Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Old Testament, which was read earlier.
Everyone loves a good story. And what makes a good story? Usually, it would start with, “Once upon a time” and end with “And they lived happily ever after.” There is often a situation that needs to be resolved in the story and the main characters are the one who resolve the problem. This morning, we have a story that has all the makings of an epic story, though this story is not a fairytale story, though it will have a fairytale ending.
God’s epic story begins with creation and leads us to the first two people that God created, Adam and Eve. Things couldn’t be better for Adam and Eve. They lived in the Garden of Eden and had everything that they could ever need. They enjoyed intimate walks with God, Creator and creation coming together and enjoying one another’s company. The first chapter of this book is perfect, just as it should be. It’s not until you get to chapter three that things begin taking a turn for the worse.
The opening verse of the chapter sets the tone of how things will be from here on out: “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made.” When you read a verse like that, this sets up for you the problem of the story that will need to be resolved.
When God placed Adam and Eve into the Garden, there was a single, simple rule that must be followed: eat from anything in the Garden except one tree, for when they do, they will surely die. It sounds as if it’s a pretty straight-forward rule with a straight-forward consequence. However, the serpent had something else in mind. With a single question, the problem begins to present itself: “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” Something enters the equation that wasn’t present before: doubt. Up until now, creation obeyed the Creator, no questions asked, and why shouldn’t they? With a simple question from the serpent, doubt comes racing into creation and leads to the problem of the story – creation disobeys the Creator. Adam and Eve eat from the forbidden tree and things are forever changed.
Now the consequence of their actions is made known by God. Eve will experience pain in childbirth. While childbirth can be painful, that doesn’t sound as bad of a consequence as Eve could have received. However, for Adam, the consequence is much more dire, more so in fact that it reaches to all of creation. The worst part of the consequence is the second half of it: “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.”
It’s here that we reach the climax of the problem in our story: the main characters are going to die. It is because of their actions that they will experience a temporal death. That trickles down throughout all of creation to every man, woman, and child. Because of our first parents, we will experience death. That is more than Satan could have ever expected. He wants God’s creation to simply doubt the words of the Creator. For creation to experience death, that truly is the best thing that Satan could have ever hoped for.
It sounds as if this story isn’t going to have a happy ending. But God already wrote the happy ending into the story and if you blinked, you might have missed it. The happy ending actually comes before the consequences. “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.” The happy ending is that you will have life after death! Even though Adam and Eve broke God’s single command, God has the perfect answer to the problem at hand: He is going to send a Redeemer to buy back Adam and Eve. That same Redeemer will buy you back as well, since you are God’s beloved creation.
Listen to what Paul says in our Epistle reading: “For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many…. 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.”
The happy ending comes through Jesus. The happy ending comes through the main character of the story. While in the beginning it seemed as if the main characters were Adam and Eve, they were only the supporting characters of the story. The main character was from the beginning Jesus, because this story is all about Jesus. It is about the promise of Jesus in the beginning. In the middle of the story, it’s about what Jesus is going to do. Towards the end of the story, we see what it is that Jesus does. We see how Jesus lives the perfect live that God demands and dies the death that you and I deserve. Our death accomplishes nothing while Jesus’ death accomplishes salvation for all who believe in Him.
This story plays itself out exactly as God had planned it. Jesus our great High Priest does all that we cannot. He defeats sin, death, and the devil. He does that by bring tried, convicted, and crucified. On what grounds was He tried? He was tried on the grounds that He was the Son of God, the promised Messiah of long ago come to fulfill the prophecies of old.
While judged as a heretic for making such a claim, it is by the truth of that claim is He able to do for us what He does. As the Son of God, He is able to make atonement to God on behalf of creation. As the Son of God, He is able to clothe us in His righteousness so that we may stand before God as holy and redeemed people. Jesus gives His holy, innocent, precious blood in exchange for creation.
Jesus kept the promise that God made to the serpent. He is the seed of the woman who crushed the serpent’s head. What a glorious victory for Christ and for us. Jesus endured temptation for us and never fell. Although He lived among sinners in a sinful world, He never sinned. He is the Lord our righteousness. With His suffering and death on the cross, He took all our sin to Himself and gave us the righteousness He lived with His perfect life. Because of this incredibly unfair exchange, God examines us and declares us holy and righteous for the sake of Christ.
This story ends with a happy ending. Christ dies, and yet He lives. Creation dies, and yet creation lives. Creation is restored to the Creator, just as it was meant to be from the beginning. We will live with Christ because of His sacrifice for us, so that we may stand before God as His holy and redeemed people. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.