“The Gospel in the Garden” (Genesis 3:8-15)

Third Sunday after Pentecost
June 10, 2018

“The Gospel in the Garden” (Genesis 3:8-15)

Did you know you have an adversary out to get you? A very strong adversary, too strong for you to handle on your own? You do. He’s out to get you, to destroy you, body and soul. And you would be powerless to overcome him on your own. You need help–big help, the kind only God can provide. Or else you would be lost, damned and condemned forever. You need this help day by day, every day, for your enemy will never give up on trying to take you down.

But the good news is, you have this help, this big rescue, in the form of a Redeemer sent from God. He is stronger than the strong enemy who is out to get you. In fact, he has crushed him in the head. Lean on this strong Redeemer, day by day, and you will be safe from your enemy’s attacks, saved and safe now and for eternity.

This is the message of our lessons today. It started back in the garden. And it was fulfilled in the coming of God’s Son, born the seed of the woman. Our brother Jesus has won the victory over our enemy. The promise was given way back in the garden, when man and woman first fell into sin. But in the aftermath of that tragic fall, our gracious God gave a wonderful promise of a Savior to come. It is, as we’ll hear about now, “The Gospel in the Garden.”

But first, before we get to the gospel in the garden, I guess we should hear about the sin in the garden. Because the enemy was active there, the same enemy who is out to get you today. The enemy had his way back then, leading the man and woman into sin, into the fall, with all the disastrous consequences that came as a result. And if we are not aware of his tricks, if we try to go it on our own, we too will be in very grave danger indeed.

Here’s the situation. The Lord God had created man in his own image. God had put man in charge of his beautiful creation. And it really was beautiful! Perfect, in fact. Man in communion with God. An abundant provision. No sin to mar our relationship with God or to damage his beautiful creation. Sweet! It’s paradise. The Garden of Eden, it’s called. So man was in charge of this garden, to take care of it. God had given man great honor, great responsibility. There were fruit trees all around, everything one could possibly want or need. The tree of life was in the garden, and man was designed to live forever. And God gave man a beautiful companion, a helper just right for him, the woman. Beautiful! Perfect! The way life was supposed to be!

Now God had given the man one commandment, just one: Do not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for in the day that you eat of it, you shall surely die. OK, fair enough. Man had gotten the commandment straight from God, his loving Creator. Man should have known better than to break the commandment. Why disobey such a wonderful God?

But then along comes the enemy. The tempter appears, in the form of a serpent. This is a cunning one, a tricky one, very subtle and crafty. He doesn’t come straight at the man and say, “Now go ahead and defy God, break his commandment, and bring death down upon you.” No, that would be too crass, too blatant, too obvious. Instead, the tempter, the serpent–Satan is his name, the enemy, the adversary–the serpent comes at the man kind of subtle-like, indirect.

He starts a conversation with the woman, gets her to start questioning God’s Word, doubting God’s goodness: “That command about not eating from this tree? That’s only because God wants to keep you from being your own god, making your own decisions about good and evil. See, he’s trying to keep something from you. And that threat about ‘the day you eat of it you shall surely die’? Pffft! Forget about that! Just put it out of your mind! Hey, look at how nice this tree looks! Wouldn’t that fruit be so delicious to taste? Yeah, go ahead! You deserve it. And while you’re at it, offer some to your hubby. He’ll like it too, I’m sure.” It was as we sang in the hymn, “The stillness of that sacred grove was broken, as the serpent strove with tempting voice Eve to beguile and Adam too by sin defile.”

So that was the temptation. Sneaky-like, as I say. And isn’t that how the devil works? Isn’t that how he works with you? His strength is in his sneakiness, in his subtleness. Haven’t you experienced this? I know I have. The devil gets you to take your mind off of God’s goodness and his good commands. Instead, the tempter gets us to focus on ourselves, on our desires, on our desires apart from God. “Hey, look at that shiny object? Doesn’t it look good? Wouldn’t that be nice? Why shouldn’t you have it? Go ahead!”

Well, it worked on Eve, and then it worked on Adam too. Adam should have put a stop to this nonsense. After all, he had gotten the command straight from God. But no, instead he listened to the temptation from the devil that had come to him through the woman. He took the forbidden fruit and ate. And man fell into sin–and dragged the whole lot of us down with him, because we all do the same thing, namely, not fearing, loving, and trusting in God above all things. We’re all like our papa. We all have that old Adam lurking within us.

So man began to run and hide. We felt our guilt and our shame, and we tried to hide from God. Like that’s gonna happen! No, the all-seeing, all-knowing God knows where we are, no matter how we try to hide. “In Adam we have all been one, one huge rebellious man; we all have fled that evening voice that sought us as we ran.”

But God seeks us out, and God finds us, cowering and hiding as guilty as hell. And then the blame game begins. Man blames the woman, and in so doing, he really is blaming God, for giving him the woman in the first place. And then the woman blames the serpent. “The devil made me do it!” she cries. Nobody wants to accept responsibility for his or her own sin. We’ve always got to blame someone else. We still do that today, don’t we?

Well, then it comes down to the devil. The serpent is next in line. And in the curse placed upon the serpent, the devil in disguise–in the curse on the devil, there is imbedded in it, at the same time, a beautiful promise given by God to mankind. Here comes the gospel in the garden!

Genesis 3:15, that is the key verse. There the Lord God says to the serpent, “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.” This verse, Genesis 3:15, is known as the first gospel promise in the Bible. The “Protevangelium” is the fancy term for this, the “First Gospel.”

So how is this curse on the serpent good news for mankind? Let me explain. It starts out by recognizing the perennial, adversarial relationship between the devil and his kingdom versus the woman and all of humanity that would come forth from her: ““I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring.” “Enmity” is hostility, and the devil and his hordes have been hostile to us ever since. St. Peter writes, “Your adversary the devil prowls round like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

So there is this enmity, this hostility that exists between the devil and us humans, the offspring of Eve. But notice that: The verse talks about the woman’s “offspring.” Another way to translate that is the woman’s “seed.” And that is a very unusual way to put it. Usually the Bible will talk about the man’s seed. But this says the woman’s seed. Hold that thought.

And now the offspring, the seed, is not just collective, for all of humanity. Now it narrows down to one seed, one offspring: “He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Remember, this is God speaking to the devil here. And he says that one of the woman’s offspring, one particular seed of the woman, will strike the devil in the head. And this will be at the same time as the devil strikes the woman’s seed in the heel. Picture someone stomping on a serpent’s head even as that snake lashes out at the person’s heel. The difference is in the location of where the blow is landed. To stomp on the serpent’s head is to crush him, to deal him a fatal death blow. So even as the devil is striking out at the woman’s seed, in that very act, the woman’s seed will be crushing the power of the devil.

Now do you see how this is the first gospel promise? This is a prophecy, the very first one, of what Jesus would do for us! Jesus is the seed of the woman who crushes the devil’s head! And notice the delicious bit of irony here. The devil brought down mankind through the woman, Eve. But God chose to bring down the devil also through a woman, this time through Mary, of whom was born the Savior, Jesus Christ. Jesus is the seed of the woman who crushes the serpent’s head, and he did it even as the serpent strikes his heel, as the nails were driven through his feet and hands on the cross!

Jesus is the woman’s seed–literally! Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He was not the physical son of Joseph. But Jesus shares our humanity by being born the seed of the woman. He is our brother. He is like us in every respect, except without sin. He is our brother. He knows our weaknesses. He knows our temptations. He knows how vulnerable we would be to the devil. But Jesus defeats the devil for us!

And he does it in the most surprising way: by going to the cross for us. Jesus willingly lets the serpent bite him in the heel, in order thereby to stomp that old snake on the head! Jesus deals the devil the death blow! Now the accuser has nothing to accuse you of anymore! Your sins have been forgiven, atoned for, by the holy blood of God’s own Son. This is God’s rescue plan for humanity. Sin is forgiven, death is defeated–the resurrection proves that–and all of Satan’s might has come undone.

The strong man Satan has met his match, and then some! Jesus is the stronger one, and now he is plundering the strong man’s goods. “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” “Jesus has come as the mighty Redeemer. See now the threatening strong one disarmed!” “Satan, you wicked one, own now your master! Jesus has come! He, the mighty Redeemer!” And so Jesus leads you out of the devil’s domain and into his kingdom of light and life–eternal life, and new life even now!

And God had this all planned out even from the get-go. Even from the fall into sin, God’s plan was to rescue us and bring us into eternal life, precisely through the woman’s seed, Jesus Christ. “Where sin abounded, grace abounded all the more.” “What mercy God showed to our race, a plan of rescue by His grace; in sending One from woman’s seed, the One to fill our greatest need.” Dear friends, rejoice today! For this was–and is, and ever will be–the gospel in the garden.

Published in: on June 10, 2018 at 12:22 am  Leave a Comment  
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