The twelve: Andrew and James

Previously, we discussed about Peter. This note will discuss on two of the ordinary twelve, members of the four privileged men to be counted as those who are closest to Jesus. Two (seemingly) good friends, heroes of faith but at the same time, flawed persons and sinners. Meet Andrew and James the apostles.

The first time we met Andrew was when he and his friend John was following John the Baptist. And then John the Baptist points them to Jesus, saying, “Behold the Lamb of God!” They came to Jesus and stayed with Him that day. Convinced that he is the Messiah that they are waiting for they told their experiences to each of their older brother, Peter and James, making the four of them the first disciples of Jesus.

To talk about Andrew and James in the same note is like talking about two totally different persons, as we will see later on. In fact, Andrew was so different compared to the rest of the four. The four apostles are the inner group of the twelve that are closest to Jesus. Whenever the twelve are listed, the four of them are always mentioned first. In a sense it underlines their leadership among the twelve. Interestingly, Andrew was the least prominent out of the four, and he is only mentioned merely nine times in the Bible. James on the other hand, was the only apostle whose life from when he started to become a disciple unto death is recorded in the Bible.

Andrew, the unknown ordinary, apostle of small things

As I said before, it seems that the four has a collective leadership among the disciples of Jesus. In terms of personality they are very unique. As we see previously, Peter was a brash, undependable, inconsistent, speak-before-thinking type of person. James and John are similar to each other; they are ambitious, temperamental, intolerant, explosive but zealous persons, thus earning them the nickname “Boanerges” or “the sons of thunder”. Andrew on the other hand seems the exactly opposite way. He is comfortable with his a supporting role, letting the others takes the lead, staying in the background most of the time.

Don’t take it in a wrong way, it doesn’t mean that he didn’t want to lead, or that he is weak, wimpish or feeble. Do take in mind that he is also a fisherman, just like the other three, a job that needs physical strength and machismo. He is bold, decisive and deliberate. Most likely, he also participated in the debate on who is the greatest of the twelve. Interestingly, we rarely see him speak in the Scripture. But when he does, he always says the right thing. It doesn’t mean that he’s never wrong though, in fact, we can see Jesus rebuking the twelve often in the Scripture – meaning that Andrew was also being rebuked.

There are two interesting points that I saw in Andrew’s life. The first point is that he is okay with being in the shadow of others. Why? Consider these two points: (1) Andrew was Peter’s brother and (2) Andrew was the one who told Peter about Jesus. Andrew must have known Peter’s personality, and he must have known his tendency to take the leading role in a group. Thus, if Peter is to join him as Christ’s disciple, he will surely not be able to take leadership. But he told Peter anyway!

The second interesting trait of Andrew was the most important though: his passion to introduce Christ to others. He is too passionate to tell the story of the Messiah to Peter such that he didn’t think about taking leadership role. He introduced the Gentiles to Jesus when they say that they want to meet him. Originally, the Gentiles were asking Philip to do it, but he isn’t sure what to do and talked to Andrew (thus undermining Andrew’s leadership as well). Andrew on the other hand knew exactly what the Lord will want and brought them to Christ. In a sense, he is both the first domestic and foreign missionary. Cool.

He is not the type of evangelist who talked to crowds and wins them, like what Peter did. He is the type of evangelist who talked person to person. But he made great impact. Think it this way: if Andrew didn’t introduce Peter to Jesus, the scene where Peter preached and multitudes believed will not happen. And actually, this kind of personal evangelism was the one that is closer to our lives! The unknown ordinary has become the perfect model for us.

James, the first of the two thunders

James comes from a very prominent family. The fact that James and John were called “Son of Zebedee” tells us that Zebedee was a very famous guy. When James and John left their vocation as fisherman, it was mentioned that they left all their workers behind. Their business was so big that they have other people working for them. If Peter and Andrew were fishermen, then Zebedee is the Kingpin of fishermen. They even have connection with the High Priest of that time. Yet, they left everything behind to follow Jesus.

When we talk about James, it will be hard to not talk about John. True, we will not discuss John here, but James was always mentioned together with John. The only time when he is mentioned alone is when he was put to death by Herod. He is a very prominent guy, strong background, and packed with ambitions. He might just be the second in command of the disciples. But when we examine the scripture we can see that his weakness takes the better of him most of the time.

There was time when he and his brother asked Jesus to give them power to call fire so that they can burn the Samaritans who denied Jesus like Elijah did. Jesus softly rebukes them, telling them that He came not to bring destruction, but to bring salvation. Samaritans and Jews are not the best homeys in every kind of definition. Being a devout and zealous person, James most likely despises the Samaritans, thus he can get easily provoked by them, on top of his fiery personality that is thunderous. Lesson one: be patient, and know what God’s purpose is.

There was another time when he (and again with his brother) asked Jesus to be put in His left and right side when He will reigns. Actually, it wasn’t them who asked, it was their mother. But judging from the fact that after Jesus heard their mother request he directly asked them “are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink and baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” means that most likely it was them who told their mother to tell Jesus. Ambitious and arrogant, that is who the Boanerges are.

Wicked as it is, the story doesn’t end there. Overshadowed by their desire for greatness, they told Jesus that they are able to do all that without even realizing what that means! Again, Jesus rebukes them for what they did, but the effect of what they did was disastrous enough to ignite the debate of who is the greatest among them. Lesson number two: tone down ambitions, don’t be arrogant, and find what God wants us to do.

The unknown and the thunder

Being zealous and passionate is not necessarily a bad thing however. At least they are angry because they knew that their Lord was being treated with an unrighteous way. Their response was righteous; it was their request that is unrighteous. Wanting to do the best is also not a bad thing, and they certainly shows that they are doing what they do passionately. Their desire to be glorified more than others was what wrong with them. It is in a way, a kind of double edged sword. If I were to choose between a people who is passionate but with a risk of making mistakes with a passive person, I will choose the former.

Andrew on the other hand is unique. His love for Christ and his passion to introduce Christ to others was unequaled. This kind of personality is what the world needs. We need to be Andrews, who loves God more than ourselves. He knows what exactly Jesus wants with him and he did just what Jesus wanted.

James was the first to be martyred. His influence to the believer at that time was to the extent that when Herod wanted to gain the favor of the Jews, he chose to execute James first. He drank that cup of suffering indeed in the end. History records tells us that the one who led him to his execution was moved when he saw James, and confessed that he was also a Christian. This made him led away to the execution as well, asking forgiveness from James in the way. James forgive him and said to him, “Peace be with thee”. Both of them are beheaded at the same time. He learned how to be patient, and how to forgive.

Tradition held that Andrew took the Gospel north, which is why he is held as the saint patron of Russia. He ultimately was crucified in Achaia (Greece), when he preached the Gospel to the governor’s wife. She converted and incited the governor’s rage. He commanded Andrew to be crucified in am X-shaped cross, not nailed but tied to prolong his suffering. They said he was hung for two days, but on that cross he remained passionate to others, telling them about Jesus up to the very end. We need to thank God for people like Andrew.

Ordinary men, with an extra-ordinary God.



There was a time when I lost my desire to write and to share. There was a time when I didn't see the point of doing a blog to express my thought. I am who I am though, inconsistent as I am in doing this blog, but I do want to share and I do long to write. Today I'm giving it another go. Fingers crossed. But I still wish that "Let there be light" is the message that I convey.
  • January 1st 2012, Kristo