Saint Andrew, Apostle

Mosaic c.  Dormition of the Virgin in Daphne.  OK.  1100. The vocation of the apostles Peter and Andrew.

It is interesting to see how the apostles respond to Jesus’ call in their lives. St. John shows us the first meeting between Jesus and those He would call. In St. Matthew’s account we see a new movement initiated by Christ. Andrew and Peter were disciples of John the Baptist, and clearly interested in an authentic relationship with God. They were preparing themselves for the coming of the Lord, and St. Andrew had already supposed of Jesus, “Could this be the Messiah?” Jesus is baptised by John in the Jordan, then He withdraws to the desert. What could we suppose Peter, James, John, and Andrew were thinking about during the forty day absence of Christ? What teachings did John the Baptist provide about the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world, the Bridegroom, during Jesus’ absence.

They were prepared for the call of Jesus by the teaching and example of John the Baptist. It was not the honing of their rational minds, but the aching of their hearts broken by sin. John the Baptist had brought them to understand intuitively, in their hearts, the need for a savior. He had brought them to desire, in the broken places of their lives, what the true Messiah would be sent to do. Jesus calls to them, because He sees that their hearts – if still in a confused and mixed way – long more for the kingdom that is not of this world than for some powerful earthly kingdom. How could they follow the Lamb if deep down they were looking for a lion?

Jesus does not command them to leave everything behind when they follow Him. Things always have a way of showing back up in our lives anyway – after Jesus dies on the Cross, somehow Peter and the rest were back on a boat fishing. Every time Jesus invites us to follow Him, in the quiet but powerful tone of Love we hear in our broken hearts, we gladly leave everything else behind. Jesus teaches us to love the freedom He brings to our hearts – we gladly let go to experience Him filling every corner of our soul. Evangelical poverty is not Good News when it is just an ostentatious act of penance: If we can see your poverty – that doesn’t make it count! It is Good News when it is a step away from everything that binds us to the heaviness of earth into the arms of a loving Savior. Jesus has caught them in His bands of Love – now it is His joy and mission to lead them to catch others.


Someone may wonder: At the Lord’s beckoning, what or how much did these two fishermen, who scarcely had anything, leave behind? On this, my beloved, we should attend to one’s intention rather than one’s wealth. That person has left behind a lot who keeps nothing for himself, who, though he has little, gives up everything. We tend to be attached to those things we own, and those things we scarcely own, we carefully hold on to. Therefore Peter and Andrew left much behind when they left behind covetousness and the very desire to own. That person has left much behind who renounces with the thing owned the very coveting of that thing. Therefore those poor who followed Jesus left behind just as much as those less poor who did not follow him but were able to covet. So when you notice that some have left a great deal behind, you need not say to yourself, I want to imitate those who disdain this world, but sorry, I have nothing to leave behind. You will leave much behind, my brothers, if you renounce earthly desires. External things, however small they may be, are sufficient for the Lord, since he looks at the heart and not at our material goods. Nor does he judge by how much is involved in our sacrifice but from how much it is made. For if we judge by external goods, our holy merchants traded in their nets and vessels for the perpetual life of the angels.1


When they earlier had seen that John was in prison and that Jesus was withdrawing, it would not have been unnatural for them to return again to their own craft, fishing, having followed him at the beginning and then later having left him to fish. Accordingly, you now see that Jesus finds them actively fishing. But he neither resisted them at first when they desired to withdraw from him, nor having withdrawn themselves, did he let them go altogether. He gave way when they moved aside from him and came again to win them back. This, after all, is exactly what fishing is all about.2


“Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” It was the very same thing he had promised through Jeremiah the prophet: “Behold, I am sending for many fishers, says the Lord, and they shall catch them; and afterward I will send for many hunters and they shall hunt them.” So we see that the apostles are called not only fishermen but also hunters: fishermen, for in the nets of gospel preaching they catch all believers like fish in the world; hunters, for they catch for salvation by heavenly hunting those people who are roving in this world as though in the woods of error and who are living like wild animals.3


“And he said to them, ‘Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ ” That is, I will make you teachers, so that with the net of God’s Word you may catch people in this delusive world, a world fluctuating and frenetic, unstable, treacherous and always dangerous, and never safe for anyone, where people do not walk but are borne along as though against their will.
The devil’s wrath made clever use of the instability of strong desire. He lied to them that their will would be accomplished. He took delight in impelling them to evil deeds, so they may feed upon each other like big fish eating the weaker fish, lest having been removed from the water they live on the fruitful land of the body of Christ. Otherwise, having been made limbs of Christ’s body, they could have lived on the fruitful earth, on the sweet and ever tranquil earth, where there is no storm that brews destruction, except perhaps for the testing of their faith and the flowering of their patience. In that body people walk safely, not being coerced. They do not devour each other but support each other.
Behold, I am not handing over to you a new gospel. It is not like another net woven with numerous narrations billowing here and there like waves of various opinions and indispensable parables, admirable virtues and manifold teachings, and bound by threats of judgments and promises of happiness. It is not made of rigid ties, or highlighted by predictions or the knowledge of occult thinking, or confessions of devils and resurrections of the dead, in order for its secure texture to diligently hold rational people captive and prevent them from exiting by any means as through some fissure overlooked by the Holy Spirit who wove that net.4

The heavenly bodies are spiritual and light, and naturally they always tend upward. The earthly bodies are heavy, and they always hang downward. So, if you hold onto spiritual things, they will bring you up; if you hold onto earthly things, they will bring you down. Therefore they left behind their nets, lest these things become more of an impediment to them than an added benefit.5

And he chooses them not as apostles but because they could become apostles. Just as an artist who sees precious, and not rough-hewn, stones chooses them—not because of what they are but because of what they can become. Like the sensitive artist who does not spurn the unshaped good—so too the Lord, upon seeing them, does not choose their works but their hearts.6


Therefore he has not chosen the noble of the world or the rich, lest their preaching be suspect; not the wise of the world, lest people believe that they persuaded the human race with their wisdom; but he chose illiterate, unskilled and untutored fishermen, so that the Savior’s grace might be open.7


Those who believe rightly believe that they may call on him in whom they have believed and may be strong to do what they have learned in the precepts of the law, since faith obtains what the law commands.8


The beauty of the preacher’s feet must be understood in a spiritual, not in a physical sense. For it would make a mockery of the apostle’s meaning to suppose that the feet of the evangelists, which can be seen with the physical eye, should be regarded as beautiful in themselves.… Only those feet which walk in the way of life can make this claim. Given that Christ said that he is the way, you should understand that it is the feet of those evangelists who walk according to that way which deserve to be called beautiful.9


The Jews were forever seeking a sign … but Isaiah promised them no such thing. Rather, it was by hearing that they were to believe.10


  1. FORTY GOSPEL HOMILIES 5.2. Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2001). Matthew 1–13 (p. 70). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  2. THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW, HOMILY 14. Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2001). Matthew 1–13 (p. 71). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  3. TRACTATE ON MATTHEW 16.2. Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2001). Matthew 1–13 (p. 71). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  4. INCOMPLETE WORK ON MATTHEW, HOMILY 7. Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2001). Matthew 1–13 (pp. 71–72). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  5. INCOMPLETE WORK ON MATTHEW, HOMILY 7. Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2001). Matthew 1–13 (p. 72). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  6. INCOMPLETE WORK ON MATTHEW, HOMILY 7. Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2001). Matthew 1–13 (p. 72). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  7. TRACTATE ON MATTHEW 16.1. Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2001). Matthew 1–13 (p. 72). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  8. LETTER 157. Bray, G. (Ed.). (1998). Romans (Revised) (p. 269). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  9. COMMENTARY ON THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS. Bray, G. (Ed.). (1998). Romans (Revised) (pp. 269–270). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  10. HOMILIES ON ROMANS 18. Bray, G. (Ed.). (1998). Romans (Revised) (p. 271). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
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