Who Comes First?
In this verse, John the Apostle is speaking about another John, John the Baptist, who was Jesus' cousin and about six months older than Him (Luke 1:26-28). In Jesus' day, as in many cultures now, older people were honoured more than those who were younger. So, the 'elders' in the community were the older men, who were recognised as having wisdom; and a younger brother would be expected to serve his older brother. That sense of deference was expected throughout the extended family and the community. However, when Jesus came to where John was baptising, John said that the younger man (Jesus) was of a higher rank than himself, because 'He was before me'.
John the Baptist preached that Jesus rightly took first place because His birth was not His beginning. He had always been God the Son and His incarnation was His human manifestation for our sake (2 Corinthians 8:9). Although Jesus was born as a baby, He was always the Lord, even though people did not recognise Him (John 1:11). And Jesus is still the Lord. He is the creator of all things, the judge of all people, the King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 17:14). Whatever we might normally consider to be of greater wisdom, honour or rank than ourselves, Jesus is higher than all of them. Therefore, His call upon our life, our time, our energy, and our money, has to take precedence over every other demand.
'Who comes first?' Answering that question will determine our lifestyle, activity, and relationships. If God had not revealed the pre-birth existence of Jesus as God the Son (Colossians 1:15-20), we might well think that He was one of many teachers whose life and words were interesting but not compelling. But the Apostle John wrote down John the Baptist’s words in two places in this chapter so that we might believe that Jesus comes first, because He always was first (John 1:30).
That is why what He says should control the way we live and speak and think until we meet Him in glory. Jesus is God the Son who came to earth and is now seated with the Father in Heaven; from where He rules until everything is in submission to Him (1 Corinthians 15:25). Because that is true, we have a duty to honour, praise and obey Him - as our first priority. We also, like John the Baptist, have the responsibility to point people to Jesus (John 1:29).
© Dr Paul Adams