This morning I would like us to consider Christian character through the exploration of the first of the called apostles, Andrew. Although, first called, Andrew was one of the least conspicuous apostles; yet he was very effective in ministry. There is an immediate lesson for all of us from observing Andrew. Key among those lessons is this: every person, regardless of the size of his or her voice is significant to and valued by God. Every person, regardless of the age or size can be a powerful minister to others through Jesus.
We begin looking at the Christian character and these lessons through the person of Andrew in our New Testament reading today from the Gospel of John, Chapter 1, starting at verse 35. This passage begins on page 92 of the New Testament section of the pew Bibles. As this scene opens up, we find ourselves in the wilderness of ancient Israel, along the River Jordan; a place we can still find today. The river serves as a boundary line these days between the modern nations of Israel and Kingdom of Jordan. It was in this remote location that we find a man named John engaged in baptizing people of all social class. John’s baptism, being submerged under the waters of the river, was an outward sign of a decision by those being baptized to repent; that is to change the direction of their life from self-oriented to God-centered. When John baptized he called on people to show evidence that with God at the center of their lives their conduct with other people now would be different. John was a bit of an odd character who distinguished himself by living in the wilderness on locust and honey and being fashionably dressed in camel hair clothing. In this small, out of the way place, far from the major cities, John said of himself, he was just one voice speaking into the wilderness. He was faithful and patient to do what God wanted him to do.
Patience and faithfulness are often in short supply. In the Book of Exodus, we learned that Moses was upon the mountain speaking with God while the people of Israel camped near the base of the wilderness mountain. The people of Israel grew impatient, believing Moses was gone too long on the mountain and that his fate was now uncertain. So the people, together with Moses’ brother Aaron, collected all of their gold together, melted it, and formed a golden calf; an object that they could see, they polish to shine in the sun, and carry with them. They declared the golden calf the source of their freedom from Egypt and set about to worship the golden calf. We hear those words and might say to ourselves, “How silly. How much more advanced are we than them. We would never worship an object.” Anyone holding onto their phone at this moment? The people were faithless and impatient. They wanted things to happen on their timetable and in their way. They were self-centered and unwilling to live in accordance with God’s standards. When Moses, this historically great leader and powerful speaker, came down off the mountain and called the people to repent; change the direction of their lives from self to God. That message must be said over and over.
As we look to our New Testament text, John the Baptist is doing the same thing; calling people to turn from self and toward God. John was a powerful speaker with a personality that could attract others to hear his message to change. One of those people who heard John’s message in the wilderness was a young man named Andrew.
Andrew was a fisherman, physically strong from throwing nets into the Sea of Galilee and pulling them onto the shore or into his boat. He lived in a small town of Bethsaida, in the northern part of Israel. Yet, as we open our New Testament text today we will discover that Andrew is now 85 miles south of his home and is a disciple, a follower, of John the Baptist. Andrew knew John well.
Verse 35, “The next day John again 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. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.”
Let’s take a moment and look at what we know about Andrew from this short passage. Andrew was present at the side of John the Baptist, supporting and serving John’s historic mission to all the people calling them to focus their hearts and minds first on God and then live with others from God’s perspective. At first, Andrew was unnamed; he was just a disciple of John’s standing next to John. Yet, he was open to God’s leading and when he saw Jesus, and heard John’s testimony, that this is God’s Lamb, Andrew knew then that Jesus was a person through whom Andrew could experience God in a personal and powerful way. In a book by Christian philosopher, Elton Trueblood, he wrote, “because persons are superior, in kind, not only to all things but even to all ideas, I need a person to whom I can give myself and thereby find myself.” Jesus was God incarnate, meaning in the person. Andrew could see that and followed the person Jesus because Jesus was superior to anything, idea, or other person. When asked by Jesus, “What do you want?” Andrew’s reply to Jesus, in essence, was to be wherever Jesus called home. Through Andrew we see Christian character begins with repentance; changing our focus from self to God. From Andrew we also see that to understand what that means to be God focused, we need to experience the personality of God by spending time with the person of Jesus.
Andrew spent the day with Jesus and then with the perspective of God he knew how he must deal with other people. What did Andrew do? Verse 41, “He [Andrew] first found his brother Simon and said to him [Simon], ‘We have found the Messiah!’” Andrew understood that Jesus was the person sent by God to make right all things. This was news that Andrew now equipped with God’s perspective could not imagine keeping to himself. Verse 42, “He [Andrew] brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).” Andrew the unnamed disciple of John the Baptist had become the first disciple of Jesus and the first to share the good news of what it meant to be wherever Jesus was. To whom did he share that news? It would be his brother, a very dominate personality; so dominate that Andrew is introduced to us as Simon Peter’s brother. We learn though that being the dominate personality in the room meant nothing to Andrew. Knowing that his role was to follow Jesus and then introduce others to Jesus was foremost in his mind. Andrew demonstrates to us the Christian character is more often found in the small acts of life being inconspicuous at times and yet ministering to others as God sees them. The Christian character is not about being the biggest voice or the most prominent person in the room. Small voices matter and that sharing the experience of Jesus is not just something to do, it is a need within each Christian.
Let me give you an example of small voices from the fourth century. An Asian monk, named Telemachus, was living in a little remote village, spending most of his time in prayer or tending the garden. One day, he thought he heard the voice of God telling him to go to Rome. Believing in what he heard, he set out. Weeks and weeks later, he arrived in Rome. He followed a crowd into the Coliseum, and there he saw the gladiators come forth, stand before the Emperor, and say, ``We who are about to die salute you.'' Telemachus realized to his horror they were going to fight to the death for the entertainment of the crowds. He cried out, ``In the name of Christ, stop!'' However, his small voice was lost in the noise of the crowd in the great Coliseum. As the games began, he made his way down through the crowd, climbed over the wall, and dropped to the floor of the arena. Suddenly the crowds saw this scrawny little figure making his way out to the gladiators and saying, over and over again, ``In the name of Christ, stop.'' They thought it was part of the entertainment, and at first, they were amused. Then, when they realized it was not part of the show, they grew belligerent and angry. As Telemachus pled with the gladiators, ``In the name of Christ, stop,'' one of them plunged his sword into Telemachus’ body. He fell to the sand of the arena in death, his last words of his small voice were, ``In the name of Christ, stop.'' It was then that, a strange thing happened. Silence fell over the Coliseum. Then somewhere from the upper tiers of the great stadium, an individual made his way to an exit and left, and others began to follow. In the dead silence, everyone left the Coliseum. That was the last battle to the death between gladiators in the Roman Coliseum. Never again, did men enter the stadium to kill each other for the entertainment of the crowd. Lives changed that day because one small voice hardly heard above the noise said in peace but a few words. ``In the name of Christ, stop.''
Andrew, in our Scripture today, said in a small voice to his brother, “We have found the Messiah.” With those few words, the model for sharing the experience of Christ was born. It is what each of us can and must imitate today; invite others we know to experience the person of Jesus.
Later in the New Testament, we see Andrew appear again. Some 5,000 people had gathered to hear Jesus teach and now they needed food. Jesus said to his disciples, “You feed them.” His disciples were dumbfounded. How could they feed 5, 000 people? Andrew appeared with a small boy at his side and said to Jesus, “Here is boy with five loaves of bread and two fish.” Andrew, the follower of Christ, did not understand how all things would work but he was willing to introduce people to Jesus and faithful enough to know that even small offerings in Jesus’ hands could yield mighty works. It does not take much to change someone’s life. I am learning that through ministry of those suffering in grief. We cannot solve the big problem that people face; the loss of someone they love. Yet, in small things, such as just listening to their stories and fears, our presence is a great comfort and serves as a reminder that God is real and present in this world. Are we following Andrew’s model and being faithful in many small things that comprise our lives?
We have one final example of Andrew’s character in Scripture. Jesus was again speaking and some Greeks approached one of the disciples, Philip, and asked if they too might meet Jesus. Philip, unsure of himself, sought out Andrew. Andrew brought Philip and the Greeks with him to meet Jesus. The character of Andrew was that of someone who was willing to invest time in others. Andrew wanted Philip to overcome his uncertainty and become a more productive disciple. Andrew put aside whatever occupied him at that moment and helped Philip. Some time ago, I attended a meeting this week among the clergy and representatives from the school system. One of the issues I encouraged school administators to explore was to tap the resource among our churches that have many seasoned people capable of serving as mentors for students. Andrew exhibited the character of mentoring by walking with Philip as Philip learned how to meet the needs of people who approached him. Even if work with the schools does not lead to a formal mentorship program, each Christian should model Andrew’s character and behavior by mentoring others. It is part of having a Christ centered focus to life and with that perspective knowing how to treat other people. We need to make ourselves available to others. What we know and our experience with Jesus is of great value, that God perspective, but it is only valuable if we use it and share it with someone. If we hold onto what we know and do not share it, it does not have the full value God intended. Andrew understood. His focus was on God by experiencing Jesus. From that vantage point, Andrew then understood how to treat others.
We can learn much about the nature of Christian life by carefully observing the character of Christians God put in our path through the Scriptures. Andrew was one of those people. He was a man willing to be overshadowed by other personalities; it did not keep him from his primary mission of introducing others to Jesus. Andrew was willing to be faithful in small things; he knew small things in God’s hands yield great results. Andrew was willing to mentor others; he knew the power of ministry only increases when we equip others to meet their full potential. Andrew was a sharing individual because his heart was focused on God, he was experiencing God in a personal way through Jesus, and he was willing to then see others as God sees them and minister to them. We should follow Andrew’s example of faithfulness, patience, and concern for others from a God centered life, rich with our personal experiences of Jesus. Amen and Amen.