Now that I have been a parent for almost fifteen years and have four children, I think I have a pretty good sense of what makes parenting easy and what makes it hard. And I have to say – not to pat myself on the back – but I made things pretty easy on my parents during the years that I was growing up. In fact, they will tell you the exact same thing.
They never had to worry about school. I was a self-starter who got all A’s. They didn’t really have to be involved in any way, and could just assume what the report card was going to say. You will probably not be surprised to learn that I liked going to church and was very involved in that setting – there was never any static on Sunday morning from me.
I was a rule follower and a teacher pleaser. I was respectful around adults – you never had to worry that I was going to embarrass the family. I participated in athletics and my parents got to enjoy seeing some success – two Indiana Babe Ruth state championships were the highlights.
But of course … I was not perfect. And once in awhile when I was little boy in Pensacola, FL I would do something that really got me in trouble with my mom. My earliest memories of this were that my dad came home from work at the end of the day. He would call me to himself and report that while he was on his lunch break, a little bird visited him. This little bird had been at our house, and had seen me do whatever wrong I had done, and had come and reported it to my dad. And then my dad would tell me what the punishment would be.
Now I soon learned that this little bird didn’t miss anything. It’s not like I got in trouble very often. But every time I got in trouble with my mom, he knew about it. And off he went, telling my dad on his lunch break about what I had done. I couldn’t stand that little bird!
Now of course I eventually got old enough to realize that there was no little bird. Instead, it was my mom calling my dad on the phone and telling him about what I had done. But even once I figured this out, my dad kept up with the “little bird” routine. For a number of years, if I really got in trouble with my mom, I dreaded the sound of my dad’s car arriving in our driveway because I knew that inevitably, I would have to hear about that stupid little bird … and then I would get punished.
In the Old Testament lesson for today, we find Adam and Eve hiding among the trees of the Garden of Eden because they dread the arrival of God. They too have been bad … very bad. They have disobeyed God in what is the first sin. They can tell that something has changed, and it is not good. They fear his arrival because they know that he is going to confront them about what they have done. He is going to confront their sin.
Our text today is the darkest chapter in human history. Adam and Eve had been created in God’s image. They were perfectly in tune with God’s will. They were able to live in perfect harmony with the way God had ordered his creation. They knew God in every way that God wants to be known.
God had created Eve from Adam, because God had declared that it was not good for man to be alone. He had made Eve as the perfectly corresponding helper for Adam. Created from Adam, in the union of sexual intercourse they were once again jointed together as one flesh before God. By this God had created and established the institution of marriage.
And while it’s a cliché it does make an important point: God established marriage as the union of Adam and Eve, and not Adam and Steve. The one flesh union of marriage was inherently fruitful – not an act that is vile and barren. The union of man and woman produced life, and God said this life was good. In fact he told Adam and Eve to get busy. He blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
Living in their one flesh union, Adam and Eve were naked and knew no shame. Why would there be? After all, they were crown of God’s creation, created for life and union with one another. Husband and wife lived in perfect harmony.
God had given them the Garden of Eden as their home in this creation that was very good. It was filled with life, and a river flowed out of the garden. The garden was a source of food and also the locale of man’s vocation. The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.
He told Adam that he could eat of every tree of the garden.
In the midst of all this God chose one thing – one located means – by which Adam and Eve showed that they feared, loved and trusted in God above all things. It was, in a way, the place of their worship. God told Adam, “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” God gave them everything, but in the midst of this he said there was only one thing that was not for them. By obeying this they acknowledged that God was the Creator and they were his creatures; that God was God and they were not.
As we confess in the Nicene Creed, God is the creator of all things, visible and invisible. Included in this are the spiritual beings God had made – his servants the angels. But there was another – one who had rebelled in opposition to God. Scripture’s names for him tell us about his character. He is “Satan” – Hebrew for “adversary.” He is the devil – a Greek word that refers to one who slanders or lies.
Satan wanted to separate Adam and Eve from God. He wanted to oppose God and man by bringing man under his control. And so he came with a lie – a lie that he introduced with a half-truth when he said, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” It was a question that began to call God into question. Eve responded, that no this was not the case. They were only to refrain from eating of the tree in the midst of the Garden.
And then the devil brought forth the big lie. He said, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” He invited Eve to doubt God’s Word. He raised the charge that God was holding out on them – holding them back. He promised that when they ate, their eyes would be opened.
So Eve took the plunge. She took and ate. And then she gave some to Adam and he ate. Imagine that. It was God who had told Adam directly how things were to be. Presumably Adam had told Eve who was created later. And it was not the cunning spiritual being who tricked Adam. He folded when Eve offered him the fruit.
The devil had promised Eve that her eyes would be opened. And he was right. They were. But in that experience Adam and Eve saw that everything was different. They recognized that they were naked – and now that fact troubled them.
What was even more troubling was that God came to them, walking in the garden. In a pathetic attempt that borders on humorous, they tried to hide from God among the trees. When confronted, they all tried to blame someone: Eve blamed the devil; Adam blamed Eve, and he blamed God for giving her to Adam in the first place.
But their attempts to throw someone else under the bus could not change that fact that they had sinned. Sin had entered into the world, and now everything was different. Now Adam and Eve would die, for they were taken from dust and to dust they would return. Now pain and hardship would fill life. Now strife between husband and wife would exist.
In the events of our text this morning we hear our story. It is because our first parents plunged all of humanity and creation itself into sin and death. It is our story because like Adam and Eve we doubt God’s Word. We don’t trust God’s promise to care for us. We don’t really believe that what he says about money and possessions. We don’t really accept what he says about marriage and how we are to care for and serve our spouse. Instead, we know what we want to do. And so we do it, and we reap the consequences.
From the moment the serpent enters the scene in our text – and he’s the very first word in the Hebrew – the events narrated here are one horrific disaster. It all is … except for one verse. For as God addresses the devil he says, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
This is why we are here today. This is why we are observing Lent. The seed of the woman Eve, was born of the virgin Mary. Conceived by the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ went forth as the seed of the woman who is also the Son of God. True God and true man, he was anointed by the Spirit at his baptism and designated as the suffering Servant – as the sacrifice to remove our sin.
In both Matthew and Luke the temptation of Jesus by the devil follows Jesus’ baptism. However, in Luke’s Gospel the evangelist places a genealogy of Jesus between the baptism and the temptation. That genealogy ends with the words, “the son of Adam, the son of God.” Luke alerts us that Jesus goes forth as the second Adam. He goes forth in conflict with the devil and defeats him by doing what Adam and Eve failed to do. He trusts God’s Word and he is obedient to the Father. He goes forth for us – the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve who act like our first parents.
Jesus goes as a new Adam whose saving work reverses all that devil accomplished in the temptation of the first Adam. He goes to the cross as the One who bears our sins – the sin that began in the events of our text. By his death he wins forgiveness for that and every other sin.
And the in his resurrection on the third day he has begun the resurrection that will make everything very good once again. He has started the resurrection that he will bring to consummation when he returns in glory on the Last Day – the day when he will renew creation itself.
This means that in the present we have the comfort of knowing we are the forgiven children of God. We are saints – those who have been made holy in God’s eyes through Jesus. And we have hope, because we know that for us the best is yet to come. Indeed the last chapter of the Bible ends as it began. For John tells us:
“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.”