Readings: Deut. 30:11–14, Rom. 10:8–18 & Mt. 4:18–22
Today, we celebrate the Feast Day of St Andrew, the patron saint of our parish here in Aberfeldie.
Andrew is often referred to as the “first called”, meaning that he was the first person called by Jesus, to be a disciple of his. That doesn’t seem to be the case though, when we read the Gospel of Matthew, because Matthew tells us that as Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers (Simon and Andrew) fishing, and he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” (Matt. 4:18–19 NRSV)
But in the Gospel of John, the author tells us that John the Baptist was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus and stayed with him that day. One of those disciples was Andrew, who then went to his brother Simon Peter and told him, “We have found the Messiah”. Andrew then took Peter with him to meet Jesus.
The response of Andrew and Peter to the call of Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel, “Immediately they left their nets and followed him”, makes more sense if they had already met Jesus. Andrew had been a follower of John the Baptist, but then became a disciple of Jesus after meeting him, while still a follower of John the Baptist. So by the time Jesus called Andrew and Peter to follow him, they had probably already made up their minds to do so.
Andrew had obviously been impressed with what he had seen and heard from Jesus, and he was also no doubt influenced by the positive witness of John the Baptist regarding Jesus. I wonder what it felt like, for Andrew to follow Jesus?
Let’s try and put ourselves in Andrew’s shoes for a moment. Andrew was obviously a religious man, a man of faith, because he was initially a disciple of John the Baptist, and John had been baptising people in God’s name. and calling them to repent of their ways and turn back to God.
Perhaps Andrew, like others, had thought John was the Messiah? So when Andrew heard John himself describe Jesus as the Lamb of God, he probably had little hesitation in accepting that Jesus was the Messiah, the one who would free the people of Israel from Roman rule and oppression. For Andrew, it may have been an unrivalled time of excitement and anticipation. Maybe his dreams were literally about to come true?
So if that’s what it was like for Andrew, what does it mean for us, to be disciples of Jesus? What’s different for us, some two thousand years later?
Well perhaps the most obvious difference, is that today Christianity is the largest religion in the world, whereas in Andrew’s day, the term Christian didn’t even exist. Those who were disciples of Jesus, were simply known as followers of “The Way”.
The second major difference is that we in the Western World today live in relative freedom, compared to the experience of Andrew living in his own land, but under the rule and laws of a foreign power.
We also have freedom of speech, particularly here in Australia, unlike the situation in Andrew’s time, when one had to be careful what they said in public, particularly if what they said, was being critical of the governing powers who were representing the Roman Empire.
Most of us today live in relative comfort and financial security, whereas the majority of people in first-century Palestine would have been relatively poor.
For Andrew, becoming a disciple of Jesus was a life-changing decision. Can we say the same thing? Particularly those of who were baptised as infants and then confirmed as young children? In those cases, the decision to become disciples of Jesus was made for us.
So far, we’ve looked at the differences between being a disciple of Jesus today, and being a disciple in Andrew’s time, but what is still the same today as it was two thousand years ago?
Well, for a start, the message of the Gospel is the same. As the opening verse of the Gospel of Mark describes it, “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” And that good news, is that God revealed Himself to humankind in the person of Jesus Christ, and through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, we have been reconciled to God in this life, and we are guaranteed eternal life with Him beyond this life.
And the other truth that remains the same, is that as disciples of Jesus, we are called to proclaim the kingdom of God on earth, and the way we do that, is through the way we live our own lives. As true disciples of Jesus, we bear witness to him if we follow the example that He Himself gave us: By loving God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, and by loving our neighbour as ourselves.