Last and First

The words first and last are found together in many verses in the New Testament. The passage that started this study is 1 Corinthians 15: 45-48. Paul is explaining the resurrected body to the church in Chapter 15. He uses the body of Jesus as the example of how His earthy (dust) body was sown in the tomb and a spiritual body came out of it. Paul compared the “first Adam” to the “last Adam” and then changed terms and said the first man and second man (referring to Jesus). In this set of verses first is some form of protos. The word second is deuteros. The word last is eschatos. Sorry, those are English-to-Greek translations (Mounce).  

This first study led to a second one, and this last study provide some surprises. I will use Matthew as the reference book. These stories are also found in the other Gospels and the words and uses of them seem consistent among several major translations of the Bible.

Bad to Worse – These two stories are on different topics but the last to first concept is the same. In 12:45 Jesus is responding to a demand from the Pharisees for a miraculous sign. The final part of the teaching is about a demon that leaves a man and then returns with seven others. The man had it bad at first, but his last condition was worse. The second story has the Pharisees demanding a guard be posted by the tomb of Jesus (27:64). They argued that the first lie from Jesus would be worse than the last lie of the disciples. They said the lie was Him rising from the dead in three days. (No surprises here.)

Shall, First, Last – As a parent, coach, and teacher I have used the iconic saying “the first shall be last” many times in dealing with people. Jesus, the Master Teacher, surprised me by switching the order of the saying on the same day in two different circumstances to deliver two different meanings. This day of teaching occurred before Jesus started His victory parade into Jerusalem during Holy Week, He was on the east bank of the Jordan.

The rich young ruler was the object of the story in 19:30. He had money, and I am sure he was always allowed to be first in line wherever he went. He did not want to give up his money. The end of his part of the story was – the first shall be last and the last shall be first (those who gave up their money).

As Jesus expanded this teaching, He told the parable of a landowner hiring workers – Chapter 20, especially Verse 16. At the end of the day, the owner paid the last workers the same as he paid the first workers. Here the last workers are the object of the action, and they got what was promised them – the last shall be first, and the first last. (Attitude is part of the issue here.)

My surprise came in because of the switch in the order and the condition of whom He was talking about. The phrase still signals a change in position, but apparently, I need to think before slinging around who is first and last, why they are there, and whether they should be moving.

This is my first day writing on this topic, it will not be my last. The thoughts on a first day can be changed after studying, so these mat not be my last thoughts on the subject.

Light and Dark – Jonah

Jonah was in a fish! It was dark in there! Him being spit out put him back into light.  This signals the time Jesus would spend in the grave. The first mention of Jonah is in 2 Kings 14: 25 where he is credited with a prophesy that came true, the story of the Book of Jonah would have been after this.

The thing that leaves you hanging about Jonah is what happened to him?  Did he repent of the harsh attitude, did he go back to Israel, or did he just stay bitter?  

Peter was identified as “bar Jonah” or son of Jonah.  It would be a stretch to say they were related!  Matthew 16: 17 does not seem to imply that Jesus was being “funny”, so that probably was Peter’s name.  Peter may have had similar traits as Jonah (hard-headed, impulsive, teachable but slow to change), so we can hope that Jonah returned to God like Peter did.  

ThreeThree days and three nights is the most notable part of Jonah’s ordeal.  That is because it has three references in the New Testament – two different times in Matthew (12: 41 + 16: 4) and one repeat in Luke (11: 29).  Jesus offered it as the only sign from heaven that unbelieving Jews would get.  I noticed that there were three “God provided” after Jonah preached to Nineveh – the plant, the worm, and the wind.  There was also a three day walk across the city.

The study of Solomon, Jesus walking on water, and this one, all have connections to the festivals that happen in the seventh month”. (Jonah is read as an example of repenting and reaching out to a Gentile nation.)

End and Start – Jonah’s time in the fish ended his disobedience and started his journey to face his fear of being labeled a “false prophet” if Nineveh was not destroyed.  At this time in history, Assyria was oppressing Israel and would send a replacement population to occupy Samaria. So, Jonah had serious reasons, in his mind, why he was not going to do it (hatred of Assyria, fear of being a false prophet).  Even though other prophets had dealings with foreign nations this was the first prophet that was specifically sent to an enemy nation telling them to repent!

FURTHER THOUGHT – Have you done a “Jonah”? Have you ever tried to run from something that Jesus wanted you to do?  How did it end?