What if Jesus chose the wrong brother?

Can you just suspend your cries of heresy whilst you read this one blog post?

Because it will make you think, that’s why.

What if Jesus chose the wrong brother on whom to found his church? What would the church look like if he had chosen Andrew instead of Peter?

People rather like doing speculative history. As the world thinks about the time of war that raged a hundred years ago, there have been a couple of documentaries about what life would have been like today if the war had never been fought or if the outcome had been different. What if the bullet had missed Archduke Ferdinand?

Similarly, when I was last in London I saw a great play that imagined a Britain in which the present Queen had just died and came up with a drama about the chaos that ensued when the new King Charles III picked a fight with parliament and refused to sign Acts of Parliament into law.

The Labour Party, currently in the doldrums in the UK is haunted by the choice of leader they had to make a couple of years ago. People will always ask – what if they had chosen the other Milliband brother. Maybe they would have asked whichever brother had been chosen.

So, I ask you to think for a minute this St Andrewstide what life would have been like for the world if Jesus had chosen the other brother. Peter (“the rock on whom I will build my church”) and Andrew (“There is a lad here with five barley loaves and two small fishes”) were the choice he had.

The question is, what if Jesus (and we the church are the body of Christ in the world today so we might as well ask “..if we…”) had chosen not the person who was destined forever to be a gatekeeper but chosen one who had an instinct for hospitality and introductions?

So much of church life has been predicated on the power to open the gates of heaven. So much has been based on deciding who is in and who is out. We have a whole genre of humour that is based on what people say at the pearly gates to Peter to see whether they gain admission to the feast or not.

What if Jesus had chosen the other brother?

What if we had based our notion of church life on the brother who was particularly good at inviting others to help Jesus make eucharist? What if we had based our notions of church life on the brother who seemed to have a gift for introducing others to Jesus, not least his impetuous hothead of a brother Peter? For Andrew seemed to have a natural affinity for bringing people (including children, note) right into the presence of Christ. And it is Andrew who famously, with Philip, brought Greeks (ie foreigners, migrants, outsiders). Indeed, in that case, Andrew seems to have been the go-between – the Greeks approached Philip who didn’t know what to do and Andrew took them all off to the very presence of Jesus straight away, instinctively, impetuously even.

What if Jesus had chosen the brother with the impetuous, infectious, hospitable, personality instead of the one who always worried about whether he was right or wrong and who seems to have had a short fuse? What if he had chosen the brother who practised natural inclusive spirituality rather than the one who stands like a doorpost never able to stop judging people?

What would our church have looked like then?

Did Jesus wonder as he watched and waited and prayed in Gethsemane the night before he died whether he had made the right choice? Did he comfort himself with the idea that having picked a whole bunch of disciples, they couldn’t all make a hash of the task in hand? When the disciples slept and Jesus prayed, what did he hope for the world that was to have to learn of his message through the band of named apostles and the others (the women! the faithful weeping women who did last it out at the foot of the cross!) who were part of his movement?

I know it is uncomfortable asking whether Jesus ever got something wrong. Religions are programmed to believe that their founders got it right, preached gospel truth, knew exactly what they were doing.

But ours is a faith with a vulnerable God.

Can you even allow for the fact that he wondered?

And if you can, can you wonder whether the different personalities that Jesus surrounded himself with give us different moods, different ways of thinking about being Christ’s followers? Is this the time in the life of the church where the fulness of Jesus’s choices are realised and we begin to act as though all the gifts of his disciples matter if we are going to bring the kingdom in?

What would the church be like now if it had been founded on the brother whose intimacy with Jesus was such that he was happy to let him wash his feet rather than the brother who didn’t like to be touched?

This St Andrewstide, let yourself wonder what life would have been like if we had presumed that Andrew’s gifts were the way to extend and grow the church.

And give thanks for him.

He may not have been the rock upon which Jesus chose to found the church in those days.

But which brother would he chose today?