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Posts Tagged "Genesis 3:1-21"

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March 01, 2020
By Rev. Peter Heckert

+ Grace to you, and peace, from God our heavenly Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. + Amen.

The text for our meditation for this first Lententide weekend comes from our Old Testament text, where Moses writes, “And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.” Here ends our text; dear Christian friends…

We know this pericope all too well. Eve had been beguiled by the serpent – Satan in physical form – and her husband had failed to stop her. From the sounds of it, he was right there with her as the snake goaded her on saying, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Instead of fulfilling his God-given vocation of protecting his wife as her husband, he just went with the flow and followed her lead. Then, we are told, “the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked.” They knew good and evil, they knew their own sin, and consequently, when they heard the sound of YHWH walking through the garden in the cool of the day, they were rightly terrified.

Well, you know how it continues: God calls out to them, knowing full well where the man and woman were and what they had done, but giving them this opportunity to repent. In a fashion that is all too familiar to us all, we see the first husband and wife play the blame-game, with Adam blaming Eve, and Eve blaming the serpent. Not that anything they said was factually wrong or dishonest, mind you, but rather that neither of them claimed the Mea culpa of contrition and repentance. Neither took responsibility for their actions, and thus remained unrepentant.

In the wake of this remorseless confession, God pronounces His judgment over all involved: utter and complete defeat for the serpent at the hands of the seed of Woman, pain in childbearing and a desire for lordship over her husband for the woman, hardship in vocation and weakness of spine for the man, and ultimately the introduction of sin’s fruit – death – into the once perfect creation. And we see the very first death in the wake of this pronouncement. Not the death of Adam, or his newly-named wife Eve … we see the death of an innocent animal.

We’re not told what kind of animal it was. We’re not given the details of how God killed it. All Moses tells us is that YHWH God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them. Sometimes when this is portrayed, you see the man and woman covered in these freshly slaughtered skins, even with some blood dripping down their bodies as they leave the garden in disgrace and shame.

If this seems unfair to you, that some innocent animal, newly created, had to be killed in order to cover the shame of the doofus man and woman who broke things in the first place, you’d be right, because it is unfair. Nothing about what Adam and Eve did is fair to the rest of God’s good creation – indeed, in light of humanity’s vocation to care for that creation, their failure to keep God’s singular commandments takes on the tone of betrayal. But this is what sin does, and the only way to rectify it … is through the shedding of innocent blood. In this case, one of God’s creatures, having done no wrong, had to die in order to cover the shame of those first sinners, our first parents.

This is the reality, my friends. The only way to pay, to atone for sin … is by shedding innocent blood. Blood is life, and sin – regardless of the “size” or “scope” thereof requires the payment of life. Atonement for sin, ironically enough, requires death. This is why YHWH gave the Israelites the sacrificial system.

But even that sacrificial system was untenable; it worked on a temporary basis, but not an eternal one. Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, was a once-a-year holy day on which the high priest would offer sacrifices for himself and on behalf of the people. At YHWH’s prescription, the people had the promise that these sacrifices and the sprinkling of blood really would atone for their sins … but another year would roll around and they’d have to do it again. And again. And again. They would have to offer the same sacrifices every year because they’d need it again … every year. Truthfully, they’d need it every day, every hour, every second. The terminal illness of sin rears its ugly head almost the moment the atonement would be paid. Repentant though the people likely were, they could not rid themselves of the disease. What they needed … what they had been promised … was a Messiah, an Anointed One, who would not need to make atonement for himself, as Aaron did, but would be Himself an innocent sacrifice. They needed Jesus.

He’s more truly human than we are, having done what Adam and Eve and every human being since has failed to do: resist every temptation. In our gospel lesson, we get a glimpse of His perfection, hearing how the same damned serpent tried, once again, to tempt true Man. He rebuffs every temptation with the piercing two-edged sword of God’s Word. Truthfully, were it anyone else (including you and me), we would have failed epically. We would have caved to those wilderness temptations faster than you can blink. Not Jesus. He maintained His innocence … and for good reason.

The sin of Adam and Eve, the sin of every human being since, your sin, my sin … it all requires atonement. Payment. Like our first parents, our shame needs to be covered, and just as God had to kill one of His innocent creatures, we needed Jesus, an innocent victim, to be slaughtered on our behalf. Paul reminded the Corinthians that, “For our sake [God] made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” The One who had resisted the devil’s guiling in the desert became the embodiment of sin so that we, who cave to every temptation, can be forgiven. His torture, the breaking of His flesh and the shedding of His blood on Calvary’s holy mountain, accomplished the once-for-all atonement that the sum of all sacrifices throughout history could never hope to achieve. “Not all the blood of beasts on Jewish altars slain could give the guilty conscience peace or wash away the stain! But Christ, the heavenly Lamb, takes all our sins away; a sacrifice of nobler name and richer blood than they!”

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: sin is deadly serious business, and we do need to take it as such. There’s no such thing as a sin that harms only you; whether your actions have harmed another sinful human being or not, your sin does require atonement that you cannot hope to pay. Somebody’s gotta foot that bill to cover your shame, but like our first parents, it ain’t gonna be you. I have no idea what kind of animal God slaughtered to cover the shame of our first parents … but we do know and trust that the sinless Lamb of God was slaughtered for us all, and He has clothed us in His righteousness.

+ In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. + Amen.

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