “raising his eyes” (John 6:4). It would be easy to see this as an isolated incident, yet this perception by Jesus was used previously. During Jesus’ encounter with the woman of Samaria at Jacob’s well, the disciples return from the city with food for Jesus to eat. Jesus tells his disciples, “raise your eyes” and see that the field is ready to be harvested. Jesus goes on to tell his disciples that he sent them to reap a harvest others had worked to bring to maturity (John 4:1–38). However, that story doesn’t tell us Jesus sent them into the city to get food. Indeed, the disciples aren’t even mentioned at the beginning. Yet, when the woman goes into the same city, she brings a crowd back to see whether Jesus is the Messiah.

     In John 6, many people are coming to Jesus. He does exactly what he earlier commanded his disciples to do, he raises his eyes and sees the crowd in the moment. Perhaps he knows his disciples are worrying about food to eat, so he addresses their inner thoughts? Perhaps Jesus is modeling for his disciples a way to bear witness to his true identity, once they “raise their eyes” and see the crowd others have worked to bring to maturity? Andrew may be portrayed here as an individual who began to see the need, yet is uncertain whether he possesses the necessary resources to meet that need.

     Finally, we may find in Andrew an individual who has started to find new eyes with which to see the crowd of people looking to learn about Jesus. When Philip comes to him with news that these ‘outsiders’ are seeking Jesus, Andrew and Philip take this news to Jesus. Jesus’ reply may surprise them since, once again, Jesus does not address the primary concern of his disciples in favor of addressing the primary concern of his Father (John 12:20–16). Jesus speaks of the harvest principle of planting grain in order to produce more grain and of what it means to follow Jesus. The harvest analogy stirs memories of John 4 and John 6. Most important are Jesus’ first words of response.

     The inclusion of Andrew’s name at this point in the story does not serve merely as a simple inclusion of the facts. Naming Andrew recalls for the reader other times Andrew appears, principally the first time. After John the Baptizer identifies Jesus as “God’s lamb who will take away the world’s sins,” Andrew follows Jesus. Jesus now declares, “The hour has arrived for the Son of Man to be glorified.” These words spoken to Andrew and Philip may affirm that they have learned to live in greater awareness of the way God works in his created world.

Updated August 4, 2022