Justification and Life For All
FIRST SUNDAY IN LENT [a] March 5, 2017
1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. 8 And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” 14 The LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. 15 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.” 16 To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” 17 And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; 18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19 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.” 20 The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. 21 And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.
IN THE NAME OF JESUS.
The Image of God was imprinted on our hearts. Even more, he created us in his Image, Genesis 1:27:
27 And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female created He them.
He created us to bring forth and support life, Genesis 1:28:
28 And God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the Earth.”
It was all there, on a grand scale, even a cosmic scale, all creation, the Earth and every living thing, from the greatest mammoth to the puppy wagging the tail—it was all in place, all God’s creation. And placed in the middle of it all, given authority to receive it all as gift, to rejoice in it, to learn of it and care for it, placed in the midst was God’s Image on Earth, man and woman bound together in the oneness of marriage, given the mandate to bring forth generations, man and woman created to receive all things from the hand of God, the giver of all gifts.
It’s scale is grand and cosmic, stretching from the smallest bird sitting on a branch to the distant galaxy, yet, the sin that brought it all down, that wiped the Image of God off of the heart of man and woman, the sin was so small. Even trite, even pathetic. In all this grandeur of creation, where we were given to eat of every plant yielding seed on the face of the Earth, and from the fruit of every tree the Lord had created, Adam and Eve stood before the one, single tree they were given to not eat of, and they listened to the demonic voice telling them to grab something not as a gift, to look on something not in the way that God so kindly provides it, but to take it into their hands according to their own ordering of things, and when they do, they will be like God.
So they ate the fruit.
The sin, how puny and pathetic. This wasn’t even some grand movement of giving God an obscene gesture of the hand. It was just the pitiful action of saying to God, All these gifts, these gifts you have prepared for the bringing forth of life, for the delight and enjoyment of man and woman, these gifts all given in their proper placement, according to your gracious will, we will not receive them as gifts. We will treat them as if they are owed us, as if they are ours merely because we determine that we have a right to them and we will demand them where and when and how we choose. These gifts you give to us, giving us the fruit of every tree to eat, but giving us the fruit of this one tree to not eat of?—we will make that determination, God, we will be like you, we will see how this fruit looks good, how it will do us no harm simply because we say it will do us no harm, we will treat it with no distinction you gave it, and we will eat it in the way which seems good to us.
Such a small little sin. Just one fruit eaten out of place, out of the way God gave it—one fruit taken into the hands of the man and woman not as gift, but as something for us to control.
With one pitiful effort, we reset the whole table. No longer creatures lovingly looking to their creator for every good gift, no longer man and woman rejoicing in all which God had created and in the purposes for which he had created each specific person and each specific thing, we were now those who would look at God’s gifts, determine that they were not gifts but were just the natural state of things, and that we would control how we defined them and how we treated them.
This gift of fruit to be eaten and enjoyed, and this other fruit given to not be eaten, but enjoyed by looking upon it?—We will determine both fruits look good and demand that if we can eat the one, then we have a right to eat also the other.
Man and woman created to be one flesh? To rejoice in the gift of procreation and family, we will take that gift and turn procreation into a mere biological act, demanding that it have no boundaries but what we set. Man and woman, each wonderfully made to complement each other? We will demand that there be no real distinction, they each must be really the same thing, and each can demand to be like the other.
People in vocations, given certain gifts to serve one another? We will declare that everyone is blank slate, nothing more than an empty canvas to be written on, and we will turn away from the appreciation and enjoyment that comes with seeing each person in his or her own particular gifts, some given gifts such as music, others building and craftsmanship, others farming and producing food, others research and sciences, others gifts to bring health and healing, others serving neighbor with food or drink, others the special care of children, and on and on, as the Lord so abundantly sets each of us forth as servants with our own particular gifts.
We overturned it all with one puny rejection of receiving gifts as God gives them, with one little taking in our hands a fruit given to look at but not to eat. We reset the whole table, we were no longer God’s image on Earth, we were ungrateful creatures making demands upon the creator.
And God walked into that wrecked Garden, God the giver of all gifts came into the domain of Adam and Eve, he entered this realm of rebellion and death, and he reset the table. To the tempter he said,
“Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. 15 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.”
It was a promise to the devil, to the one who wanted to tempt man and woman into sin so that he could hold that sin against them—it was a promise from the Lord that he would destroy the power of the devil, that he would destroy the accusation against the man and the woman, so that they would be rescued from death and the devil and would be restored as the Lord’s people.
It was a promise to the man and the woman, a promise that anytime a descendant of Adam and Eve would see a snake, the repulsion would be a reminder of our demand to take things the way we determined, our refusal to receive gifts.
It was a promise that from Eve’s lineage would come forth a Savior who would be struck by Satan, but who would utterly and eternally crush Satan.
It was a promise that the Image of God so casually discarded in the Garden, would be restored to man and woman, and not by any victory they accomplished, but by the coming of the Savior, of the New Adam. For if, because of Adam’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.
So when Jesus, the New Adam, walked into that wilderness to be tempted by Satan, and he withstood that temptation by turning to the Word of his Father, and by seeing all things as gifts from his Father, and nothing as something he must grasp for himself, Jesus did this not for himself, but for us. His turning of his ear to deny Satan, his receiving all things as gifts from his Father, even his task being tempted and of going to the cross, this he accounts to us.
Satan will still whisper in our ears, telling us that we are unworthy of God and that we must do something to grasp worthiness for ourselves; the unclean spirit will still hiss in our consciences that we are unclean and that we have lost the image of God; but then comes the voice of the New Adam, the holy Image of God on Earth, Christ Jesus our Lord.
We hear his voice in the proclamation of his Gospel; we hear his voice when he says, Take and drink, this is my Blood for the forgiveness of your sin, and by his voice heard in the Gospel and the Sacraments, he is justifying us; he is taking the old Adam according to the flesh and creating the New Adam of faith to live before God in righteousness and purity forever; he is taking the men and women who have lost the image of God, and he is imprinting on our hearts his own righteousness, he is inscribing the verdict, “Jesus Christ crucified for me.”
By faith, we have again the image of God. The free gift has brought justification. Jesus has brought to us overflowing grace and righteousness before his Father. Romans 5:17:
17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.
IN THE NAME OF JESUS.