They Lost It All… Because of a Tree
A sermon based on Genesis 3:1-15
Sunday, March 13, 2011 – Lent 1A
Earlier this year, two men in South Carolina, brothers-in-law, were both hospitalized due to gunshot wounds received by each other. The one man's father, the other's father-in-law, was imprisoned for attempted murder for pitting his son against his son-in-law. And the dispute all started over the refusal of one man to remove a tree from his father-in-law's property. That's a lot of trouble over one tree.
Back in August of last year Lebanese and Israeli troops exchanged gunfire when an Israeli soldier tried to remove a tree on the border to improve lines of sight. But that tree, said the Lebanese, wasn't the Israelis'. They said it was really in Lebanese territory. Now four men are dead. That's a lot of trouble over one tree.
And events like these are nothing new. In fact, all the trouble that you've ever experienced in life, every sickness or disease, every heartache or pain, every frustration or annoyance, is all because of one tree. Ever since Adam and Eve rebelled against God in the Garden of Eden and ate the fruit of the one tree God told them never to eat from, sin and its effects have plagued mankind. That's a lot of trouble because of one tree.
Adam and Eve enjoyed paradise, a perfect relationship with God, and perfect peace with him. But they lost it all because of a tree. That's a lot of trouble over one tree. Listen again to the account of the fall into sin, recorded for us in Genesis 3:1-15…
1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?"
2 The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, 'You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.' "
4 "You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. 5 "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."
6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man, "Where are you?"
10 He answered, "I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid."
11 And he said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?"
12 The man said, "The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it."
13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, "What is this you have done?"
The woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate."
14 So the Lord God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this, "Cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. 15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel."
I. They Lost Paradise Because of a Tree
Paradise lost! And all because of a tree! God didn't give Adam and Eve ten commandments; only one: "the LORD God commanded the man, 'You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.'" (Genesis 2:16-17) But that one proved too difficult to keep. In a single act of rebellion against a kind, loving, and doting God, they lost it all.
And they had no excuse. Oh, they tried to pass the blame. Adam's excuse was that was that it was all Eve's fault. Eve's excuse was that she was deceived by the serpent. And worse, they blamed God! Did you catch that in Adam's response? He didn't just blame Eve, but said, "The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it." In other words, "God this is your fault! You said it was not good for me to be alone. But you were wrong!" What nerve! Try as they may to make excuses, they were still responsible for their actions. They rebelled against God.
And as a result they lost.
They lost paradise and were kicked out of the garden. And lest they try to reenter, God put angels with a flaming sword to guard the entrance. (cf. Genesis 3:24) But they lost more than just paradise. They lost the image of God. They lost the ability to think like God and talk like God and act like God. They lost their innocence and gained shame and fear and foolishness. They lost lost their love for each other and looked at each other differently than before. They lost everything… and all because of a tree.
You know, satan's not that creative. He doesn't have too any new tricks to tempt us that are any different than what he used with Adam and Eve. But the sad thing is that he doesn't need new tricks. We keep falling for the same old ones.
satan still deceives us with the same old tactics: "Does God really say…?" he still asks, getting us to doubt God's Word. "Does he really say, 'Love your enemies'? Come on! They deserve your unkind treatment." "Does he really say, 'Lust is as bad as adultery?' Who are you really hurting by your thoughts?" "Does he really say, 'Worship is necessary to grow in your faith'? You can stay close to God all by yourself. You don't need the encouragement of others."
"God isn't looking out for you," he still lies, getting us to doubt God's love. "God's just trying to withhold his blessing from you. He knows if you live a selfish life you'll really be happy. But God doesn't want that. He wants to hold you back. He wants life to be boring. So live it up! Serve yourself! Forget about God!"
And before we blame Adam and Eve for ruining everything, we'd better consider how we behave. Remember: Adam and Eve no reason to be suspicious. They may have been naïve, but remember that prior to this event, there was no such thing as a lie. But we, on the other hand, know better. We've been fairly warned. We know that satan is looking to destroy our bodies and souls in hell, we've seen how he operates, but we still fall for the same old tricks.
And make all the excuses you want: "It's not my fault! If my spouse were nicer to me, then I wouldn't be so rude back." "It's not my fault! If my kids were more obedient, then I'd be more patient." "It's not my fault! If my boss were more fair, then I'd work harder." But you know that there is no excuse for our sinful rebellion against God. It's not Adam and Eve's fault that you sin. It's not satan's fault that you sin. And it's certainly not God's fault that you sin. It is your fault that you sin. It's my fault that I sin.
And because of our rebellion against God, doing the things that are forbidden to us, we lose! We lose out on happy families. We lose out on peace in our lives. We lose out on clear consciences. And we lose out on the image of God. We deserve the curse of the snake: to crawl on our bellies and eat the dust all the days of our lives, then to return to dust in death. We deserve to lose out on paradise forever and to forever be separated from God.
And all this because of a tree.
II. They Lost Sin Because of a Tree
You know, when I'm looking for a good Children's Bible to read to my kids, I always look at this story first. The not-so-good Children's Bibles end the account with, "… Adam and Eve were kicked out of the garden." I say they're not-so-good, because they miss the highlight of this account. They never get to verse 15. You see, "Adam and Eve lost image of God and lost the paradise they once enjoyed," is NOT the final answer. In a sense, God saw Adam and Eve's loss and cried, "Rematch!" That's what he said to satan in verse 15:
15 And I will put enmity [or hatred] between you [satan] and the woman [Eve], and between your offspring and hers; he [an individual, one of Eve's offspring] will crush your head, and you [satan] will strike his heel."
Adam and Eve lost. But another would come to resume the fight in their place. Enter the sub! One of Eve's offspring… Jesus.
Satan would strike the first blow. Tempting Jesus to rebel against God just as Adam and Eve did. "Can you really trust God's Word when he says he'll provide for you?" "God doesn't really love you! Test his love by jumping!" "God's holding out on you. He doesn't want you to have any fun. But worship me. I'll give you everything." But Jesus struck back. He resisted every temptation and lived a perfect life free from sin! He had no need for excuses since he perfectly obeyed God in all things!
Then satan struck a vicious blow on Good Friday. Manipulating Judas and Caiaphas, Herod and Pilate, he succeeded in killing his Adversary, in having the very Son of God mocked… and beaten… scourged… and humiliated… crucified, tortured to death… covered in nothing but shame. satan crushed Jesus' heel and it looked like he won. But…
The Offspring of the Woman struck back! And by his very death on the cross, he undid satan's foul work in the Garden of Eden! And when he rose from the dead, he crushed satan's head! He proved his total domination over all satan had worked so hard for. By the empty tomb he proved his total victory!
And by Jesus' work, Adam and Eve lost… their sin. They lost it all because of a tree; because of Jesus' cross. Their rebellion against God's one commandment… gone! Their excuses for their open rebellion… gone! The way they looked at each other naked, thinking how they could use—instead of love—each another… gone! They lost it all because of a tree: Paul wrote in Galatians 3:13: "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: 'Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.'"
Yes, their consequences still remained. Thorns and thistles, sweat and pain, troubled relationships, and death would be the result of their rebellion. But peace with God would endure. And by clinging to the promise of their coming Savior, paradise would be restored to Adam and Eve about 900 years later. When their bodies returned to the dust from which they came, their souls went to the paradise of heaven. And all because of a tree!
And dear friends, it is no different for us. The Offspring of the woman came to serve as not only the substitute for Adam and Eve, but for you and me too! He came to resist satan's attacks in our place. He came to live the perfect life for you and me. He came to die—on a tree—for you and me!
And now, you know what happens to our sin because of the way he crushed satan's head: we lose it all! Our rebellion against God's Ten Commandments… all gone! Our excuses for our open rebellion against God's will… all gone! The way we try to use and manipulate others… all gone. All of our sin! We lost it all because of a tree. "Christ redeemed US from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for US, for it is written: 'Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.'"
And yes, our consequences will still remain. Our thorns and thistles, our sweat and pain, our troubled relationships, and finally death will still be the result of our rebellion. But we can even thank God for those consequences because they serve as a reminder of our rebellion. They lead us to repent of our sin and turn again to the Offspring of the woman and look to him in faith.
And through our Savior, peace with God will endure for us. And by clinging to the promise of our returning Savior, paradise will be restored to us. When our Savior returns, or when our bodies return to the dust from which they came, our souls will go to the paradise of heaven. And all because of a tree!
Now, dear friends, we stop making excuses for our sin, and we strive with all of our might to serve the One who won for us, and gave us everything… because of a tree. In Jesus' name, amen.