Acts 26: 23 “I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen— that the Messiah would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would bring the message of light to his own people and to the Gentiles.”
Of course Jesus wasn’t the first to rise from the dead was he?
I can think of 3 from the Old Testament: The widow of Zarephath’s son, the Shunammite woman’s son, the man raised out of Elisha’s grave.
I can think of 3 from the New Testament: The widow of Nain’s son, Jairus’ daughter, Lazarus of Bethany.
He wasn’t the first, so why did Paul say he was?
It was this phrase, this title, which got Paul into the most trouble. His preaching of the resurrection of Jesus was an offence because of what he called Jesus. The ‘first to rise’ is the same title as that of ‘firstborn’ which he uses in Romans 8:29; Colossians 1:15; he borrows it from Psalm 89:27 “And I will appoint him to be my firstborn, the most exalted of the kings of the earth.” It was a title belonging to the Jews for their King of all Kings, their Messiah. Paul takes it and uses it for Jesus. See how he does it in Colossians 1:18 “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 the supremacy.”
When Paul uses the words firstborn or first, he is saying Jesus is pre-eminent, he surpasses all others. His birth is first. His resurrection is first, it is supreme. And out of which flows a message to the Jews and to the Gentiles. A message of light and hope flows from the fact that Jesus is supreme.
This week last year my friend died. Yesterday I learnt that a Pastor’s wife died suddenly. I am within a whatsapp group text trail at the moment and as I write this I see a text from a wife of a church planter in West Africa whose husband died 2 weeks ago. She writes, “I have been on my own now for 2 weeks and I am still so numb.” How do people find any hope after death? It is only because of the ‘first to rise’, only because of Supreme Jesus who promises resurrected life to those who die in Him.
How do you face the challenges before you today? Again it is only when you make Jesus supreme, first and foremost in your life. Only then will light and hope fall upon the challenges set before you. Some days there are no answers. Some days there is no daylight. It is those days in particular that the only thing to do is to kneel before the pre-eminent one, the first to rise from the dead, make Him supreme in your life for that is who He is. Do that and the pieces will fall into place.