In my Sunday School class, we recently engaged in a discussion of Jesus’ challenge to would-be followers to “take up your cross.” This story is an interesting sidebar to that discussion, a recording of which can be found HERE.
According to tradition, Andrew—who was Peter’s brother and the first follower of Jesus—preached the gospel in the region North of the Black Sea and in various parts of Greece. His life ended in Northern Greece in a city called Patras. He was crucified by Aegeas, the governor of the region at the time.
Andrew was a diligent preacher of the gospel and had brought many people to faith in Christ. When Aegeas the governor heard about this, he came to Patras to put an end to the Christian movement there. To do this, he enforced a legal requirement that everyone worship the Roman gods by making sacrifices to them. Andrew immediately decided to resist Aegeas and went to address him directly.
“It would be wise for someone who judges men,” he said, “to know the One who is his Judge—the One who lives in heaven. And once you have known Him, you will worship Him, since He is the One true God. In so doing, this judge of men will turn his mind away from false gods and blind idols.”
These words from Andrew angered Aegeas. “Are you the same Andrew that overthrew the temple of the gods?” he demanded. “Are you the same Andrew that goes around persuading men to believe in superstitions which Rome has abolished? I have been commanded to put an end to such teaching.”
Andrew replied by saying that it was indeed a fact that the Roman authorities did not understand the truth. “The Son of God came from heaven into the world for man’s sake,” he said, “He taught us that these idols you honor as gods are not only not gods, but are actually cruel demons. They are enemies to mankind, and they teach people nothing except things which offend God. As a result, these people fall into all kinds of wickedness, and when they die, they have nothing to offer to God but evil deeds.”
As you might imagine, the governor was not appeased by what Andrew had to say. Instead, he commanded Andrew to quit teaching and preaching these things immediately. If he refused, he would be fastened to the cross at once.
But Andrew did refuse to change his mind and replied to the threat of crucifixion by saying, “I would not preach the honor and glory of the cross if I feared the death of the cross.”
So the sentence of death was pronounced, and Andrew was taken away to be crucified for denying the religion of the Roman gods. Because crucifixion was an especially cruel and painful death, men who faced it often lost their minds from fear. They would frequently faint when they saw the cross. Andrew, however, didn’t even pale. Instead, out of his deep love for Christ, he spoke these words that strike the heart like sparks of fire.
“O cross!” he declared, “O cross most welcome and long anticipated! I come to you with a willing mind, with joy and desire. Since I am a follower and a student of the One who died on you, I have always loved you and sought to embrace you.”
And so Andrew gave his life for the love of Christ.
Paintings of the martrydom of Andrew (like this one by Bartolome Esteban Murillo) always depict an X-shaped cross. Tradition says that the Romans rotated the traditional cross onto its side as an insult. This is also the origin of the Scottish flag, depicted above, known as “St. Andrew’s Cross.”