General Andrew faced overwhelming odds. Arrayed against him were hordes of Persians. As a secret Christian and the leading soldier of third century Syria, Andrew had made a deliberate choice to imitate the Bible hero Gideon, who selected only 300 men to challenge a mighty coalition of Israel's enemies. Andrew went up against the Persians with just 1,000 hand-picked men. As the moment of battle drew near, he revealed to his men why he had chosen this odd course of action.
He hoped to convert his best men to Christianity by showing them the hand of God. "This is the right time for you to come to a full knowledge of God in heaven," he said, adding that the gods of the pagans were really demons. "My God, the one who made heaven and earth, is the true God."
He promised that God would help those who call upon him. Yes, the enemy was great and had won many battles in the past. "But come on, put aside your error, call, with me, upon him who is truly God, and you will see your foes dead and driven away before you, like smoke or like dust from the threshing-floor."
Andrew led his men in prayer. Completely convinced by his words, the small force made a bold charge and put the Persians to flight. The victory seemed so supernatural that the entire group believed. All 1,000 joined Andrew in spreading the gospel.
Antiochus, the governor of Syria, was an idolater. He learned that Andrew had "gone mad" and was spreading the teachings of the crucified one. He immediately sent a force to discover the truth. Andrew was brought before Antiochus along with several of his men. When Andrew and the other believers stood by their faith in Christ, Antiochus threatened them with torment, reminding them that he had already killed many Christians with terrible tortures.
The fact that other Christians had stood true under torment gave Andrew courage. With his typical boldness he said, "...If all those that you have named...have emerged victors, and carry their athletic crowns in the presence of Christ--who is God--why would I, a friend, or rather servant of My Lord Jesus Christ, not be eager also to remain forever constant, in order to enjoy the same rewards with them?"
Antiochus tortured Andrew on a heated bronze bed and treated his followers to similar pains. He then threw them into prison and sent off a secret letter to Emperor Maximinian, asking for instructions as to what to do. Maximinian realized that to kill a hero like Andrew for no good reason would undermine public confidence in justice. He ordered Antiochus to release the men and find an excuse later to punish Andrew.
Up to this point, Andrew had never been baptized. With some of his men, he traveled to Tarsus in Celicia to be baptized by Bishop Peter. Celicia's military commander was Seleucus, a pagan who detested Christianity. Antiochus persuaded Seleucus to hunt Andrew down. Andrew was a fearless man, but took the words of Christ literally, when he said, if they persecute you in one city, flee to another. He and his men fled from place to place. Finally they were cornered near the straits of Taurus. With his help, some of Andrew's men escaped. But Andrew was bound, tortured and killed on this day, August 19, 302* about 8 a.m. with 2,593 other Christian soldiers.
*The year and many details of this ancient story are open to question.
- Wood, David.Military Martyrs Pages. http://www.ucc.ie/milmart/Andrew.html Quotes are adapted from this source. This text is credited to F. Halkin, editor. Bibliotheca Hagiographica Graeca Subsidia Hagiographica 8: Brussels, 1957 and F. Halkin, editor, Bibliotheca Hagiographica Graeca: Novum Auctarium Subsidia Hagiographica 65: Brussels, 1984
- Various other internet articles.