Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Andy, the Bad-Ass Disciple

Part 3 of this story series ...

“When the character of a man is not clear to you, look at his friends.”~Japanese Proverb

There are only 13 Bible verses about the disciple Andrew, and of those, four are where he is in a "list" of the names of the disciples. 

Not much to go on when you're trying to unearth who this guy really was, is it?

So, as the Japanese Proverb above so eloquently states, the best way to unearth Andrew is to take a look at his friends. And this is where it gets really interesting, because the first mention of him is not in context with his connection to Jesus. 

It's in his connection to John the Baptist.

You may not think this reveals much, but during the past week I've been doing some digging and have discovered that anyone who was connected to John the Baptist in Roman-occupied Palestine was ... pretty much ... for lack of a better description ... a bad-ass. Before you click the X in the right-hand corner and accuse me of blaspheming, let me explain:

Andy was one of John the Baptist's disciples. We first see him in John, chapter 1, right out of the gate. He's the first disciple that John mentions. (Scholars believe John is the other disciple mentioned in this chapter, although not by name.)

But before we get to the exchange involving John the Baptist and Andy in the book of John, we have to dig a little deeper and look at the world surrounding John the Baptist ... and who was actually afraid of John the Baptist.

Meet Herod Antipas, also known as Herod the Tetrarch. 

I sort of think of him as the Michael Corleone of Palestine.

Ruthless, ambitious, intelligent and cunning, Herod Antipas had gone to Rome after his daddy's death to argue before Caesar Augustus that he should be granted kingship of Judea. There was a lot of bad blood in that family. His father, Herod the Great, was the psychopath that slaughtered the innocents of Bethlehem after Jesus's birth. (Hit Matthew 2 for that story.) 

Herod the Great had changed his will before his death to grant kingship of Judea, Samaria and Idumea to another son, Archelaus. The will gave Galilee and Perea to Antipas. A third brother, Philip, received Gaulanitis (today's Golan Heights), Batanaea (today's southern Syria), Trachonitis and Auranitis. 

I know, those are a lot of "itises" to bog down the reading, but stay with me.

The three brothers traveled to Rome so that Caesar Augustus could ratify this will ... but Antipas in particular wanted Augustus to throw the whole thing out and give him kingship of Judea, which Herod the Great had originally promised to him and changed at the last minute.

Antipas had support from family members in Rome for his claim. His brother Archelaus was viewed as a dolt who shouldn't be ruling. But Caesar went with the division of the land that Herod the Great had outlined in his will, although he gave Archelaus the title of "ethnarch" rather than, "king."

You know what ... until I started looking into this for this blog entry, I could never keep all of these "Herods" in the Bible straight. Are you confused yet? Because I still am.

OK, now here's where it gets really interesting.

There was another drama behind all of this infighting over Daddy's will and who was going to be king and who was going to prevail before Caesar.

And we all know that every good story really doesn't get great ... until a woman is involved.

In this case, the woman was Herodias, wife of Antipas's half-brother, Philip I. (This was another Philip. Why on earth there were two brothers named Philip ... Anyway, I'm sure somebody can explain that one to me, but it diverts from the story. At any rate, it's not the same Philip who received part of Palestine that we discussed earlier.)

Herodias also happened to be the granddaughter of Herod the Great ... so ... now follow me ... while she was Antipas's sister-in-law, she ALSO was Antipas's NIECE.

Got it?


Understand this.

Antipas divorces his wife to marry his niece, i.e., sister-in-law, what have you ... and he's also the ruler of the region of Galilee. We already know he's arrogant and proud, because think about it. Who in that time or place would have had the guts to go before Caesar Augustus and argue that his father's will should be changed and the kingdom should be ripped from his brother? We're talking a ruthless individual, somebody who would have no hesitancy whatsoever in divorcing a wife and bringing in a new chippy.

Also, while Antipas was in Rome arguing about this will before Caesar, all hell was breaking loose in Palestine. A group of rabble-rousers led by a guy named Judas, son of Hezekiah, attacked a palace in Galilee called Sepphoris. They took money and weapons and did a nice job terrorizing everybody.

It's important that you understand that Palestine/Israel at the time was anti-Rome for a number of reasons, and the people were going crazy. Everyone was on the lookout for the promised Messiah. And anybody who stood up to Rome and the establishment got attention. False prophets were rampant. 

And here comes John the Baptist. He's getting lots of attention from the religious leaders, who come out to where he was baptizing to point-blank ask him if he was the Messiah. And he has thousands of people following him around, for the reasons we just stated.

But it wasn't enough for John to baptize and prophecy that a Messiah was on the way. 

Oh. No.

John, like every good rebel, found a target to antagonize: Herod Antipas.

John preached against Antipas's adultery with his sister-in-law/niece. And because of his popular following, and because there was so much tension and hatred of Rome, and because there had been a very successful uprising against that palace while Antipas was away, and because the religious leaders actually thought John could be The Messiah ....

Antipas was afraid.

This tough, ruthless guy, this Michael Corleone of First Century Palestine, was actually afraid of John the Baptist.

And who was in the middle of John's ministry? Who was the first person we read about in the Gospel of John when John the Baptist starts talking?


Tune in for the next part of the story ...