Andrew – Apostle of Small Things / Spiritual Meditations

Peter and Andrew were originally from the village of Bethsaida (John 1: 44). Archaeologists have not yet determined the exact location of Bethsaida, but from its description in the New Testament, it lays in the northern Galilee region. At some point, the brothers relocated to the larger city of Capernaum, close by their hometown. In fact, Peter and Andrew shared a house in Capernaum (Mark 1: 29) and operated a fishing business together from there. Capernaum offered an especially advantageous location, situated as it was on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee (where fishing was good)—and located at the junction of key trade routes.

Peter and Andrew had probably been lifelong companions with the other set of brothers, James and John, sons of Zebedee. The four of them apparently shared common spiritual interests even before they met Christ. They evidently took a sabbatical from the fishing business, visited the wilderness where John the Baptist was preaching, and became disciples of John. That is where they were when they first met Christ. And when they returned to fishing (before Jesus called them to be full-time disciples), they remained together as partners. So, it was quite natural that this little group formed a cohesive unit within the Twelve. In many ways these four seemed inseparable.

Andrew’s Innate Qualities

Of the four disciples in the inner circle, Andrew appears the least contentious and the most thoughtful. There were certainly times when, following Peter’s lead, or acting in concert with all the disciples, Andrew made the same mistakes they made. But whenever his name is expressly mentioned, which is rare—whenever he rises above the others in acts or speaks as an individual—scripture commends him for what he does. He was an effective leader even though he never took the spotlight.

Almost everything scripture that tells us about Andrew shows that he was the right heart for effective ministry in the background. He did not seek to be the center of attention. He did not seem to resent those who labored in the limelight. He was evidently pleased to do what he could with the gifts and calling God had bestowed on him, and he allowed the others to do likewise.

Andrew Meets Jesus

John’s gospel describes Andrew’s first meeting with Jesus. It took place in the wilderness, where John the Baptist was preaching repentance and baptizing converts. This personal encounter with Jesus took place a few months after Jesus’s baptism (1 John 29 -34). Andrew and John were standing next to the Baptist when Jesus walked by and John the Baptist said, “behold the Lamb of God!” (V. 35-36). They immediately left John’s side and began to follow Jesus. Don’t imagine that they were being fickle or untrue to their mentor. Quite the opposite. John the Baptist had already denied that he was the Messiah but told of his coming.

Andrew and John would therefore have been caught up in the thrill of messianic expectation, waiting only for the right person to be identified. This is why as soon as they heard John the Baptist identify Christ as the Lamb of God, the two disciples instantly left John to follow Christ. They met, became acquainted, and began to be taught by Jesus that very day. Thus, Andrew and John became Jesus’s first disciples.

Jesus Called Andrew to Fulltime Discipleship

Peter and Andrew went back to Capernaum and continued their fishing career after that initial meeting with Christ. It was later—perhaps several months later—that Jesus came to Galilee to minister. He had begun his ministry in and around Jerusalem, where he cleansed the temple and stirred the hostilities of the religious leaders. But then he returned to Galilee to preach and heal, and he eventually came to Capernaum. There he encountered the two sets of brothers again while they were fishing. This was when they left fishing for a more permanent, full-time discipleship.

Andrew had lived his whole life in the shadow of Peter, and he apparently accepted that role. This was the very thing that made him so useful. His willingness to be a supporting actor often gave him insights into things that other disciples had trouble grasping. Thus, whenever he does come to the forefront, the thing that shines is his uncanny ability to see immense value in small and modest things.

Andrew Saw The Value Of Individual People

When it came to dealing with people, Andrew fully appreciated the value of a single soul. He was known for bringing individuals, not crowds, to Jesus. Almost every time we see him in the Gospel accounts, he is bringing someone to Jesus.

Remember that his first act after discovering Christ was to go and get Peter. John 12:20-22 tells of some Greeks who sought out Phillip and asked to see Jesus. These were probably Gentiles who knew of Jesus’s reputation and wanted to meet him. John 12: 21 says, “these men came to Phillip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and asked him, saying, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus’. Phillip came and told Andrew, an in-turn Andrew and Phillip told Jesus.” 

Andrew was obviously poised and comfortable introducing people to Christ because he did it often. He apparently knew Christ well and had no insecurities about bringing others to him. In John 1, he brought Peter to Christ, which made him the first home missionary.  Now he brings some Greeks to Christ, making him the first foreign missionary. These incidents set the tone for Andrew’s style of ministry.

Andrew Saw the Value of Insignificant Gifts

Some people see the big picture more clearly just because they appreciate the value of small things. Andrew fits that category.

One day Jesus had gone to a mountain to try to be alone with his disciples. As often happened when he took a break from public ministry, the clamoring multitudes tracked him down. It was just before Passover, the most important holiday on the Jewish calendar. That means it was precisely one year before Christ would be crucified.

Suddenly a huge throng of people approached. After teaching, Jesus made it clear that he wanted to feed the multitude. He asked Philip where they might buy bread. John adds an editorial comment to stress the fact that Jesus was sovereignly in control of these circumstances. “this he said to test him, for he himself knew what he would do” (John 6: 6).  Phillip’s vision was overwhelmed by the size of the need. He and the other disciples were at a loss to know what to do. Matthew, recounting this same incident, reports that the disciples said, “this is a deserted place, and the hour is already late. Send the multitudes away, that they may go into the villages and buy themselves food” (Matthew 14: 15).

But Jesus answered, “they do not need to go away. You give them something to eat”. This must have stymied the disciples. Jesus’ demand seemed unreasonable. But somehow, Andrew seemed instinctively to know that he was not wasting Jesus’ time by bringing forth a paltry gift of a few loaves and fish (John 6: 9). It is not the greatness of the gift that counts, but rather the greatness of the God to whom it is given. Andrew had set the stage for the miracle of feeding the 5000.

Andrew Saw the Value Of Inconspicuous Service

Andrew is the very picture of all those who labor quietly in humble places, “not with eye-service, as men-pleasers, but as bond servants of Christ doing the will of God from the heart” (Ephesians 6: 6).  He did not mind being hidden if the work was being done.

Jesus taught the disciples “if any man desires to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all” (Mark 9: 35). As far as we know Andrew never preached to multitudes or founded any churches. He never wrote an epistle. He isn’t mentioned in the book of Acts or any of the Epistles.

Andrew’s Evangelism

The Bible does not record what happened to Andrew after Pentecost. Tradition says he took the Gospel north. Eusibius, the ancient church historian, says Andrew went as far as Scythia. Scythia of classical antiquity refers to the region covering parts of modern-day Crimea, Kazakhstan, Russia, Poland, the Ukraine valley, Belarus, Romania, and northern India. (That’s why Andrew is the patron saint of Russia. He is also the patron saint of Scotland.)

Ancient Christian text fragments describing the evangelism of Andrew have been summarized by Gregory of Tours (539-594 AD). These Acts of Andrew are not included in the New Testament.  You may find them interesting: 

Acts of Andrew

Andrew’s Death

He was ultimately crucified in Achaia, which is in northern Greece, near Athens. One account says he led the wife of a provincial Roman governor to Christ, and that infuriated her husband. He demanded that his wife recant her devotion to Jesus Christ and she refused, so the governor had Andrew crucified.

By the governor’s orders, those who crucified him lashed him to his cross instead of nailing him, to prolong his sufferings. (Tradition says it was a saltine, or an X-shaped cross.) By most accounts, he hung on the cross for two days, exhorting passersby to turn to Christ for salvation. After a lifetime of ministry in the shadow of his more famous brother and in the service of his Lord, he met a similar fate as theirs, remaining faithful and still endeavoring to bring people to Christ, right to the end.


Was Andrew slighted? No. He was privileged. He was the first to hear that Jesus was the Lamb of God. He was the first to follow Christ. He was part of the inner circle, given intimate access to Christ. His name will be inscribed, along with the names of other apostles, on the foundations of the eternal city — the New Jerusalem. Best of all, he had a whole lifetime of privilege, doing what he loved best: introducing individuals to the Lord.

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Twelve Ordinary Men by John MacArthur

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