Preached: March 13, 2011
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. The Word from God through which the Holy Spirit points us to our Champion is Genesis 3.
This is the word of our Lord.
Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior:
Why did Jesus have to die? As we enter another Lent, the gruesome gore of crucifixion -- that bloody cross -- triggers that question in the back of our minds. Why did Jesus have to die? Genesis 3 shows us why.
God had created a perfect world. In six regular days he called the universe into existence and arranged nature in its proper order. He created Adam and Eve in his image. Their mind, heart, and will lined up with God's in perfect sync. He gave them the Garden to care for as their home. And he gave them the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil with the command not to eat from it.
“Why did he do that?” we might wonder. He had created Adam and Eve to understand with their minds the difference between good and evil, right and wrong. He had given them the desire, the heart, the will, and the ability to do the good and shun the evil. Now through this tree and his command they could put that knowledge into practice. They would experience what it meant to do good, to gladly obey God's command out of love and thanks for his kindness. They would experience what it meant to shun disobedience, hating evil just as the Lord, their God, did. Through this tree and his command, the Lord God intended for them to gain the experiential knowledge that clings to the good, never even contemplating the evil. Then their free will would have been confirmed in their holiness, never to fall. There would never have been death, much less Jesus dying on the cross.
But how that all changed in Genesis 3! In these verses, Satan's lie ruins all. But the Lord's promise restores us. For the Lord's faithfulness reverses our fallen relationship. That's why Jesus came to die. May the Holy Spirit convict our hearts of our sin and renew in us the joy of salvation as we see the Lord's faithfulness reversing our fallen relationship. Keep that theme in mind as we contemplate Genesis 3.
Satan's lie ruined all. He came in disguise. He used a snake. Now snakes in general, like all other animals, cannot reason or speak or choose between right and wrong. But this particular snake was different. For it wasn't just a snake. “Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made” (Genesis 3:1 NIV1984). This serpent, this snake, was also Satan. That's why it was more crafty than any animal. That's why it could speak. It was Satan, the fallen angel who had rebelled against God. Revelation calls him “that ancient serpent” (Revelation 12:9 NIV1984).
He asks Eve a question: “Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden?'” (Genesis 3:1 NIV1984). Do you catch the double lie there? It's disguised as a question but aims to plant doubt. First of all, doubt about God's word: “Did he really say?” And also doubt about God's goodness: “Might he want to keep you away from something good like eating from all these trees?”
We would have felt doubt right away, because of the fallen nature we've inherited. But Eve had been created in God's image. Unlike us, her entire mind, heart, and will lined up with God's. She stands firm. Rather than doubting she defends God's goodness and declares his command. “The Lord God is so good that he gave us all these trees to eat from, except the one in the middle of the garden which he commanded us not to eat from, so that we don't die.”
But Satan saw his opening. Could he convince her that God was hiding something from her? He had given her all the trees, except this one. Why was that? Why would he add a warning of death? Was it because he was hiding something? Maybe he wasn't as good as he appeared to be? “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” (Genesis 3:4 NIV1984).
How often don't we fall for that lie and doubt God's goodness? How good is God when an earthquake sends a tsunami killing thousands? How good is God when your heart is trampled by rejection? How good is God when the bills come but the paycheck doesn't? How good is God when pains worsen and sickness destroys? How good is God when my life feels so bad? Is he hiding something from me? We so easily believe Satan's lie that we need to look beyond God's word for happiness. “Yes, God's Word is good, but I need something else,” we imagine. “He must be hiding something good from me, otherwise wouldn't I feel better?”
Now a lie is like a snake. Once it gets its head in, the rest easily follows. Contrary to God's thinking, Eve's mind now contemplated how good for food the tree look. Her heart no longer was pleased with what God gave but now found this tree pleasing to the eye. Her will desired to gain the knowledge the serpent had promised. She ate and gave some to her husband who was with her. Now they knew evil as what they were experiencing and doing as it filled their mind, heart, and will. They knew good only as something they had lost and could no longer gain. Their mind, heart, and will no longer matched God's. In fact, they were now opposed to him. They were his enemies. Satan's lie ruined their relationship with God.
So they scurry away like cockroaches caught in the light when they hear the Lord God walking in the evening of the day. They try to justify themselves with excuses as the Lord God asks them questions. Adam even blames God for creating the woman, whom he had earlier cherished as “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Genesis 2:23 NIV1984) How far mankind had fallen! Totally fallen in mind, heart, and will. God's image is lost. Satan's lie ruined their relationship with the Lord God. That's the ruined relationship we inherited, dear friends. Only Jesus can reverse it.
And Satan's lie ruined their relationship with each other. Their sexual desire for one another became selfish to the bone. They covered their nakedness, pretending to cover their selfish desires. Rather than acting as the responsible head where the buck stops, Adam blamed his wife. “The woman you put here with me -- she gave me some fruit from the tree” (Genesis 3:12 NIV1984). How many marriages still play the blame-game? Satan's lie ruined all.
But the Lord's faithfulness reverses our fallen relationship. Adam and Eve ruined their relationship with God. They became his enemies, and served Satan's lies as his slaves and thralls. That's the slavery we were born into. Even before birth, we began our life as enemies of God, slaves of Satan.
But the Lord's faithfulness reverses that fallen condition. He reverses that relationship of hostility we had against him. For in his faithfulness he makes his promise. His promise restores what we ourselves never had. His promise restores what Adam had lost for all humanity. His promise restores that original relationship with the Lord our God.
See the Lord's faithfulness as he comes and seeks out Adam and Eve. His mercy draws them to recognize their guilt. He knocked away the crutches of excuses they leaned on. He exposed their helplessness so that they each saw how powerless they were to restore themselves. Only then were they be ready to hear the promise.
How undeserved this mercy was! When it came to Satan, God had no searching questions, no hopeful promise, only “Cursed are you …” (Genesis 3:14 NIV1984). But he has shown you and me, dear friends, that same mercy he showed Adam and Eve. He called out to us through Baptism and his Word. He found you when you were still lost in your sin and guilt. He reconciled you to himself while you were still his enemy.
Listen to the promise that Adam and Eve heard as the Lord God addresses Satan: “I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Genesis 3:15 NIV1984).
The woman along with Adam had become Satan's friend, his slave. But God will change that. “I will put enmity between you, Satan, and the woman.” The Lord God would do this. Eve could not. Adam could not. They did not have the power to free themselves from Satan, just as we do not have that power. But the Lord God promises, “I will do it. Eve, who followed you, Satan, will no longer follow you. She will once again be your enemy, because I will reverse her fallen relationship and restore her into my family.”
And this promise was not just for Adam and Eve, but for those who came after her, her descendants, her offspring. That includes you, dear friend. Those who believe the promise just as she now believed would hate Satan and his lies. They are her spiritual offspring, just as those who do not believe the Lord's promise are Satan's spiritual offspring.
How would the Lord God carry out his promise? From those born of women would come the One to crush Satan's head. Just as a snake becomes powerless when its head is crushed, so the One born of woman would end Satan's power to keep people under his slavery. And since the One born of woman does what only God can do, he must indeed be God as well. For God alone can reverse our fallen relationship and put enmity between us and Satan. “I will do this,” he says.
Yet at what cost to himself! His heal would be striked. Painful indeed! And as we see his suffering measured in blood and hear his cry, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” (Matthew 27:46 NIV1984) sound from the cross, we cannot help but ponder the unimaginable price he paid for us. But he came out the Champion. He is the Snake-crusher. Satan's power was destroyed. But Christ, the Offspring of the woman, has risen from the dead. Our Champion. For God is faithful. He has kept his promise. His faithfulness reverses our fallen relationship through Jesus Christ the Offspring of the woman, our Lord and our Champion.
So look no farther than the cross to see how good your God is. He gave his Son for you. Don't run after Satan's lies to find happiness. Look no farther than this book, the Bible. For through his Word in the Scriptures and the Sacraments, he restores in us what Satan ruined back there in the Garden. Don't doubt, but believe. Treasure his cross. For God's faithfulness reverses our fallen relationship. You, dear Christian, are Satan's enemy and God's child through faith in Christ Jesus, our Snake-crusher. Amen.