Jesus’ first words

That’s a cheeky title by which I mean the first words the writers  of the New Testament gospels put in the mouth of the Lord Jesus. Some extra-canonical gospels purport to give His first words as an infant, but they’re unreliable having been written a long time later and not getting a whole host of details right.

That said, this post may very well be a bad idea, seeing as ancient Greek had no spaces between words, no capital letters, no full stops to indicate the end of a sentence, no quotation marks, etc., so we can’t be 100% certain of where Jesus’ direct speech begins and ends. However, researching this was an exciting experiment for me, seeing how Jesus’ first words in each gospel tie in to themes that recur later. Or maybe I was reading too much into the text. You decide:

Matthew

Matthew 3:15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.”

One of the themes of Matthew’s gospel is that of the fulfilment of prophecy and promises made to the Jewish people. The first words attributed to the Lord point to the continuity of His ministry with the Judaism that has gone before.

Mark

Mark 1:15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!”

The four key words in this sentence are important all through the New Testament: kingdom, repent, believe and good news (gospel). Jesus’ first words here describe not only His ministry, but also that of the apostles after Him and all believers, right up to our day.

Luke

Luke 2:49 “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”

This is the first time in Luke-Acts that the Greek word dei (“it is necessary”) appears (Luke 2:49; 4:43; 9:22; 13:33; 17:25; 19:5; 21:9; 22:37; 24:7, 26, 44; Acts 1:16, 21; 3:21; 4:12; 5:29; 9:6, 16; 14:22; 15:5; 16:30; 17:3, 19:21; 20:35; 23:11; 24:19; 25:10; 27:24). Jesus understood His mission was to be about the Father’s will, which He carried out to the point of death on the cross.

John

John 1:37-39 When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?” They said, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and spent that day with him. It was about the tenth hour.

I’ll admit that this one was hard for me to figure out. The best (and perhaps only) explanation I’ve heard for this encounter is from Alistair Begg’s sermon on John 1:35-42, The Impact of a Day (length 30:11).

What now?

Over to you. Have I hit on something here, or should I find some other use of my time?

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2 thoughts on “Jesus’ first words

  1. It is very interesting to see what the Gospel Accounts chose to include for the very things that Christ says. And interesting to see the first things in each gospel.
    I think it is also interesting to look at the first thing we have recorded as the words of CHrist. It looks like that the winner there is in LUKE.

    Luke records the words of Jesus as a youth, when He says, “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”

    Both parts are very interesting.

    His first words are a question… a question about WHY they are SEARCHING for Him.

    What is more illuminating is that they “ought to have known” where to find Him. Perhaps we too ought to have known. If we take Romans seriously, it seems Paul is saying that we are without excuse. Perhaps the law within us (as well the Law of Scripture and man’s understanding) should be enough to drive us to Himself. And yet, we are so prone to sin, that we end up searching in all the wrong places for our Lord.

    And we ought to seek Him where he is at.
    God Bless,
    JJ

    1. Thanks, JJ!
      From a purely chronological standpoint, Luke wins because all the other evangelists record Christ’s words as an adult. However, I don’t think they were competing! 🙂
      Your point of searching for Jesus in the wrong places brought to mind the women after the resurrection (Luke 24:1-12 and parallels). The angel asked them why they were looking for the living among the dead (24:5). It is a great kindness that God comes looking for us!

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