First and Last

John 2:6-12 WEB

Now there were six water pots of stone set there after the Jews’ way of purifying, containing two or three metretes apiece. [7] Jesus said to them, “Fill the water pots with water.” They filled them up to the brim. [8] He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the ruler of the feast.” So they took it. [9] When the ruler of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and didn’t know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the ruler of the feast called the bridegroom, [10] and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when the guests have drunk freely, then that which is worse. You have kept the good wine until now!” [11] This beginning of his signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. [12] After this, he went down to Capernaum, he, and his mother, his brothers, and his disciples; and they stayed there a few days.

Why do the scriptures say the first will be last and the last will be first? It’s a strange, circular statement. Does it mean the second or final version of something is the best? Or does it mean the final version is the worse? In our text scripture it means the higher quality is last. The wine that Jesus miraculously created is better than what was served first.

There are examples of first and last things throughout the Bible. For instance, the old covenant of works is replaced by the new covenant of grace. In the example of works and grace, the last is better. And the Old Testament is adjuncted by the New Testament which has greater bearing on modern believers. So, in those two examples, the last thing that came is better than the first.

Those are probably the two biggest and well-known examples of first and last things in the Bible but there are others. For example, eating vegetables in Genesis is replaced with eating meat a few chapters later. Yet, eating meat is associated with many diseases. There is a strong suggestion by the text of Noah’s Ark that meat was put on the menu due to violence against animals. Giving humanity permission to eat animals appears to be a last-ditch effort by God not to have to start over with humanity. The only way to justify mankind’s lust for flesh was to add it to the acceptable list of behaviors. So that is just what God did. Clearly in this case the first was better.

Another example can be found in marriage and divorce. At the beginning of Genesis, the man and woman are told they are joined as one. This is replaced when God, through the law, gives permission for men to divorce their wives. We know today that divorce is one of the most devastating things that can happen to a family or an individual. So again, as with eating meat, in this example what comes last is inferior to what came first.  

Turning water into wine is the first miracle that Jesus performed publicly. It was not what he wanted or intended. His mother pressured him to make the wine. After the wedding Jesus and his family return to their home in Capernaum. This is the last mention in the Bible of Jesus associating directly with his mother. So in this case, the first wine is inferior to the second wine and the first miracle is inferior to those that follow.

Lord Jesus, please help me discern that which is good from that which is better. Help me stay in step with your will and your timing. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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