People mostly remember the first thing that you say and the last thing that you say, so make them count. It’s one of those classic early lesson taught to young writers. I remember my own introduction to the idea in Ms. Bruce’s sixth grade English class. I can picture her standing in front of the class and slapping the side of her leg to remind us that if we want people to remember anything in the middle, we have to make it stand out. Even, the most attentive humans can get lost in the middle, and the human attention span has only decreased; since, I learned this lesson over 25 years ago.

Applying this logic to Jesus, some of his final earthly words form the basis of our faith. In his Ascension in Luke/Acts, he promises the descent of the Holy Spirit, and for the assembled disciples to wait to receive it. In Matthew 28, we get the Great Commissions for us to go and make more disciples, and that Christ will be with us – even to the end of the age. Not to be out done, John records Christ’s instruction to follow him, and then throws in some cryptic things about John, the disciple whom Jesus loved. Especially with Matthew 28, we reflect often on what final instructions Christ gave us just as every year we reflect on his birth, on his ascension, and on his promise to return.

However, for reasons that I’m not sure about, we don’t do the same with Christ’s first recorded words. I bring this up because in my studying our text this week in John 1, it came to my attention that these are Christ’s first words in John’s Gospel. Even in picking out this text to preach/write about, it never occurred to me. Then, it got me thinking. Could I name any of Christ’s first spoken words in any Gospel? Turns out, I could do one (other than the one in John that I had just read). Luke 2:49 is where he gets busted by his parents hanging out in the Temple as a tween and gives them the ultimate Jesus, as 12 year old, answer, of him being in his father’s house.

Each of the Gospel writers know their craft well. Especially given how difficult writing in the ancient world was, they put care and attention into each aspect of their work. So, they probably gave great consideration and thematic importance to the first words that they report Christ uttering. So, for my general edification as much as yours, here are the first words of Christ in all four Gospel with my brief thoughts on what they tell us.


“But Jesus answered him, ‘Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfil all righteousness.’ Then he consented.” (Matthew 3:15 NRSV)

This comes from Christ’s baptism. John has objected to baptizing Christ because Christ should be baptizing him. The response that Matthew records lines up with something that Matthew cares deeply about – fulfillment and righteousness. Matthew spends more time quoting the prophets and how Jesus fulfills them than any other Gospel writer. He delves more into Jewish concepts and how Christ relates to and transforms them. It’s only fitting that Matthew opens with Christ understanding his role to fulfill all righteousness.


“And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fish for people.’” (Mark 1:17 NRSV)

I’ll be the first to admit that the New Revised Standard Version used here lacks the poetry of the King James’ “fishers of men.” Mark always feels more action oriented to me. He writes the least. He focuses more on events and miracles. He doesn’t even include any thoughts on Christ’s birth. Essentially, he says, “Christ was baptized by John. Now, let’s get to work.” He calls his first disciples with these words and gets about the healing, the casting out, and the saving. Matthew ends with a commission. Mark starts with his. Following Christ means reaching people for Christ.


“He said to them, ‘Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?’” (Luke 2:49 NRSV)

As previously mentioned, this is what it’s like to have the savior of humanity and the Son of God as the tween that you’re responsible for. Mary and Joseph had quite a task raising the all powerful Lord of the universe. Luke’s first recorded words point straight to that lordship. We have may have seen a baby and a young man, in the same way that the chief priests and Pilot may have seen a mere mortal. Don’t be fooled for a second. This is Emmanuel, God among us.


“When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’ They said to him, ‘Rabbi’ (which translated means Teacher), ‘where are you staying?’” (John 1:38 NRSV)

You can always count on John to look to the big picture. He uses his opening words of Christ to frame the entire Gospel. His prologue, in John 1:1-18, tells us who this man is: the Divine Logos, who was there with God and was God. In John, Jesus uses many “I am” statements as a way of pointing back to the burning bush, where, when asked by Moses for the power of the divine name, God say, “I am who I am.” If you want a military liberator or an earthly ruler, you need not apply. John shows us that Jesus is something far greater than that. The Logos of God walking, talking, teaching, eating, crying, dying, and rising.