But many first shall be last; and the last first.
Most know that the Egyptians considered shepherds with much disdain prior to the Exodus; however, most seem to think that shepherding was a noble profession in the land of Judea at the time of the the birth of Jesus. Actually, the very opposite was true. Shepherds were on the bottom rung of the social ladder. A close study will find that they were often deprived of their rights, they were considered unworthy to be a witness in any legal proceeding, and the term "incompetent" was often associated with the profession. One Mishnah went as far as to say that a person was under no obligation to rescue a shepherd that had fallen into a pit. Talk about the bottom of the barrel! This was also a profession that some believed should not be taught to children. You just about could not get any lower. Now, who did the Almighty value so much that He made them the first witnesses to the birth of the Savior of mankind. "And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.(Luke 2:8-9)." As Jesus might say, Truly I tell you that the last shall be first and the first shall be last.
Nobody likes a thief even today. It was no different in the Lord's day. If a shepherd was low, a criminal was even lower. They lost all rights and most often were penalized with very harsh sentences as we see with the condemning of the two thieves hung on either side of Jesus. In their story, suspended between the heavens and the earth there with the Son of God, is the essence of the whole gospel message. All are guilty and worthy of death. It seems at first both thieves railed accusations at Jesus. Why would the Son of Man allow himself to be associated with such vile people, even to be numbered among them? Because God is not so high and mighty that His grace cannot reach the lowest of the low. There was something about Jesus that eventually caught the eye of one of those robbers. Was it His suffering? Maybe it was His kind words to His followers? Could it have been His forgiving the very Roman squad that nailed Him to the tree? Finally, the thief cried out for forgiveness. The lowest of the low, a convicted felon, pleads out and pleads for mercy. Many might look down on him for his crime, but not Jesus. He allowed this man to be the first to enter His kingdom truly making the last first. Won't you join Jesus in His Kingdom? Plead out now and live. Don't be like the other thief who rejected Jesus that Day and lost his soul. Jesus still makes the first last and the last first.
Women, sadly, were considered the very bottom of society in that day, and we know that there are cultures where they still hold that terrible position (some even teaching that the majority of people in hell are women). They had no rights, could not testify in court, could own no property, could work no job or own a business in Judea at that time. The only schooling a little girl would be given was training in household duties. While boys could go to school and learn, girls were deprived of an education. But Jesus makes the last first. This teacher allowed women to follow Him and learn even as we see Mary at His feet with the apostles learning of the promises of God. It is a well known fact that the testimony of women was ignored since they held such a low place in that culture. Why then did Jesus allow the lowest of the low, women, to be the first witnesses to His resurrection? This must have been an embarrassing fact to the folks in Jesus day--oversensitive women saw a risen dead man first. No! It was no accident at all that a woman, even one with a colorful past, was the first at the tomb because Jesus loves those who are least esteemed by others. Ladies, when the men ran like babies, the teenager, John, and the women bravely stayed at His side to the very end, and their faithfulness was returned when they visited that empty tomb. Jesus still makes the first last and the last first.
You see, Jesus was not like any other man, because when we see Jesus we see the face of God; we see His mercy, His grace, and His compassion. Men, (and even some "Christians") may push others aside as meaningless, but not Jesus. Jesus doesn't see skin color or sex and recoil with dislike as He knows all men and women are sons and daughters of fallen Adam. He doesn't look at a persons intelligence to see if they are worthy learning of Him. He doesn't count the number of dreaded sins a person has committed and conclude that one is beyond his help. He doesn't check bank records or personal property values and then rank a person. No! Jesus builds His flock with the spotted lambs just like you and me. All one needs to do is be humble in the sight of the LORD and He will lift them up. Call on Jesus and ask for Him to plead your cause through the power of His cross that associated with all of our lowliness and He will lift you up. Do it quickly as Jesus Christ is Soon2Come!