The Gospel of John and the “Other Disciples” – Andrew

We know far less about Andrew than Peter, James and John, although he is often listed along with these three in the gospels.  Andrew and Peter were brothers, as were James and John, working in the same fishing village in Galilee when they are called to be followers of Jesus.  But all four seem to have been looking for the coming of the Messiah, as we see from reading John 1.

When John the Baptist was still baptizing in the Jordan, Andrew is following him.  They encounter the Lord and John the Baptist announce that Jesus is the Messiah.  In John’s gospel, this is the third day, usually significant in the Bible!  The witness of John starts a “chain reaction” as Jesus is followed by Andrew and another disciple of John the Baptist (1:35-39).

John declares that Jesus is the lamb of God, this time some of his disciples begin to follow Jesus, in effect transferring from John’s ministry to Jesus’. Andrew is one of the disciples simply mentioned in the Synoptics.  In John he figures significantly in several stories.  In each story, he is described as bringing someone or something to Jesus.  This other disciple may be the “disciple whom Jesus loved” in the second half of the gospel.  Andrew declares that Jesus is a teacher and Messiah, and bring Simon, Cephas (Peter) to Jesus.

The next day (the fourth over all), Andrew invites his brother Simon to follow Jesus (John 1:40-42).  Andrew confesses to Simon that they have found the Messiah.   This is a unique occurrence of the word Messiah rather than the common Greek translation, “Christ.” It is significant that Peter’s brother makes this confession early on, later Peter will make the same statement in 6:68, although he uses the title, “holy one of God,” something of a higher Christological statement than Andrew. Andrew is therefore the first disciple to actually call Jesus the Messiah in John’s gospel, although we are not at all sure to what extent he understood the term.

The second time Andrew appears in the story of John’s gospel is at the Feeding of the 5000 (John 6:1-14).  John contrasts two disciples, Phil and Andrew.  Philip, we are told, was tested and his response is a bit flat.  Perhaps Andrew too was tested, although I wonder if his response is a great deal better.  Obviously he sees the same problem as Philip, it is going to be impossible to feed all of these people.   But rather than state the impossibility of the situation, he begins to find a solution.  He made a start at the impossible task, even though it looks a bit weak to the other disciples.

Jesus honors Andrew’s offering, weak as it was, and uses the five loaves and two fish to not only do a great miracle, but also to demonstrate something very important about himself – he is the bread of Life, just as Israel had manna in the wilderness, so too Jesus gives food in the wilderness.  This is an extremely important connection, given that this is around the time of Passover.

Andrew therefore did the right thing, although it seemed fairly insignificant at the time.

15 thoughts on “The Gospel of John and the “Other Disciples” – Andrew

  1. When reading this passage and really taking time to look at Andrew’s response, we see that Andrew is a man of great faith and action. When Jesus asked Phillip where they were going to get some bread for all of these people, Phillip’s response seems that he thinks Jesus is crazy. In the meantime, Andrew does not even bother answering Jesus, for he acts immediately and goes and finds a boy with five loaves of bread and two fish (John 6:9). He brings this boy to Jesus and shows him that this is all he could find, but was not sure how it was going to feed the whole crowd. He knew that Jesus would provide. Here we see Andrew really showing his faith; showing that he fully trusts Jesus and believes that he will provide; showing that there is not need for us to question or doubt our Lord, for he is the Bread of Life and our true provider.

  2. I agree P. Long, it seems odd that Andrew passed the test when all he did was make an observation of what he saw. He didn’t say, “Jesus, here is some fish and bread, why don’t you use your God powers and multiply it?” He just simply states that a boy has five loaves and two fish, but that it won’t be able to feed everyone. I don’t see how his response is any different than Phillips (it’s probably because he has a super sweet name).

    When Andrew tells Peter that they have found the Christ, I don’t think he actually knows what he is talking about. I picture in my head John telling Andrew that this is who Jesus is [Messiah], and he is just transferring the news. He doesn’t necessarily know exactly what it means but He knows the very basic parts of it and knows it’s powerful. It’s like when someone becomes a Christian. They know the overview of Christianity and why they chose to follow Jesus, but they don’t know all of the theology and everything the Bible has to say.

  3. Wow, I actually didnt realize that Andrew was the first disciple to technically call Jesus the Messiah. It gives a glimpse of what they were expecting of Jesus as they followed him through his ministry. He was looking forward to the Messiah on the earth and as he started to follow Jesus he understood that he was following the Messiah that Israel was long waiting for.

    I do not know if I would agree with you all the way here, Andrew, though. I think it would be wrong to belittle what Andrew says in John 1. It would only be fair if we also apply that to Peter and his confession. I do think that Peter’s confession is more refined and more proclaimed because of the more “christological” term that he uses and especially what Jesus says right after Peter’s confession. However, the two confessions are probably saying the same thing. Peter did not know the full extent of who Jesus was and what his mission on this earth was. “He did not know what he was talking about” as well because when Jesus predicted his death Peter tries to rebuke Jesus by telling him he cant die. In fact, I wonder if that was the general feeling of the disciples as a whole. They understood that he was the Messiah since they were following him but they were taken aback when he constantly said that he had to die.

    Either way, they understood that Jesus was someone special. No, they did not understand the full extent of who he was, but that is why they stuck with him.

  4. It does seem that Andrew does the right thing here when taking action even when what Jesus is asking seems impossible. Despite knowing the bread and fish he brought would be insufficient he brought it anyways. On the other hand Andrew exclaims, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” (Joh 6:9). This statement like Philip’s does not seem to be looking at the broader picture or thinking about the situation in terms of who Jesus was. So, even though this does not speak to me of him thinking that Jesus would do what he did, or even that the problem would be solved, it seems his taking action despite it not making sense to him revealed a loyalty and a certain degree of faith.

  5. Why is it that the Apostle that first calls Jesus, the Messiah, not mentioned much? According to Bible Gateway Andrew is only mentioned by name 13 times including Acts. How much did Andrew understand about Jesus? I follow what are saying Brent. They obviously thought that Jesus was the Messiah or they would not of dropped what they were doing and followed him. Yes, they were taken back every time that Jesus talked about Himself dying.

    It is interesting to note all of the connections of Passover and Jesus such as the Feeding of the 5000 and the crucifixion. The symbolism and the fulfillment seem so clear.

  6. I agree with Crystal and seeing that Andrew was a great man of faith. He isn’t mentioned much in the Bible and I feel that is a very significant thing. Why don’t they make it something bigger that Andrew was the first disciple to call Jesus the Messiah? I feel like that’s a big thing that many people don’t know and could be very important. I wonder how people treated Andrew after he said did they not believe him and think he was crazy or did they go along with what he was saying?? Andrew showed that he really had faith in the Messiah and that must be really hard if he is the first one to say it and for him to believe all those things..he was a real man of God and had so much faith. I feel like that would be really hard for someone to do in this day of age.

  7. I wonder if Andrew didn’t get much “press” within the early church and in the writings of the New Testament because he was not as close to Jesus as Peter, James and John. He may have not been as famous as those three during the writings and thus explaining why his simple actions are not painted as a bigger picture within the New Testament. Just my speculations.
    As we see though, Andrew’s actions and faith posses value to the readers of the Gospels. I think so many people get caught up in the idea that in order to be obedient to God they need to do “big” things for Jesus, like Peter James and John. They think they have to model what these particular three did, and there are valuable things that the top three do posses, but it is also important to not forget that God can use the simple tasks of obedience from His believers. Whether it is simply finding a young person’s lunch for Jesus to use in a major feast (the feeding of the 5000), or it is asking a co-worker to attend church with you, God can use all of our obedience, just like He used Andrew’s simple actions as well.

    • I think that it is true he was not in the “inner circle,” but why are Peter, James and John *in* the inner circle? Are they more faithful, more receptive, etc.? Another possibility is that Andrew was a bit older and died early in the Acts period. There may have been less interest in him because he did not found churches, write books, etc.

  8. I’d like to focus my comments on the idea that Andrew did the right thing even though it was seen as small and insignificant. How often do we look at a situation, as Andrew was faced with in the feeding of the 5000, and throw up our hands claiming impossibility? Or at best we look at it and say “Ok God, do something here!” I applaud Andrew’s efforts to try and give what little he could to Christ and He in turn blesses the effort, feeds the 5000 and brings glory to himself, all because Andrew went out and did something about an impossible situation. This begs the question of “how do we respond to this story?” Sure this story is, in some respects, specific to the miracle but I believe that Jesus is making a statement by blessing the small effort. I feel that Jesus is showing his disciples that all He asks for is their small contribution and He will do the rest and turn lemons into lemonade.

  9. I admire the faith Andrew had in this passage from John. John is showing so much in faith in Jesus for doing what most people feel is really impossible to do. I am sure that once Andrew was walking with the little boy who had the bread there were others in the background who were in complete doubt about what Jesus could do but that did not stop Andrew from having so much faith.
    Jesus asks where the bread was going to come from but I think Peter is just thinking Jesus is a nutcase but ANdrew does not show any doubt at all instead he brings a boy who has the bread

  10. I too, like a lot of people who have commented, agree with Plong. I think it is pretty weird that Andrew only gave an idea and got so much credit for it. (I knew Andrew Dunn was going to give the reason he did :). I find it strange, when really thinking about it, as to Jesus and his tests. Glad Jesus does not come down and test us like he did them back then, I do not know if many of us would pass.

  11. “He is the bread of Life, just as Israel had manna in the wilderness, so too Jesus gives food in the wilderness. This is an extremely important connection, given that this is around the time of Passover.” I absolutely love the connection between feeding the 5000 with the bread and Jesus being the bread of life. It just shows how many connections there are in the Bible regarding what Jesus did and his main purpose in life. I admire Andrew’s suggestion as to how to feed the 5000 as ridiculous as it was, Jesus was able to use that to create a miracle. The other disciples probably thought and mocked Andrew for his pitiful suggestion, but the fact that it ended up working up for the best shows that Jesus can use the most unlikely things to make extraordinary things happen.

  12. According to John 1:35-39, Andrew and the other disciple of the Baptist (John, the beloved) were told to follow Jesus by John the Baptist himself.

    John tells of Jesus’ baptism in a three day way: Day One: the Pharisees come to question the Baptist, Day Two: Jesus is baptized, Day Three: John tells his two disciples to follow Jesus and they do “come and see”.

    Then the King James Version continues John’s story in the same paragraph. But there should be a change of paragraph after verse 39.

    That’s because there is an 80-mile change of location between verse 39 and verse 40. That would have taken at least a two, probably three-day journey up the Jordan by foot from “Bethabara beyond Jordan” to Bethsaida, the city of the fishermen and Philip.

    We know this break must have occurred because John then tells another three day story: Day one: Andrew takes Jesus to Peter, Day two: they go forth into Galilee (on the way to Cana) and find Philip, then Nathanael, Day Three: they are at to the wedding (in the evening?) in Cana – a twenty-mile, full day’s walk from Bethsaida or even Capernaum.

    During that paragraph break, between verses 39 and 40, I believe the inescapable conclusion is that Andrew and John followed Jesus into the wilderness when he was tempted.

    All three synoptic writers say Jesus went into the wilderness (for forty days of fasting and prayer – and temptation) immediately following his baptism. John does not mention the temptation in the wilderness at all. But that does not mean he and Andrew were not there. At least ninety per cent of the book of John is info the synoptic gospels do not cover. And there are large parts of the synoptics that fill in blanks in John’s narrative as well.

    If you believe John when he says he and Andrew followed Jesus on the day after his baptism, you must believe he and Andrew are really the source for the synoptic writers’ temptation text.

  13. RE: It is significant that Peter’s brother makes this confession early on, later Peter will make the same statement in 6:68, although he uses the title, “holy one of God,” something of a higher Christological statement than Andrew. Andrew is therefore the first disciple to actually call Jesus the Messiah in John’s gospel, although we are not at all sure to what extent he understood the term.

    We know that Andrew had ample reason to tell Peter that Jesus was the Messiah.

    John makes it very clear that John the Baptist had been very clear in telling Andrew and the “other disciple” that Jesus was the “Lamb of God” the one that was to come after him.

    On Day One of the baptism sequence, the Baptist told the Pharisees there was one among them that would baptize with fire.

    On Day Two he tells (presumably his disciples including Andrew) “Behold the Lamb of God” as Jesus approaches for baptism. Then the Baptist tells his disciples that the descent of the Spirit (like a dove) upon Jesus (which John says he had seen – though the synoptic writers tell us Jesus saw the Spirit descend) during the baptism is a fulfillment of prophesy. He says that the person (?) who sent him forth to baptize had told the Baptist the descent of the Spirit would be a sign of the one greater than he.

    On Day Three: The Baptist reiterates the line “Behold the Lamb of God” to at least Andrew and the other disciple (John). That is why they immediately begin to follow Jesus.

    That witness of the Baptist alone could have been enough to make Andrew ready to testify to his brother.

    But I believe he (and John, the beloved) also had – at that moment of testifying to Peter – the additional advantage of having been with Jesus during the forty-day temptation period …and the long walk from the Judean wilderness to Bethsaida.

    John, the beloved, ever the humble third person, does not say anything about finding his own brother, James, as Jesus goes from meeting Peter to attending the wedding at Cana. But it makes sense that he did and that James was along with Peter, Andrew, John, Philip and Nathanael at the wedding – to witness the first miracle, the turning of water into wine.

    Remember that John is the only gospel writer to tell us of that miracle. For that matter, John is the only writer to tell us anything about the ensuing trip back to Capernaum and then on to Jerusalem for the (first) passover….and all the miracles and baptizing done there – before the major Galilean ministry takes place.

    John, writing last among the gospel writers, appears to have been trying to tell us the rest of the story..from his unique vantage point.

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