First Sunday in Lent

February 21, 2010

“Adam, Christ, and the Christian” Genesis 3, 15

 “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” 

They mock the idea of a talking snake but they are powerless in the face of evil.  They cannot overcome the evil surrounding them.  They can’t overcome the evil within them.  In fact, it controls them.  It defines them.  It guides and directs them to death.  “From dust you are and to dust you shall return.”  They go to the ground from which they were taken. 

They call the biblical account of creation and the fall a religious myth.  But they are living real lives and the reality of demonic power is as evident as the rising and the setting of the sun.  Evil has a source.  He is the devil.  Jesus called him a liar and the father of lies.  When he set out to deceive Eve he took on the form of a snake. The devil is a fallen angel.  He has no body.  Angels are spirit beings.  The devil was an archangel, a leader of angels who led a rebellion of about a third of the angels against God.  When this happened, we do not know.  It was after the sixth day of creation.  Everything God made was very good.  That included the angels.  They had no desire to rebel.  God didn’t create them to rebel.  The rebellion came from Satan’s pride.  The root sin that caused the devil’s fall from grace was pride.  This is the sin that he instilled in the human race when he led our first parents into sin. 

The Bible says that Eve was deceived but that Adam disobeyed.  God gave the command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil to Adam and through Adam to Eve.  Eve was deceived.  Adam embraced the deception into which she fell and made it his own personal sin.  This is what thrust the human race into sin. The word “devil” means slanderer.  The word “Satan” means accuser.  The devil’s power is in what he says.  He talks to the woman.  He enters into dialogue with her.  He engages in an interchange of ideas.  Think.  Think for yourself.  Why would God give such a command?  Why should God do so?  What is it that God is withholding from you? Of course, she wasn’t thinking for herself.  She was thinking as the liar and the father of lies wanted her to think.  When it comes to spiritual matters one is either a child of God or a slave of the devil.  There is no middle neutral ground.  The minute the devil opens his mouth to speak he is lying.  He is lying because he attacks the goodness of God.  He claims that God does not really have your best interests in mind. Eat.  God says no.  But he doesn’t want what’s best for you.  Eat.  Adam said yes.  Jesus said no.  “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”  If God’s word is treasured as more important than what pleases the eye and the appetite then what we see and feel will not be able to lead us away from God.  We will know God, not by what we see and not by what we feel but by what God says.  His word defines who he is.  His word determines what his will is.  His word, not what we see and not what we feel. Adam followed the woman he was supposed to lead.  Instead of protecting her from the liar and father of lies he ordained her as his pastor and put her into the preaching office.  She followed her feelings and Adam followed her.  She was deceived by her own feelings.  Adam was not deceived.  He sinned deliberately.  He wanted what the devil promised.  He cast aside dependence on God.  God couldn’t be trusted.  So said Adam as he listened to the voice of his wife and shut out the voice of God. 

All mankind fell in Adam’s fall

One common sin infects us all;
From sire to son the bane descends,
And over all the curse impends.    

The result of that sin was death and everything associated with death: sickness, suffering, tragedy, and sadness.  The result of that sin was a sinful nature, a constant inclination toward sin.  Since the fall of Adam we are born with sinful desires and we are on our way to the grave. You cannot shut out the Author of life without shutting out life itself.  God’s word creates.  It is not just words.  It is the almighty power by which the world was made.  God said, “Let there be,” and there was.  When Adam rejected God’s word in favor of human feelings he forfeited his life and the life of all his descendants. God cursed the ground on account of Adam’s sin.  He pronounced the verdict of death upon him and all his descendants.  But first he cursed the serpent.  God said: “I will put enmity between you and the woman.” 

Clearly, God wasn’t just talking to snake.  The word “enmity” gives it away.  This is hatred.  It is abiding hatred.  It is war.  One cannot predicate enmity of a snake.  It can be said only of an intelligent being capable of plotting and carrying out war.  In short, God was declaring war against the devil. Note well the order of things.  Before God told the woman she would suffer in childbirth and that submitting to her husband would be a painful thing for her; before telling Adam that his labor would no longer be pure joy but that nature itself would be turned against him; before he pronounced the verdict of death upon the sinful man and woman he declared war against the one who led them into sin. That declaration of war was a promise of deliverance for Adam and Eve. 

We read: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed.”  The enmity between the devil and the woman would continue down throughout history.  It would continue as enmity – conflict, war, hatred – between the devil’s seed and the woman’s seed. 

The devil’s seed is all those who follow his word.  It is those who reject God’s word out of their own pride and choose instead to follow their own feelings.  They imagine that they are free but they aren’t.  They are the seed of the devil.  Jesus said of those who rejected his word: 

You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.  John 8, 44 

The devil’s seed are those who follow the devil’s religion.  It is a religion grounded in pride.  Its standards are human feelings.  The religion is a lie because its author is a liar.   

But who is the seed of the woman?  A woman has no seed.  A man does.  When the Old Testament speaks of descendents as seed it always speaks of the descendents of the father.  Fathers have seed.  Mothers don’t.  Why a woman’s seed?  Because the Savior would have no human father.  He would have a mother but no father.  His mother would be a virgin. “He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”  The virgin born seed of the woman would bruise the serpent’s head.  That’s how to kill a snake.  You crush his head. 

But how would he be able to do it?  If Adam in his innocence could not prevail against the devil, how could another man do any better even if he was born of a virgin and preserved from original sin?  Why should one innocent man prevail against the devil – crushing his lying head – when the first innocent man failed? He would need to be more than a mere man.  He would need to be God in the flesh.  Only God could destroy the power of the devil.  But only a man could take the place of sinful humanity.  God would become a man.  He became a man in the womb of the Virgin Mary.  As a man he crushed the head of the devil. He did so by his obedience.  Part and parcel of his obedience was his suffering.  His heal would be bruised.  He would pay a price.  There would be a cost.  The damage had to be undone and it could only be undone in the body of Jesus, the seed the woman, the God who loved and loves his fallen children. Christ’s obedience is both active and passive.  Today’s Gospel Lesson provides us with an example of Christ’s active obedience.  He actively did what God’s law required of us.  He obeyed God and drove away the devil with God’s word.  Christ’s crucifixion displays his passive obedience.  He doesn’t act.  He suffers the actions of others.  By Christ’s active and passive obedience to the law he takes away from the devil the power that the devil had gained over us when he led our first parents into sin. 

But Christ, the second Adam, came
To bear our sin and woe and shame,
To be our Life, our Light, our Way,
Our only Hope, our only Stay. 

Adam’s disobedience permeates our whole being.  We trust in our feelings and we place what we see over against what God says and stand in judgment of God.  That’s what we do and that’s sin. So we look to Jesus.  We see the second Adam strip the devil of his powers.  The devil lies and then accuses.  Jesus counters the devil’s lies with the truth and he silences the devil’s accusations by his obedience.  Just as surely as we fell when Adam fell we were made righteous when Jesus obeyed.  This is the clear teaching of God’s Word.  St. Paul writes in Romans 5, 19: “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.” 

We feel Adam’s sin and our own.  We look and see what we’ve done that is wrong.  The liar and the father of lies would tell us that the sin we feel inside of us defines and controls us.  This is how he leads so many to embrace the sin within themselves.  They pretend it is not sin.  They rely on their sinful feelings.  Looking at the answer within they are deceived by him who led Eve away from God’s word to trust in her own feelings.   He would deceive us as well.  But we know better.  We know him who crushed the devil’s lying mouth.  We know his word.  It contradicts our sinful feelings.  Those feelings are a lie.  We know God’s word.  It sets before us the victory of Jesus over our sin as he bore in his own body on the cross the sin of the whole world.  Looking at him dying in shame and disgrace we would feel his failure.  But we don’t base our faith on what we feel and see.  God’s word tells us that in this dying is our life for when and where Jesus obeys and suffers we are made to be righteous before God. 

That’s what we throw in the devil’s face.  When he attacks our faith, tempts us to sin, or reminds us of our past sins we shut his lying mouth by telling him that we are saints.  So says God’s word.  So says our baptism.  So says the Sacrament of Christ’s body and blood.  So says God.  When Jesus died on the cross he crushed the devil’s head.  When he rose from the dead he confirmed the truth of God’s gospel.  The gospel of the full and free forgiveness of all our sins for Christ’s sake is our weapon against the devil’s lies.  It shuts him up, drives him away, and gives us true peace.