Volume XXXVIII, #39: Filling Our Roles
There are many figures in the Bible that we often look to for their well-known acts of courage and ability to go out into an often hostile world to pronounce their faith and desire for those around them to take up the cross. They share the truth in powerful and dramatic ways. They are easy to find and easy to remember. Peter is so passionate for Christ, that when Jesus is about to be arrested in the garden, Peter draws his sword and strikes the ear of one of the high priest’s servants. This kind of passion is surely a sign that in the moment, Peter is ready to die, in order to protect Jesus. These bold acts are memorable.
There are others throughout the Bible that do not readily stand out in the same way. Not because their deeds are without merit, but, perhaps, because they operate on a more subtle level. The apostle Andrew comes to mind as someone who takes on more of a supporting role when compared to his brother Simon Peter, or James and John the “Sons of Thunder”. A number of years ago, I heard a sermon on the apostle Andrew, and it resonated with me for a number of reasons. It was the first time I had heard any attention given solely to this lesser known apostle. But it demonstrated to me that there are all types of personalities with their own sets of strengths and weaknesses in the body of Christ. And there is importance in the details. Andrew is only mentioned a handful of times throughout the Gospels and never makes any headlines. And yet, we can still learn great lessons from quieter figures in the Bible.
The first time we see Andrew is in the wilderness. Jesus has not even begun his ministry, and we find Andrew already looking for the Messiah, the one promised by God. Andrew is well aware of this and actively seeking. “One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas’ (which means Peter).” (John 1:40-42)
When Andrew hears John’s proclamation that this man, Jesus, is the Lamb of God, he immediately recognizes Jesus for what He is. The text tells us he immediately goes to his brother, Simon Peter, to share the news of the Messiah. I think these few verses give us great insight into Andrew’s character. True conviction does not delay. He is one of the first apostles to follow Jesus. And he also fosters the initial relationship between Jesus and Peter, the apostle who goes on to boldly proclaim Christ and His resurrection to thousands.
Andrew’s name is small in terms of the attention he receives in the gospels. But closer examination shows his contribution is significant. I am not suggesting that Andrew is some kind of unsung hero, who’s limelight was stolen by his unabashed brother. But rather, that for every Peter, there is also an Andrew. And there needs to be. Sometimes we need someone who leads a little quieter. Andrew was chosen for a reason, as were all of the twelve. Scripture gives no indication that he was present for the transfiguration or any of the other exclusive miracles like his brother. Nor was he a part of the debates for honor and status among the disciples. Andrew seems to embody Proverbs 15:33, “before honor comes humility”.
We each have a role to play in the kingdom, in our local congregation, in our community. And we cannot possibly all fill the same role. Paul addresses this very thing in his first letter to Corinth. He deals with the importance of each part of the body and the absurd idea that any one part could do without the other. “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable.” (12:21-22)
There is plenty of work to do in God’s kingdom. Some of that work is front and center, while some of it is less visible. We all need to be searching for opportunities to serve with the abilities we have been given. And we also need to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of those around us so that we may be able to encourage others to do the same.