Just as God had been preparing the world to receive his Incarnate Son who would bring redemption, he had also been preparing the hearts of those individuals who would be closest to our Savior and who would carry on His ministry following the Resurrection.
St. Andrew was one who had been awaiting the Messiah. A native of the town of Bethsaida, he participated in the family fishing business, and had become a disciple of St. John the Baptist, finding hope in his teachings about repentance. When the Forerunner pointed to Jesus and said, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”, Andrew and a companion – thought to be St. John the Evangelist who wrote this account – immediately went to investigate this claim. They followed Jesus to where he was staying and remained with him until the next day, listening to his teaching. [John 1:35-39]
Andrew again took immediate action, going to his brother Simon to give him the good news that they had found the Messiah. From that day, the brothers and others whom Jesus called, were his constant companions. They witnessed the first miracle at the wedding feast in Cana; they heard the comforting words of the Sermon on the Mount; and they pondered the parables, seeking to understand their meaning. Andrew brought the young boy’s loaves and fish to the Lord to feed the multitudes, and he and his companions witnessed Christ walking on the water of the Sea of Galilee. They saw our Lord heal the sick and raise Lazarus from the dead. Andrew was with those who questioned Jesus on His prophecy about the destruction of the Temple. They were with Christ through the difficult days of Holy Week and Andrew – like his brother Peter and all but John – fled when Jesus was crucified. After experiencing the joy of seeing the Resurrected Christ, the Apostles were present at the Ascension and received the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.
Outside the Gospel accounts, Andrew is mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles as having participated in the selection of Matthias to replace the traitor Judas, keeping the number of the Apostles at twelve. He attended the first Church Council in Jerusalem, which decreed that Christians did not have to abide by Jewish law. All this we know of St. Andrew from the Biblical accounts. For the rest of his story, we turn to Holy Tradition.
We are told that, after Pentecost, those twelve then followed our Lord’s command to “go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” They divided the territories of the known world among them and, joined in their efforts by St. Paul, began their work of evangelizing the world.
St. Andrew traveled throughout Asia Minor, part of Greece, the area along the Black Sea (to the city of Byzantium), and some say as far as Russia. Everywhere that St. Andrew traveled, he taught the people about the love of Christ and baptized many into the Church. He ordained priests to continue this ministry before leaving an area. In some places, the new Christians tore down the temples of the idols they had formerly worshiped and brought the treasures of those temples to St. Andrew. He advised the people to use the money to help the poor but to save some of it for the building of a Temple for the worship of the true God.
In the city of Patras, St. Andrew was God’s vehicle for a healing miracle which ultimately led to his martyrdom. He healed Maximilla, the wife of the imperial governor, Aegeatus, of an infirmity of the eyes. In her gratitude, Maximilla listened fervently to St. Andrew’s preaching and became convinced of the truth of Christianity. Her brother-in-law, Stratocles, was also convinced, but Aegeatus did the politically expedient thing and condemned Andrew, despite what he had done for his wife. After repeated tortures, he had St. Andrew crucified on an X-shaped cross. It was about the year 62 when St. Andrew the First-called Apostle received the crown of martyrdom.
After two hundred years, the relics of this great saint were taken to Constantinople for veneration by the faithful in the Church of the Apostles built by the first Christian Emperor, Constantine. In 1460, the head of St. Andrew was given to the Roman Catholic pope, but this relic was returned to the Orthodox in 1964. Another relic of the saint – his arm – is in Moscow. St. Andrew is honored as the patron saint of both Russia and Scotland.
Like St. Andrew, those who recognize Jesus as the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” must follow Him as a disciple. And, if we are true disciples, we will bring others to Him, sharing our faith and hope of eternal life.