We all love epic stories. Lord of the Rings. Braveheart. Stories like these pull us in because there are people who are willing to sacrifice everything for justice and to do what is right and good. We identify with Frodo because as much as he is willing to sacrifice and do the difficult, if not impossible, even with community around him he feels the weight of the task and the odds stacked against him, much like many of us. We identify with the William Wallace character because deep down we wish we had that type of steady resolve. The determined courage. The unrelenting faith.
Meet Andrew. Andrew was a disciple of Jesus. We don’t see much mentioned of Andrew in Scripture, which is why I love what Foxe’s Book of Martyrs1 says about him. He spent his last years in a city called Sebastopolis, which is in modern day Ethiopia, in Africa. He spent these years preaching the gospel; proclaiming Christ crucified and commanding repentance of all those who would confess Christ as Lord and Savior. He spent this time combating and toppling false gods and man-made idols by the power of the Holy Spirit.
The proconsul, or governor of this city told him to stop preaching. Andrew, emboldened by the Spirit refused to stop proclaiming the gospel and told the proconsul “that it behooved him who was judge of men, first to know his Judge which dwelleth in Heaven, and then to worship Him being known; and so, in worshiping the true God, to revoke his mind from false gods and blind idols.”
The proconsul was enraged, and this is the conversation that followed:
But the proconsul charged and commanded Andrew not to teach and preach such things any more; or, if he did, he should be fastened to the cross with all speed.
Andrew, abiding in his former mind very constant, answered thus concerning the punishment which he threatened: ‘He would not have preached the honour and glory of the cross, if he feared the death of the cross.‘ Whereupon sentence of condemnation was pronounced; that Andrew, teaching and enterprising a new sect, and taking away the religion of their gods, out to be crucified. Andrew, going toward the place, and seeing afar off the cross prepared, did change neither countenance nor colour, neither did his blood shrink, neither did he fail in his speech, his body fainted not, neither was his mind molested, nor did his understanding fail him, as it is the manner of men to do, but out of the abundance of his heart his mouth did speak, and fervent charity did appear in his words as kindled sparks; he said, ‘O cross, most welcome and long looked for! with a willing mind, joyfully and desirously, I come to thee, being the scholar of Him which did hang on thee: because I have always been thy lover, and have coveted to embrace thee.’ [emphasis mine]
The language is old, and it’s fantastic. Read that over and over until you understand.
Andrew didn’t faint, he didn’t go crazy. He didn’t recant. He, like the other apostles, considered it an honor to be crucified and/or martyred for Christ’s name, for the advancement of the gospel.
Because they knew something that seems to have been lost on many of us through the comforts we enjoy: The sovereign God of all creation is our Father. As such, nothing comes to us without it being filtered by His loving, sovereign hands. They knew the power of the living God and knew that nothing could touch them unless it was His will and for His glory.
They considered it an honor to answer Christ’s bidding to “Come and die.”
Every time I read this, I am always blown away by Andrew’s unrelenting faith, and never know whether I should walk away encouraged that such a faith is possible, or discouraged that I feel like I have so very far to go before I reach that type of faith, if ever.
Christ, help us. Help those who are in the same position as Andrew. Help those of us who are too afraid to really stand for the gospel. Help those of us who have the courage but not the wisdom and temperance. Amen.
1Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. ISBN 0-88368-095-5. Copyright 1981. p. 7-9
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