The word “firstborn” is such a special word. The technical meaning – being the eldest – doesn’t really do the word justice. To anyone who has children, they can tell you the wonder of the firstborn. They know that at the moment of birth, the parent of the firstborn feels many different things – fear, love, excitement, anxiety, amazement. You are almost terrified with the enormity of the love you have for this being. Then, throughout the rest of your life, you can recall that moment and the myriad of emotions that you felt. Every time someone you know has a firstborn, it all comes back. And with the memory comes such a warm, wonderful feeling.
In Jesus’ time, firstborn really referred more to a high rank within an extended family structure. The firstborn had a special place in the hierarchy as the successor, the sovereign-to-be of the household. This was understood not only within the family but within the entire community.
Today’s reading uses the word “firstborn” twice to describe Jesus. In the first sentence, Paul says “he is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation;”. Then in verse 18, Paul says “And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have supremacy.” God wants all of us to accept Jesus as God’s firstborn – as the highest in rank.
Paul establishes this meaning by first stating that Jesus is firstborn of all creation and then later states that Jesus is the firstborn from among the dead. The Alpha and Omega. The Beginning and the End.
This reading makes me marvel at the love God had for us that he would sacrifice his firstborn – the firstborn of the world – so that we could be reconciled to God. I cannot imagine giving up my firstborn for anything. If anything were to happen to him, I would miss him so much. I can’t even think about it without getting weepy. On top of that, to think that he would die a horrible death would be unbearable.
Yet, God did all of that. For us.