We’re in the second part of our series on “The 12 Disciples”. These posts will be recaps of sermons preached by Pastor Harper. We hope that the unique format we use to look at the lives of these men will really make this interesting and impactful for all of us.
Each of the disciples’ stories will be based off what the Bible shows us about their lives and what they were like, but also understand that for the sake of keeping the overall narrative of their lives moving forward as it’s told, some of what we could call “sanctified imagination” will be used, and just logical conclusions in general will be drawn from the facts we know.
Today we continue the story of Andrew.
John the Baptizer’s great finger and long out-stretched arm now trembled.
“Look! The Lamb—of God!” The words rang in my ears.
Was the Baptizer really saying what I thought he was saying?! What I hoped beyond hope for him to be saying? I wanted to see behind me, but did I dare?
Still feeling soiled by my unbelief, if it really was … Messiah! … how could I look on Him?
The moving eyes of the crowd told me the One behind me was walking my direction. How I wished I was closer to the water and not up by the road. My mind wouldn’t think fast enough to conceive what I ought to do, so I stood there like iron, holding my breath until He passed me, praying now that He would not notice me.
But that is one prayer I will forever be grateful that God did not answer.
As He walked by, the Man paused just long enough to grab my shoulder with a squeeze, and smile with the most indescribable look that said, “Forgiven.” And He kept on walking.
For a moment, everyone stayed still, not moving or speaking—even the Baptizer—fastened in that instant of time. Some in the water lined up by the Baptizer, some on the shore fresh out of the water and dripping, some up by the road near me, some on the fringes near the religious leaders—we all silently waited, watching the Man go.
John broke the stillness when he slowly passed by me as well, following a few paces after the Man, and then stopping to look back at me. I knew what he was thinking. My own heart understood exactly what John was doing. I, in turn, glanced back toward the Baptizer. Still without a word, he gave a knowing look with a rare smile, and simply nodded his head.
It was all John and I needed.
Immediately we were after this … Man, this … “Lamb of God” … the Messiah?! We stayed back from Him at a short distance, unsure what to do. He must have pitied the agony of our indecision because He finally turned around and saw us and said with patient kindness,
“What do you seek?”
Relieved, but now struck speechless, and unsure what to even call Him, I clumsily blurted out, “Teacher—,” and then groping for what to say next, John rescued me, “Where are You staying?”
Now smiling widely the Man said, “Come and see.”
And we did.
As you know, that Man, the One the Baptizer called the “Lamb of God,” was Jesus. And that simple but life-changing invitation is the same He gives to people of all generations. Jesus never forces Himself on anyone; He only offers Himself. But it’s the surest offer you’ll ever receive. And to receive it?—All anyone ever has to do is take Him up on it.
Jesus would one day say, “Whoever believes in Me,” - whoever—anyone willing to come—“Whoever believes in [Me] should … have eternal life” (John 3:15).
“Come and see.” Come and see.
We would all come to grow familiar with those kinds of answers from Him—“Come and see.”
Our questions rarely received the immediate, direct-statement kind of reply that we would expect. Instead, Jesus’ answers always addressed the deeper issue at the root of our questions, whether we realized it at the time or not. And His answers always hung with the subtle, and sometimes not-so-subtle, invitation to keep following to find out more.
I was thankful it was only the sixth day of being away for John and I, because we spent the rest of the afternoon and evening with Jesus at the house where He was staying, giving us the whole next day to get home, which was now just down the road from us. Any lingering doubts about whether or not Jesus really was the Messiah were dissipated after that evening with Him.
No one, not even the Baptizer, spoke with that kind of divine wisdom … spiritual power … and humble authority.
The hour was late when we finally took our leave of Jesus. We returned to the Baptizer and his lodging site that night to give our grateful farewell, and to sleep before heading home the next day—or at least try to sleep.
There, by the fire, under a black sky, both John and I lay for hours with eyes wide open, our thoughts lost among the stars. You would think it would have been the time of our most zealous prophecy discussions, but there was no need. The quest of our lives was ended; the desire of our hearts was met—we had found the Messiah!
… Or perhaps, better yet, He … had found us!
The next morning we ended up staying with the Baptizer’s followers through midday, answering their questions about Jesus, and doing the best we could to validate all that He had told us the afternoon and evening before.
How my spirit burned within me.
There had always been something so … satisfying … about the honest work of a long day’s toil fishing. But never in my life had I been so moved with such a deep sense of worth and fulfillment as that morning we spent telling others the news of Messiah! Still, even as we shared our hearts with these devout followers, all I could think about was getting home to tell Simon.
He had only ever been good to me. When Father’s death put his share of the business into Simon’s sole ownership, Simon gave up half of the inheritance in order to make me an equal partner, even though he didn’t have to. Zebedee, along with his sons, James and John, owned the other share of the business, and now I had a financially secure future as well. Then when Simon found a wife, he built an extra room at his own expense so I could continue living with him.
Were those some interesting times! Not because of Simon’s wife—she was a gem—but because her mother came as part of the arrangement. Don’t get the wrong idea, Simon and I loved his mother-in-law. It was his wife’s mother we couldn’t deal with. Even the day Jesus came by to heal her when she was sick with a fever—I almost thought I saw Simon hesitate.
But of course Jesus came in our house anyway, grabbed her by the hand, and helped her stand up. It was … astonishing. As soon as she was on her feet, you could see the change; the fever left her. And she joyfully went to help finish preparing the meal. But that wasn’t the real miracle.
From that time on she became a sweeter woman than her daughter! She was a different person! I’ll never forget Simon, standing there, speechless. Which is saying something for him!
James and John were there that day too. They knew her previously as well, and could only stand and gape. The only exception being when James muttered something about going to get his own mother-in-law. Jesus didn’t respond.
We all loved each other—each in their own way, but we all knew it.
Especially Simon and me. Though he was my brother, I loved him like a best friend. He was my best friend … best I would ever have. And so I rushed down the road that day like a man possessed.
Finally I moved past the trees to where the road followed the coastline. Right away I could make out Simon’s unmistakable gate as he worked the net from the shore. To cut off the curve I pounded straight into the tall grasses of the shallows. Schools of small fish scattered and sea birds fluttered and squawked, making quite a spectacle as I came splashing, and waiving, and calling to Simon as he stood there watching me.
Drawing close enough to see his face, I couldn’t tell if he was startled, irritated, or embarrassed by my eagerness, or maybe all three. When I got to him our eyes met, and for a moment I didn’t know what to say. But I didn’t need to say anything. We read each other’s thoughts—we’d always been able to.
And I could tell that he knew. The tide slapped my legs, growing deeper over my ankles, and down to my toes again. Then without lead-in or introduction, the overwhelming truth tumbled out,
“We have found—the Messiah!”
Still, Simon didn’t respond, but for the shimmer of tears in his eyes. I could wait no longer, so I grabbed his arm and started running back in the direction I came. For once it seemed like I was the more motivated one, but that changed quickly after the first few steps. He pulled his arm free, and now he was charging ahead of me … as usual.
Having already just run this distance, I only ever caught up to Simon when he stopped at a divide in the road. I would point in the direction to go, and he would be off again. Eventually we turned a bend and both had to stop because of the crowd, and I remember feeling almost childish with delight.
There … was Jesus! Answering questions in a circle of people. Simon looked around like he was confused. I watched his spirit sink as though he thought we had come too late, not seeing anyone who looked particularly Messiah-like.
I knew better, though; and smiling, I grabbed his arm again and stepped him right up to Jesus. Simon immediately yanked himself free and glared. I braced myself for the profanity that usually came my way whenever he got that look in his eye. But something stopped him short. And when I saw what it was, or rather who it was, I knew I was safe.
It’s amazing how Jesus has that power over people.
It can be easy to give up hope for the worst of sinners, but the worst of sinners always seemed to be the ones on whom Jesus had the greatest effect. Like the demon-possessed man from Gadarea. I tell you, he was a maniac! But not after he met Jesus. That man became as normal and gentle as you and me. That taught me never to give up … on anyone. The love and power of the Lamb of God can soften the hardest heart, break the strongest bondage, and clean the foulest sinner—even Simon’s mouth.
Jesus had caught Simon’s eye, and Simon suddenly had nothing to say. But Jesus sure did.
Speaking to Simon like He knew him from the inside out, Jesus told Simon He was changing his name to Peter—“rock.” Jesus clearly saw something special in Simon that He would make Simon to be—a leader, strong as a rock.
It became clear to me in that moment that this would change everything. I bring my brother to Jesus, and now Jesus was making Simon the foremost of His followers—the rock, our leader. Like always, Simon would take over the group.
But I realized that was okay. The next day on the shore when Simon and I were casting our net and we almost collided into Jesus, He officially chose us to be His followers. And when He did, He called us to be “fishers of men.” I understood right away what that would mean for me.
Simon and others like him would lead; my calling would be to bring—to spend my life finding people who were willing, and bring them to find and know Jesus, just like I did with the other followers of the Baptizer … and with Simon. After all, who would Simon and the other leaders lead, if there were no men who were “fished for” and “caught” to follow?
Nothing made me happier than to be that person for Jesus.
This is why I was so overjoyed the day my contribution to Jesus’ cause gave me the opportunity and attention to notice and listen to the young boy when no one else would.
There were thousands of men, women, and children with us that day. They had not eaten for hours! Many of them would have had great difficulty making the long journey home without nourishment.
The problem was that there was no food … except for a small lunch of loaves and fish brought by a boy—and my calling helped me to be the one to find him. I don’t mean at all to sound boastful, only eternally grateful! I knew exactly what to do—take the boy and his lunch to Jesus.
Over five-thousand people were miraculously fed that day … because Jesus gave me the chance to use my calling to bring a boy to Him.
It just made sense. If Jesus could use someone like me to bring people to Him, then surely He could take this young boy and use him too. If Jesus could change water into wine!, then surely He could make a lot out of the little this boy had.
And then there was the time we saw the group of Greek Gentiles walking toward us. We were all shocked at their audacity to continue approaching, closer and closer, to a group of Jews like us … while in Israel!
Jesus was answering questions and teaching a short ways away. The others who saw the group of Greeks coming near slowly found other things to be doing. They got to Philip first, who had his back turned and was surprised by them. When they told Philip they wanted to see Jesus, poor Philip looked like he wanted to dive head first into a ceremonial bath basin. He was scandalized.
With his best attempt at normalcy, Philip feigned casualness as he left them and walked over to me. “They want to see Jesus,” Philip hissed in my ear.
I hesitated myself for a moment, then feeling the burn of shame, I knew exactly what I was supposed to do. How dare I? How dare I let a prejudice or bias of some wicked kind delay me from bringing a seeking heart to Jesus. Of course! Had I learned nothing from Him? There wasn’t anyone that Jesus wouldn’t see, so there ought not be anyone that I wouldn’t bring to Jesus.
I understood my calling, but I sure had a lot to learn.
It seemed like each time I embraced some new part of what it meant to be a “fisher of men,” there would always be another opportunity to have that understanding humbled, deepened, and grown.
But I wouldn’t choose any other life. And the truth is, God’s Kingdom only needs so many leaders, but there is a great need for a host of Jesus’ followers who are content to not lead. Leaders may lead, but how can God’s work move forward without an army of deeply dedicated disciples who embrace being hidden, working as a support, often unseen, caring only that the greater goal of honoring God and bringing more people to Jesus be accomplished?
In future years we would come to trust Paul as an apostle, and the authority of his writings. I like his way of saying it:
We accept our calling, “Not with eye service as men-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.”
- Ephesians 6:6
I learned that what is wonderful about this kind of calling is that you don’t have to be a talker or an up-front person like my brother, Simon, or be bold and brash like James and even John can be.
Anyone can be a bringer of men to Jesus. In fact, I came to see just how much Jesus delights in using what some might call small and insignificant to do some of His greatest work. Jesus said that’s how His Kingdom operates. It’s like the tiny mustard seed, which starts small and overlooked, but grows until it becomes something great, and strong, and unignorable (Matthew 13:31).
And in the same way, Jesus said all it takes for even the simplest person to contribute to that great work of His Kingdom is faith no bigger than a mustard seed (Luke 17:6). I learned Jesus is looking for people who don’t mind being ordinary, so He can do through them what is extraordinary.
And added to all this, Jesus will receive, and take, and call, and use anyone who is simply willing to come to Him.
No matter who they are, where they’ve been, or what they’ve done, there is no one that Jesus won’t embrace, who is willing to embrace Him. Like Jesus once told the Pharisees, “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Mark 2:17b).
Bringing in fish is fun, but bringing in men will change your life … and theirs!
Tradition tells us that Andrew had the privilege of preaching in a particular province, and the wife of the governor became a follower of Christ. The governor was so angry that he demanded that his wife reject Christ, and when she wouldn’t, he crucified Andrew.
Tradition also says the governor crucified Andrew on an X, that’s why X is the symbol of Andrew—an X-shaped cross. The traditional history tells us that he was on that cross for two days. And as he hung alive for all those two days, he preached without ceasing the gospel of Christ in the midst of his agony. Still trying to bring people to Jesus.
If we could sum up Andrew’s life, we might do so with the words of the poet, Christina Rossetti:
Give me the lowest place, / Not that I dare ask for that lowest place, / But Thou has died that I might live / And share Thy glory by Thy side. / Give me the lowest place, / Or if for me the lowest place is too high / Then make one more low / Where I may sit and see my God / And love Him so.”