Today the Orthodox church commemorates Jesus’ first disciple, Andrew, a celebration that follows by two weeks the commemoration of his fellow disciple Philip.
The stories of both men are captured in the first chapter of John’s gospel, and I think the pair has something to teach us this Advent season.
We first encounter Andrew standing with John the Baptist. It was the day after Christ’s baptism in the Jordan and Jesus passed by the two men and another of the Baptists’s disciples. “Behold,” blurted John, “the Lamb of God!” Andrew and the other disciple (perhaps the evangelist himself, as some have speculated) jumped into action. They started walking after Jesus.
Come and see
When he realized he was being followed, Jesus turned and asked the pair what they wanted.
“Rabbi, where are you staying,” they asked.
“Come and see,” he answered.
The gospel reports that the two men stayed with Jesus until mid-afternoon. Those few short hours were all it took. Andrew left to find his brother Peter and tell him the good news: They had found the Christ.
Andrew heard the testimony of the Baptist and followed the call of Christ. In this he is like another first-called — Abraham. Moved by faith, Andrew unhesitatingly followed the leading of God just as his forebear had done.
We have found him
Philip was a neighbor of Andrew and Peter. John tells us that Jesus found him and then directed him to follow as well. It doesn’t say why Jesus picked him, but Philip’s reaction illuminates the reason. Philip was so expectant, so eager, the story doesn’t even indicate his consent. It presumes it. After Jesus’ call, Philip immediately went and told Nathanael about his encounter with Jesus.
“We have found him of whom Moses in the law and also the Prophets wrote,” said Philip, “Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
Nathanael was open but a bit skeptical. “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” he asked.
Philip answered like Jesus answered: “Come and see.”
Different men, different approaches
Just as with Andrew, Jesus called Philip and he followed. But unlike Andrew, who believed the testimony of John the Baptist, Philip knew Jesus was the Messiah because he was well studied in the oracles of God.
I think we should be encouraged by that difference. Some people make Christianity primarily an intellectual thing, others an experiential matter. Both can be true — never one to the exclusion of the other — as is evidenced by Andrew and Philip. God uses many ways to draw his people, but the response of all must be the same faith shown by Andrew and Philip.
In pointing to these two disciples so close to Christmas, the church is telling is that we should have the same eager expectation for the coming of Christ, the same commitment to follow, and the same readiness to proclaim the good news no matter what our approach to the faith.