Let us pray: Dear Lord Christ, protect us from temptation! Protect us from the devil’s schemes! Protect us from giving in to our fallen nature and turning our backs on You. Yes, give us Your strength, Your power, and Your victory over temptation and make it our very own possession. For only then can we truly be at peace with You and with ourselves. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE VICTOR OVER ALL EVIL!
TEXT: Genesis 2: 7-9, 15-17, 3: 1-7
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
About 50 years ago Hollywood produced a famous movie entitled: “The Greatest Story Ever Told.” It didn’t have gratuitous sex, or car crashes, or aliens from space in it. No, it was about Jesus Christ and His life of caring for souls. Today we have before us the exact opposite. In this familiar lesson about Adam and Eve’s fall into sin we have:
THE SADDEST STORY EVER TOLD
This story begins with the creation of man, the making of Adam. “The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”
On the 6th day of creation, God did His greatest work. He created the first human being. Unlike the rest of the creation, which He made simply by saying: “Let there be” and “there was” God created Adam out of existing atoms. He used common carbon and various other molecules (the dust of the earth). God took His time. He intimately formed us and made our complex structure with His own hands. Scripture speaks elsewhere of God acting like a potter who creates wonderful vessels made from clay. And just as a potter gets great joy from making a fine vase, so God’s heart was made glad when He created us.
Then, He made His wonderful work alive! He breathed into Adam His own life-giving breath. He energized Adam and made him totally unique and special by giving Him an eternal soul, an eternal nature. Coupled with that soul came the ability to make choices, to choose to live in a way which would honor and glorify God. Yes, we humans were created to make God happy and fill His heart with joy.
Then we’re told that God also made a special place, a garden, called Eden for Adam to live in. Eden comes from the Hebrew word which means: delightful. It was a special place. A place of great beauty. It was the first cathedral. And upon planting this garden, God placed Adam in its midst.
Some of you are smart enough and technologically savvy enough to make a robot. But a robot is programmed to do nothing more than what you tell it to do. It has no free will. It has no free choice. And because of that, eventually you’ll tire of it. A robot cannot honor you. A robot is merely you programming it to honor yourself. Well, God did not want that. He wanted His creation to give Him lasting joy. He wanted Adam to freely choose to give God thanks and praise. He wanted Adam, and later Eve, to give Him their hearts. And so, God also put two unique trees in Eden–the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and the tree of life. And He told them they could eat of the tree of life, but they must avoid the other. That was the simple choice. The choice was between obeying God and living in gratitude over His goodness or spitting in His eye through disobedience!
Then Satan entered the picture. Satan was a fallen angel who had already spit in God’s eye. Satan had chosen ingratitude and evil over goodness and joy. And now he tries to spit in God’s eye once again by tempting Adam and Eve to make the wrong choice—to turn their backs on their Creator. Satan is the father of half-truths and downright lies. Notice that he employs both as he talks to Eve through the serpent he inhabited at that time. “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?” Obviously God did not. All trees were kosher except one—the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
Ignorant, naïve Eve is intrigued by Satan’s words. Note that she even adds something to what God has said: “and you must not touch it, or you will die.” God never said that! Eve is falling under Satan’s spell. The devil is quick to pick up on even the slightest hint of weakness, too. “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.” The heart of sin is jealousy. It is being ungrateful for what you are and have and wanting something else. It is rejecting humility and wanting to be the master of your own fate. So, Eve eats the fruit and then gives some to Adam who also eats. This is the saddest story ever told.
We’re told that Eve “saw that the fruit was good for food—Not!, and pleasing to the eye—Not! And also desirable for gaining wisdom—Not!” Yet she took it anyway. She let her will be seduced by jealousy. She let her ideas of wisdom, goodness, and food trump God’s truth. She rebelled against her Creator. And as a result, both she and Adam lost their innocence. They experienced shame over their nakedness. Suddenly they knew evil. That is, they knew that they were on their own and their own didn’t bring satisfaction and unending joy. Instead it brought shame, dissatisfaction, and even death. Sad indeed!
This is the first Sunday in Lent. This is the time when we ponder the loss of innocence that we’ve inherited from our first parents. It is the time when we meditate upon our restless spirit born of jealousy and pride. It is the time when we contemplate our bad choices in life and lament the shame they have brought upon us. It is the season of repentance.
But, as our Gospel lesson for today shows, it is also a time of renewal which stems from God’s goodness towards us. For God didn’t leave us alone in our shame. No, He sent us a Savior from all sin. He sent us Christ Who faced all temptations for us (He was tempted in all ways as we are, yet He was without sin). He sent us Jesus Who said: “No!” for us when Satan came calling. Yes, He sent Jesus Who paid the penalty for sin—death—in our place.
Just as intimately as God was involved in our creation, so He is just as intimately involved in our salvation. Just as our free will was lost, thrown away and corrupted by Adam and Eve’s act of spitting in God’s face, so Christ came to renew and restore our will—to give us willpower to resist temptation and thereby walk with God unashamed at our dependence upon Him.
It is only because God is total goodness that the saddest story ever told has a happy ending. And that ending will only be yours if you do what Eve did not—humble yourself before the Lord and trust in His salvation. Moreover, He has also given us the Spirit’s power to turn our jealous will back to one of gratitude and appreciation. If you’re lonely, sad, feel you cannot cope, or ashamed—in other words, if you’re human–embrace Christ in faith and be prepared to have God write a new chapter to the saddest story ever told. A chapter that ends with you receiving and appreciating the best of the best—God’s love. Amen