March 4 & 5, 2017 Lent 1
Genesis 3: 1-15
Dear friends in Christ Jesus,
Trees can be the source of trouble. In 1976 two US Army officers and some South Korean soldiers were sent into the demilitarized zone between North and South Koreas to take down a poplar tree that was blocking the view of the United Nations observers. This led to the North Korean soldiers rushing in. After an armed confrontation causing the South Korean soldiers to flee, the north Korean soldiers cruelly murdered the two US Army officers, hacking them to death with the axes the South Korean soldiers had been using. This almost started another Korean War. Trees can be the source of great trouble.
Well, that is nothing new. In fact, all the trouble that you’ve ever experienced in life, every sickness, disease, heartache, pain, frustration and annoyance are all because of one tree. Ever since Adam and Eve rebelled against God in the Garden of Eden and ate the fruit of the one tree God told them never to eat from, sin and its effects have plagued mankind. That’s a lot of trouble because of one tree.
Adam and Eve enjoyed paradise, a perfect relationship with God and perfect peace with him. But They Lost It All because of a Tree. That’s a lot of trouble over one tree.
Paradise lost! And all because of a tree! God didn’t give Adam and Eve ten commandments; only one: “The LORD God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.’” (Gen. 2:16-17) But that one proved too difficult to keep. In a single act of rebellion against a loving God, they lost it all.
And they had no excuse. Oh, they tried to pass the blame. Adam’s excuse was that was that it was all Eve’s fault. Eve’s excuse was that she was deceived by the serpent. And worse, Adam blamed God! He didn’t just blame Eve, but said, “The woman YOU put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” In other words, “God this is your fault! You said it was not good for me to be alone. But you were wrong!” What nerve! Try as they may to make excuses, they were still responsible for their actions. They rebelled against God. And as a result they lost.
They lost paradise and were kicked out of the garden. And lest they try to reenter, God put angels with a flaming sword to guard the entrance. But they lost more than just paradise. They lost the image of God. They lost the ability to think like God and talk like God and act like God. They lost their innocence and gained shame and fear and foolishness. They lost their love for each other and looked at each other differently than before. They lost everything… and all because of a tree.
You know, Satan’s not that creative. He doesn’t have too many new tricks to tempt us that are any different than what he used with Adam and Eve. But the sad thing is that he doesn’t need new tricks. We keep falling for the same old ones. Satan still deceives us with the same old tactics: “Does God really say…?” he still asks, getting us to doubt God’s Word. “Does he really say, ‘Love your enemies?’ Come on! They deserve your unkind treatment.” “Does he really say, ‘Lust is as bad as adultery?’ Who are you really hurting by going to those bad websites?” “Does he really say, ‘Worship is necessary to grow in your faith’? You can stay close to God all by yourself. You don’t need to go to church.”
Or the lie, “God isn’t looking out for you,” getting us to doubt God’s love. “God’s just trying to withhold his blessing from you. He knows if you live a selfish life you’ll really be happy. But God doesn’t want that. He wants to hold you back. He wants life to be boring. So live it up. Serve yourself. Forget about God!”
And before we blame Adam and Eve for ruining everything, we’d better consider how we behave. Remember: Adam and Eve had no reason to be suspicious. They may have been naive, but remember that, prior to this event, there was no such thing as a lie. But we know better. We’ve been fairly warned. We know that Satan is looking to destroy us in hell. We’ve seen how he operates, but we still fall for the same old tricks.
And make all the excuses you want: “It’s not my fault! If my spouse were nicer to me, then I wouldn’t be so rude back.” “It’s not my fault! If my kids were more obedient, then I’d be more patient.” “It’s not my fault! If my boss were more fair, then I’d work harder.” But you know that there is no excuse for our sinful rebellion against God. It’s not Adam and Eve’s fault that you sin. It’s not Satan’s fault that you sin. And it’s certainly not God’s fault that you sin. It is your fault that you sin. It’s my fault that I sin.
And because of our rebellion against God, doing the things that are forbidden to us, we lose! We lose out on happy families. We lose out on peace in our lives. We lose out on clear consciences. And we lose out on the image of God. We deserve the curse of the snake: to crawl on our bellies and eat the dust all the days of our lives, then to return to dust in death. We deserve to lose out on paradise forever and to forever be separated from God in hell. And all this because of a tree.
But look at what God said to Satan in verse 15: “And I will put enmity [or hatred] between you [Satan] and the woman [Eve], and between your offspring and hers; he [an individual, one of Eve’s offspring] will crush your head, and you [Satan] will strike his heel.” Adam and Eve lost. But another would come to resume the fight in their place. Enter the substitute, one of Eve’s offspring… Jesus.
Satan would strike the first blow. We heard that in our Gospel reading today. Satan tempted Jesus to rebel against God just as Adam and Eve did. “Can you really trust God’s Word when he says he’ll provide for you? Go ahead and turn these stones to bread.” “God doesn’t really love you. Test his love by jumping.” “God’s holding out on you. He doesn’t want you to have any fun. But worship me. I’ll give you everything.” But Jesus struck back. He resisted every temptation and lived a perfect life free from sin. He had no need for excuses since he perfectly obeyed God in all things.
Then Satan struck a vicious blow on Good Friday. Manipulating Judas and Caiaphas, Herod and Pilate, he succeeded in killing his Adversary, in having the very Son of God mocked, beaten, scourged, crucified, covered in nothing but shame. Satan struck Jesus’ heel and it looked like he won.
But the Offspring of the Woman struck back! And by his very death on the cross, he undid Satan’s foul work in the Garden of Eden. And when he rose from the dead, he crushed Satan’s head. He proved his total domination over all Satan had worked so hard for. By the empty tomb he proved his total victory!
And by Jesus’ work, Adam and Eve lost… their sin. They lost it all because of a tree; because of Jesus’ cross. Their rebellion against God’s one commandment… gone! Their excuses for their open rebellion… gone! The way they looked at each other naked, thinking how they could use—instead of love—each another… gone! They lost it all because of a tree: Paul wrote in Galatians 3:13: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.’”
Yes, the consequences of their sin still remained. Thorns and thistles, sweat and pain, troubled relationships, and death would be the result of their rebellion. But peace with God would endure. And by clinging to the promise of their coming Savior, paradise would be restored to Adam and Eve about 900 years later when their bodies returned to the dust from which they came and their souls went to the paradise of heaven. And all because of a tree!
And it is no different for us. The Offspring of the woman came to serve as not only the substitute for Adam and Eve, but for you and me too. He came to resist Satan’s attacks in your place. He came to live the perfect life for you. He came to die on a tree for you. And now, you know what happens to your sin because of the way he crushed Satan’s head: you lose it all! Your rebellion against God’s Ten Commandments… all gone! Your excuses for your open rebellion against God’s will… all gone! The way you try to use and manipulate others… all gone. All of your sin! You lost it all because of a tree. “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.’”
And yes, the consequences of sin will still remain. Our thorns and thistles, our sweat and pain, our troubled relationships, and finally death will still be the result of our rebellion. But we can even thank God for those consequences because they serve as a reminder of our rebellion. They lead us to repent of our sin and turn again to the Offspring of the woman and look to him in faith.
And through our Savior, peace with God will endure for us. And by clinging to the promise of our returning Savior, paradise will be restored to us. When our bodies return to the dust from which they came, our souls will go to the paradise of heaven. And all because of a tree! Now we can stop making excuses for our sin, and we can strive with all of our might to serve the One who won for us, and gave us everything… because of a tree. Amen.