Do you have any siblings? And if so, are you the oldest, youngest, or somewhere in the middle? In biblical times, birth order mattered a lot. If you were a firstborn son (sorry daughters) you would inherit the birthright from your father. This could be anything from sheep and property to a kingdom if your father was a king.
But even though this was the standard in the ancient world, giving a birthright to the oldest sibling was not God’s standard. In fact, God often elevated a younger sibling above the oldest. Even with the first siblings, we hear that Abel’s offering pleased God, while his older brother Cain’s offering did not. We also see this theme when Joseph was elevated to a position of power over his ten older brothers and over all of Egypt. Not to mention Joseph’s father Jacob was the younger twin, yet Jacob was chosen to be a patriarch of the nation of Israel.
In Colossians 1:15, Jesus is called “the firstborn over all creation.” As God the Son, Jesus is God the Father’s “one and only Son” (John 3:16), and therefore He is considered the firstborn. So, according to Israelite standards, this would put Him in place to inherit the Father’s power and authority. Jesus certainly does have all power and authority—He said, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18). But, similar to some of the Old Testament stories, Jesus subverted this narrative as well. Jesus is God, and He is King over all, but He also became a servant. He taught, “the last will be first” (Matthew 20:16), totally opposite of what people would expect.
Jesus even humbled Himself to a death and punishment fit for the worst kind of criminal. The King of kings, who deserves to be served and sacrificed to, loves us so much that He became the sacrifice for us. And then, Jesus flipped the narrative again by not staying dead. With His resurrection, Jesus overcame what people expected to be the end, and He became “the firstborn from the dead” (Colossians 1:18). Now, He invites us to become coheirs with Him, to share in His sufferings as we lay down our lives for each other, and to share in His glory when He returns to raise us from the dead and make all things new (Romans 8:17). • Naomi Zylstra
• Why do you think God often works in unexpected, counter-cultural ways?
• If you want to dig deeper, read Genesis 4:1-5; 25:19-26; 45:4-8; Revelation 17:14; 19:16.
The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We observed his glory, the glory as the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 (CSB)