Text: Col 1:15-23
Hope you had a great Thanksgiving! Our house was packed on Thanksgiving Day for dinner. And of course, with any Thanksgiving meal, the highlight is the turkey. Sophia and Jarvis graciously offered to cook the turkey and I must say that it was one of the tastiest turkeys I have eaten in a while. Between Audrey’s turkey last Sunday and Sophia and Jarvis’ turkey on Thursday, I think it’s time for me to hang up my baster because God is raising up a new generation of young turkey chefs who are taking Pasadena by storm.
I did cook a smaller turkey on the side and it tasted good, if I do say so myself, but I kind of cheated. I fried the turkey. You can fry a shoe and it would taste half decent. My mom and I cut up the turkey into pieces while it was still raw, and just as a warning, if you decide to do this in the future, please stretch your shoulders and back. Turkey meat is quite tough and I was all sore afterward. I’m not lying. It was a workout. Thank you again for all 6 of the real turkey chefs, including Mario, thank you for stuffing this body of Christ with loads of tryptophan this holiday season.
Please turn with me to Col 1. I want to read the key verse for today’s sermon. Col 1:18 [READ].
18 He is also the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He might come to have first place in everything.
Today, I have one point, and it is this–Jesus is first place in everything. That’s it. This would be the shortest sermon in history if I ended it right there, but I could because at the end of this message, I want you to be able to walk away with this one point, that Jesus is first place, not in some of the things, not partially, not here and there, but Jesus is first in EVERY thing. Period.
Col 1:18 is a packed verse. Not sure if you read the RIV Bible translation, Ray’s International Version because it doesn’t exist, but If I had my own Bible translation and I were to translate this verse in my own words according to the context of this chapter, here’s my version of v18.
Jesus is first in the church, Jesus is first in all creation, both the physical creation as well as the new creation, and in case you are not getting Paul’s main point, he tacks on one last phrase at the end of the verse–Jesus is first place in everything.
There are 4 key words in this one verse which basically say the same thing in 4 different ways. Let’s work our way backward. Starting with the last phrase in v18. Jesus is “first place in everything.”
This is a very good translation. Other translations say, that He/Jesus might have the supremacy. Or, that Jesus might be preeminent. “First place in everything” is a good translation. If you are not fluent at English, then you might wonder, what does preeminent mean? Or, what does supremacy really mean? It almost sounds like the name of a type of pizza at Pizza Hut. But first place, everyone understands that.
From birth, every single person since the dawn of time has been trying to be first in something. Even before we were conscious, parents have been pushing their kids to be first. Who’s son or daughter started walking earlier, who’s learning their alphabet faster, who started reading first, who got the higher SAT score, who was the valedictorian at their school, who got into the better university, who is getting paid more?
We live in a world that values people on top. The CEO, the gold medalist, the Nobel Prize winner. First place finishers rule the world.
Of course, people are so desperate to be first place in something that you have some of the most ridiculous categories in the Guinness Book of World Records. Like Jackie Bibby who has the world record for the most number of rattlesnakes in one’s mouth. He managed to stuff the tails of 13 rattlesnakes in his mouth.
Not to be outdone by Jackie Bibby, Simon Elmore has the world record for fitting 400 straws in his mouth. How is that humanly possible? This is not something to be proud of. He’s a freak of nature. A lion I can understand–400 straws, no problem. Human jaws should not open that wide.
Or, Sam Stilson who holds the world record for crushing 56 eggs against his head in 30 seconds. Who thought of this?
Or, the largest hamburger, a 185.8 pound monstrosity made by Mallie’s Sports Grill and Bar in Southgate, Michigan.
People are so desperate to be first that they are willing to embarrass themselves by inventing the most ridiculous categories just to say that they hold the world record in something. In college, I took pride that among my friends at church, 20-30 of us, I could eat the most. Shameful, I know. I was a foolish college student. There was an all-you-can-eat KFC about an hour away. I know what you are thinking. All-you-can eat KFC sounds gross and who on earth would drive an hour to eat KFC. We were college students. A bunch of my friends and I ate like 10 pieces each. Sounds shameful now that I mention it, but in my mind, I actually felt good that I came in first place for eating the most pieces of chicken.
First place is a big deal. You probably remember who won the Superbowl last year–it was the Baltimore Ravens, but I doubt most people would remember who they beat. Or, the Olympics, most would recognize Usain Bolt, the gold medalist and world record holder for the 100m sprint. I bet few, if anyone, would remember who came in second.
I think this is the point. If Jesus is first place, you are supposed to see Christ, remember Christ, focus on Christ, and second place or secondary things are overshadowed and they really fade in the background.
Working in reverse, the next significant phrase in v18–Jesus is the “firstborn from the dead.” The word “firstborn” can be translated as existing before or superior. Sounds familiar, right? First place. Firstborn.
Paul also uses the word “firstborn” in v15. Col 1:15 [READ]
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.
Then, Paul goes on to explain what being the firstborn over all creation means in the following verses. Col 1:16-17 [READ]
16 For everything was created by Him, in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities— all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and by Him all things hold together.
Jesus is the agent of creation. Everything in the created universe, everything in heaven and on earth, everything was created through Jesus and for Jesus. He is the firstborn of creation and this means, not only did he exist before the creation because He IS before all things, but also, he is superior over all creation because He made it.
This means, whenever we look at something in the created universe, we are supposed to be able to trace everything back to Jesus and worship him because he is first. For example, when my kids make a cool spaceship using Legos, they might pat themselves on the back for their masterpiece, but they should wonder, where did these Legos come from? Who invented Legos? Then, if they cared enough to research the answer, they would trace the origin of their spaceship back to the creative imagination of the inventor of Legos, a man named Ole Kirk Christiansen, a carpenter from Denmark, who began making wooden toys in 1932. Two years later, his company came to be called “Lego.” Then, my kids ought to wonder, where did the wood that the inventor used to make the first Legos come from? Well, from trees. Then, where did trees come from? And as you trace it back, we should eventually find our way to Christ. This is what it means when it says, Jesus is the firstborn over all creation.