Well, the devil was lying, but he wasn’t kidding. In our text he says to Eve “your eyes will be opened” as he encourages her to disobey God and eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Eve saw that the tree was a delight to the eyes. She and Adam both ate of it, and sure enough their eyes were opened. The devil had lied about the outcome. But he wasn’t kidding about how drastic a change would result from eating of the tree.
In our Old Testament lesson this morning we learn about the Fall of humanity, as Adam and Eve are deceived by the devil. Of course, to understand the nature of the disobedience, we also have to understand what God had given to our first parents.
In Genesis chapter one we receive the “big picture” of how God made creation in six days. We learn that God creates a material world that is filled with land, water, plants and animals. In the midst of this creation, God makes one special creature who had authority over the rest of creation for a very important reason. God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
God created man in his own him image – he created man to be like God in that he knew God as God wants to be known, and lived perfectly according to God’s will. God created man as male and female. We learn more about this in chapter two as we receive a “close up” description of how God created the crown of his creation.
First, God created Adam from dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and Adam became a living creature. God gave Adam only one command. He said, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 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.”
Then, in midst of the goodness that God had made, God noted that there was something that was not good. He said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” Adam needed the helper who corresponded to him. So God took a rib from Adam and created Eve. In creating Eve, God instituted marriage for Genesis tells us, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Adam and Eve lived in this one flesh union as God intended. As husband and wife they were both naked and were not ashamed.
God had given Adam and Eve the Garden of Eden in which to live. He had given them each other as the perfect union of man and woman, and commanded them to be fruitful and multiply. He had given them dominion over the rest of the creation. He had also given Adam the vocation of caring for the garden. This gave purpose and meaning to life, but it was not work in the way that we think of work as something that is difficult and unwanted.
God had given every tree of the garden that bore fruit as food for Adam and Eve. Yet he had commanded Adam not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Adam then shared this instruction with Eve who was created later. In doing so he showed the headship that God intended within marriage.
God gave Adam and Eve one located means by which they worshipped him. They showed that they feared, loved, and trusted in God above all things by not eating of this tree. By this action they demonstrated the confession that God was God and they were not.
The devil came to Eve in the form of a serpent. In the very first words the devil speaks, we learn two things about him. First, he always tries to get us to question God’s Word. And second, he operates on the basis of lies. As Jesus said, he is a liar and the father of lies.
He said to Eve, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” The devil invited Eve to question God’s care for them as he lied about what God had actually said. Eve the corrected the devil by stating that no, in fact they could eat of fruit of all the trees. However, they could not eat of the tree in the middle of the garden or else they would die.
Then the devil brought out his great temptation, and he used 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 told Eve that God was holding out on them. They could be more. Instead of just being in the image of God – they could be God. They could know in the same way God knows.
And with that he had her. Eve saw that the tree was good for food, that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise. So she took of its fruit and ate. Then she gave some to Adam and he ate. Adam disobeyed God’s Word. He also failed in his vocation of husband by abandoning his role of spiritual leadership.
Then, just as the devil had promised, their eyes were opened. But what they saw was not knowledge that equaled God. Instead, they recognized their sinfulness. For the first time they knew shame. They knew they were naked and sewed fig leaves together to clothe themselves.
The devil has not changed. He is the liar who wants us to question God’s Word. That is how he works. He says, “Did God really say that he loves you? Then why are you suffering health problems? Did God really say that is Word is life giving? Then why did he only give you this guy preaching, along with bread and wine today? Did God really say that he would provide for you? Then why does your acquaintance get to go on all of those vacations and you don’t? Did God really say that sexual intercourse is only to be shared in marriage? Then why are all of those other people getting to enjoy pleasure whenever they want?”
And we are no different from Adam and Eve in the way we respond. We allow the devil’s lies to get to us to doubt God’s Word. We don’t only sin by doubting the Word, we then also act upon that doubt. We sin in our mind, and then we sin by the things we do and the things we say.
After Adam and Eve sinned, God came and confronted them. Like us, the first couple tried to find a way out – they wanted to blame someone else. Adam tried to blame God for giving him Eve in the first place. Eve tried to blame the devil. But neither could escape responsibility for their actions. And God laid before them the consequences of what they had done.
God told Eve that childbearing would be one of pain, and that now the relationship of man and woman would be marked by strife. He told Adam that now the ground was cursed. It was no longer the very good creation but because it was marred by sin his life would now be one of hard work.
Yet the final consequence was the one that God had told Adam about in beginning – death. He said, “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” What was true for Adam has been true for every person since that day. Paul told the Romans, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” Many of you heard the reminder of this on Wednesday night as ashes were placed on your forehead with the words, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
Our Old Testament lesson is a dark and dismal picture. Yet in the midst of this there is one shining light of Gospel. Before God spoke to Eve and Adam he said to the devil, “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.” God promised that a descendant of Eve woudl defeat the devil. He would be harmed, but he would win the victory.
We see that One in our Gospel lesson today. At Christmas we learned that he is descended from Eve because he is true man, born of Mary. But he is far more than that. He is the Son of God sent into this world as he was conceived through the work of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus Christ is the second Adam. Just as the devil tempted Adam, so he tempted Jesus. But while Adam failed; while you and I fail, Jesus Christ did not fail. At his baptism Jesus had been designated as the Servant of the Lord. He was in this world to be the suffering Servant who fulfilled these words: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned--every one--to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
In the temptations, the devil attempts to derail Jesus’ ministry by getting our Lord to use his power to serve himself, and to take the easy way of glory. But the Son of God had entered into this world to serve others. He had come to die on the cross for it was in this way that God justly punished our sins and gave us forgiveness.
Adam and Eve succumbed to temptation in the Garden of Eden. Yet as he was about the receive the wrath of God for our sin, Jesus remained faithful in the Garden of Gethsemane. He prayed, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” Our Lord drank the cup of God’s wrath to its last bitter dregs as he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Where the devil had offered him power and glory, Christ carried out the Father’s will as he died in the weakness and humiliation of the cross.
Our sin brought death to Jesus. Yet Jesus submitted himself to death in order to defeat the death that entered the world through Adam. Dead and buried in a tomb, on the third day God raised Jesus from the dead. Jesus, the second Adam, has begun the resurrection life that will be ours as well. Paul told the Corinthians, “For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.”
Adam was tempted by the devil into sin. But Jesus Christ was faithful to the point of death … even death on a cross. Now, the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead has given you new life. Because you have been baptized into Christ you know that your sins have been washed away. You have forgiveness, eternal life, and will receive resurrection on the Last Day.
The Spirit is also the One who now gives us strength to resist temptation. When the devil says, “Did God really say…?” our first response is to answer with what God has said in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Through faith in the crucified and risen Lord – through our life in Christ – the Spirit enables us to trust the Word of God and live according to it.