The Covering of Christ the Conqueror
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Delivered By
Rev. Jonathan Gruen
Delivered On
March 9, 2014
Central Passage
Genesis 3:1-21
Description

Rev. Jonathan Gruen
Genesis 3:1-21

 

The Covering of Christ the Conqueror

            My fellow, fallen yet saved sisters and brothers.  Our monumental task today is to take a brief look at Genesis chapter 3, a chapter worthy of weeks, months, years of study and reflection.  It is a chapter that is fundamental to the Christian faith, even though our world, and sadly, even many so-called Christians will regard it as myth.  I suppose anyone has that right, the right to believe the Devil himself as he whispers, “did God really say…?” just as he said it to Eve so long ago.  But the fact is, the Bible itself does not regard the account as myth.  The New Testament alone quotes, refers, or alludes to Genesis 3 in Luke, John, Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, Hebrews, 1 John, and Revelation, according to only a very quick search I conducted.  Thus it is very difficult to toss Genesis 3 out the window as myth without also dismissing the rest of God’s Word.

            This true account of humanity’s fall into sin gives us who believe it the proper frame of reference and the correct world view for understanding what is happening in our world, and sets the stage for us to be prepared to learn what God is doing about it.  And if anyone should choose to reject it as legend or an invention of the weak, well then I guess at least they still have to wrestle with the fact that we live in a fallen world, in a creation that is subjected to corruption, a life of sickness, pain, and death.  On that we can agree, even the most spiritually blinded person believing the darkest deception of the Devil.  You don’t need the Bible to tell you we are in a world of pain, suffering, and death.  But you do need the Bible to tell you what to make of it.  And you need the Bible to tell you that there is hope, there is rescue, there is the promise of life. 

            In Genesis chapter 2, we are given some background concerning the tree in question.  We hear this, “The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.  And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good an devil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die’” (Gen. 2:15-17).  Every day that Adam and Eve would tend and work the garden as instructed, every day that they would live in peace and love for one another, every day that they would walk and talk with God, every day that they would not eat from that particular tree, they would be expressing their thankfulness, their love, their appreciation to God for all his works.  Every day they would be at peace with God, holy and perfect, in his image.  They had the opportunity to be obedient, just as we have the opportunity to obey God, walk in his ways, and express our gratitude and love for him with a holy life.  And any attempts to blame God for the fall is, again, a lie of the Devil himself.

            So Adam and Eve had the opportunity to worship, thank, and love God by avoiding the tree, and they did.  They did, at least, until the event in our text.  Satan, described in Scripture as a dragon, or ancient serpent, the deceiver of the world, came to Adam and Eve in the garden.  He came in the form of a serpent, or maybe even possessed one, and tempted Eve.  Notice the nature of the temptation.  First, he causes doubt, saying, “Did God really say…?”  Satan is still up to the same old tricks, causing you to doubt that God really meant the commands he gave, or to doubt that God really calls you forgiven, loved, an heir of Christ through baptism.  Satan wants you to doubt God’s power so that you despair, or so that you rely on yourself.  Did God really say it?

            Second, Satan will twist God’s Word.  It is evident here as he misquotes God.  Satan says, “Did God really say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?’”  Now, Eve does disagree with the serpent, but there’s some debate over the correctness of her reply.  But no matter what you make of her response, we see the tempter at work—his twisting, confusing, deceiving ways.  And he’s still up to his tricks.  He continues to do all he can to twist and distort the confession of God’s people and the doctrine of the Church.  Therefore we must always be on guard, dwelling in the Word of God, acting like the people in Berea, who examined everything St. Paul said by returning the Scripture themselves.  We must also, because Satan will twist.

            Third, Satan gave a flat out rejection of God’s Word.  First doubt, then a twist, then a rejection.  Satan proclaims, “You will not surely die!”  And this, I fear, is where our society is as a whole.  If we’re not there yet, we’re heading towards it.  Our society rejects what God’s Word says about the creation of everything, about how humans are the crown of God’s creation (and therefore all human life is precious), about how God instituted and blessed marriage for a man and a woman for lifetime in the perfection of the garden, and how it is the Devil’s fault for deceiving and human’s fault for rebelling against God that we have sin, suffering, and death in this world—it is not God’s fault.  Our society will reject all of that, and that’s only Genesis chapters 1, 2, and 3.  That’s barely getting started on the truth that God’s Word teaches.

           Now here’s what’s at stake.  All those who reject the truth of our fall into sin will also reject the notion of a Savior who has come to rescue.  They have no need of a Savior, they think.  They certainly have no need for a righteous life.  And so Christ is also discarded.  Let us hope and pray that the unrest they feel, the suffering of life, the torments of guilt, and the prodding of the Holy Spirit awaken them to the truth in time.

            Now, fourth in Satan’s temptations and perhaps worst of all, he offers a false yet seductive substitute to what God offers.  Satan tells Eve that God is keeping them from being like him, that actually the forbidden fruit will give them knowledge.  Eve is tempted both by the desire to gain knowledge and be like God, and the desire for good food.  We know that the Devil is still up to his old tricks.  Satan will manipulate our desires, even holy ones, to lead us away from God’s Will.  He will use our mental, emotional, physical desires to lure us astray.  Be on guard.  He is crafty and cunning.

            And when Adam and Eve eat, they are fallen. They die spiritually, and they begin to die physically.  They are now filled with guilt and shame when before they had never known it.  Now they hide their nakedness from one another, suddenly self-conscious that the union of their relationship had been broken.  They hide from God, as they are now also aware that they are separated from him.  Now they are afraid.  And it is impossible to overemphasize how drastically the world changed, how far humans fell, how corrupt now even all creation has become.

            We still feel its affects today.  We have experienced in recent past in wars that were localized or world-wide.  Many of you remember practicing drills in case of nuclear fallout.  Our eyes are on Russia and Ukraine with great concern, even as they have often been on North Korea and the Middle East.  We cringe when we hear of earthquakes and tsunamis, for these events terrify us and draw us out of our artificial happy-go-lucky existences.  The world is fallen, and every sickness, pain, or death reminds us.

            And by the sweat of our brow we must eat bread.  Even if we are not farmers, we have felt it.  We work, we toil, we labor.  And perhaps we have little or nothing to show for it.  Or perhaps we are amply provided for, but it comes at a cost, and wealth itself is a burden to those who possess it.

            We have felt the fall.  Our marriages are not perfect, but husband and wife get angry, fight, disagree, have conflict, cause hurt, and are in constant need of forgiveness and a new start.  Parents and children often have stresses and strains on their relationship, sometimes from outside but often within.  Disobedience, disrespect, discouragement often rule the day.  Brothers and sisters fight and bicker, and even become alienated from each other.  Friends hurt friends.  And people become or make new enemies every day.  Sin separates us from one another.  And sin has eternally separated us from God.  Forever…

            Except that God is merciful!  And even as Adam and Eve learned of the curse of sin and were driven from the garden and from the tree of life, God graciously clothed them with animal skins.  Their very clothes were a reminder that they were now mortal (for they were made from deceased animals), and that they lived in certain death.  But, as they went, they had a covering made by God to hide their shame.  And they went with a promise ringing in their ears.  The promise of one to crush the serpent’s head.  You see, God spoke the first promise of the Savior as he cursed the serpent, saying, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall strike your head, and you shall strike his heel.”

            The promise makes it clear that even though Adam and Eve now live in sin and death, there would come one, the seed (offspring, descendent) of woman who would inflict a mortal blow, trampling the Devil underfoot.  He would be fully human, offspring of woman, yet he would have great power to win victory for all humanity, though he would be struck and mortally injured in the process.

            So in our Gospel reading today, we see that Savior, Jesus Christ, True God and yet offspring of a woman, thus also True Man, go into battle with the Devil.  He is our Valiant One.  He is the one who fights for us.  He is the Word Incarnate, that one little Word that can fell the Devil.  Satan tempts him, twists God’s Word, flat out denies and rejects Gods’ Word.  He tempts Jesus’ desires of body and soul, but Jesus perseveres.  And Jesus overcomes.  It is a battle that is infinity times more intense than it appears.  For the eternal fate of all hangs in the balance.  Satan wants to disrupt and thwart God’s plan of salvation, and he sees the weakness of Jesus’ flesh as an opportunity.  But it is of no avail.  Jesus stands strong.  Jesus remains holy, righteous, and perfect.

            And then Jesus heads to the cross to win the war and beat the Devil with a big ugly stick.  Here is really where the battle becomes fiercest.  Satan tempts Jesus to escape the pain and sacrifice.  Satan tempts him to use his power to destroy.  Satan tempts Jesus to hate the Father and reject him. Satan sees the bleeding flesh of Jesus which is heaving in pain as an opportunity.  But it is of no avail.  Jesus remains strong.  And Jesus cries out that the war is finished.  He commends himself into the Father’s hands.  And he dies, so that he might forge the way through death to the Father, so that we who are in him and follow him might ourselves have safe passage.  Satan is cast down.  His head is crushed.  The war is won.  The cross becomes our tree of life!

            Christ is the conqueror.  And his mercy reconciles us to God and gives us life!  Romans 5 assures us: “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly…God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.  For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life…For if, because of one man’s trespass [Adam’s], 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” (Romans 5, select verses).

            You see, like Adam and Eve, we have hope and life in the promise of the Savior who wins victory for us.  And like Adam and Eve, we are provided clothing by God to hide our shame.  God doesn’t tailor animal skins for us, but the very righteousness of Jesus.  Through St. Paul God assures us, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:27).  And, “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Romans 13:14).

            Friends, this covering gives us a new life, a new start.  Reconciled to God, we can also forgive each other and be reconciled to each other.  Though sin still causes disruptions among us, we now have the power to overcome it through forgiveness, love, and patience, as we bear each other’s burdens, and sometimes bear with each other. 

            Colossians 3 shows us how the covering of Christ the conqueror helps us in our every day life.  It says, “Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.  And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.”

            That life sure looks quite a bit different than the one that society promotes, that the Devil espouses, and that our own sinful nature craves, doesn’t it?  It sure does.  And we give thanks for it, for the alternative is the way of death.  We have felt it.  We know it.  It gives no peace.  But now we have peace with God.

            My fellow, fallen but saved sisters and brothers, be of good cheer.  Though the nations rage and foam, and though devils all the world should fill, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you” (Romans 16:20).  Amen.