“Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”
The woman stopped in place at the sound of the voice, one which was unfamiliar and familiar all at once, its pitch and sound unrecognizable to her ears yet the tone of the question spoken as if by a long-time friend. Each word was drawn out and the pacing rhythmical and seductive, something that piqued her curiosity yet made her the slightest bit uneasy, a feeling that was most definitely unfamiliar to her.
The most curious aspect of it all was that the voice had come from a snake. Difficult to believe, yes, but also undeniably true – the woman made herself aware of this as the long black body of the reptilian creature found upon four little legs slithered in a windingly rhythmic walk towards her, its golden eyes never leaving her own. Plus, her husband was nowhere around, so it surely couldn’t have been him. As the creature grew closer and closer, she felt a hint of uneasiness grow within her, but she pushed it away; there was no room for fear in this garden of peace.
She considered the question cautiously before answering, trying to look past the fact that an animal had spoken to her. She would have preferred her husband to have been with her – it was he who had heard the direct guidelines from God – but since he was off exploring some other part of the garden, she would have to merely recall what he had taught. After a moment: “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden… but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden. Neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” Not the exact truth – God had never made any instruction against touching the tree, as she had claimed – but the snake didn’t need to know that; the more dangerous the tree was in their minds, the less likely it was that they would mess with it.
“Die?” the snake laughed, something the woman had never considered possible from a snake. He began to walk towards the “forbidden tree” – which just so happened to be a few paces away, standing tall and bright, a clear landmark amongst the rest of the plants in the garden – and the woman followed, curious to see where the conversation was going. “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.” Wrapping his long torso around the trunk of the tree, he slithered his way up it, disappearing into the branches and sending a ripe fruit falling to the ground. Without thinking, she reached out and caught it.
She couldn’t help but look at the soft little orb before her, and even at that very first glance she couldn’t help but deny its beauty, the brightness of its color, and the apparent juiciness of its contents, all of which screamed up at her in knowing desire despite her knowledge of its forbidden nature. She turned it in her hand, running her thumbs along its smooth outer skin and allowing its sweet fragrance to pass up into her nostrils. She looked up at the serpent, who smiled at her with a knowing grin, as if he himself could see the desire in her eyes. She once again returned her eyes to the fruit, turning it over in her hands in deep consideration. Ever since her husband had told her of God’s one rule, she had never even questioned it, but now that the fruit was before her – in her very hands – she couldn’t help but question the reasoning behind it all. Why could they not eat this one fruit? What made it so special?
Was it not her husband who had also told her that God had created them in His own image, and that they were one with Him, created to have dominion over the earth He had created? If He – their almighty God and trusted companion – had the knowledge of both good and evil and He had knowingly created them to be one with Him, who was He to stop her from eating this fruit? Should she not have the same knowledge that He had? Should she not attain the same power that He had, thus becoming truly one? How could she be of His likeness if she did not know what He knew?
If her husband had spoken the truth, she was made in God's likeness, so who was He to place His will above her own? Could she not instead place her will above His and eat from the tree, becoming a god in her own right? Could her husband not do the same, and share the glories of supreme knowledge, of the eternal life that God Himself had? What the serpent said was surely true, and the woman suddenly knew it; in but a moment, her entire view of the world had changed.
Ever since her husband had told her the rules of the garden, she had obeyed that will without question, but now her own will was in conflict with it. She glanced once more at the snake, who smiled and nodded approvingly, and then back at the fruit within her hands – so luscious, so soft, so delightful.
Not Your will, but mine.
She bit into the fruit.
And with that bite – along with the bite her husband would take not too long afterward – humanity’s fate was sealed. Expelled from the garden by a perfect and holy God who can have no part in an unholy union, we were sentenced to death through our own selfishness and pride, our desire to place our will over God’s and try to attain the life we desired for ourselves rather than the life He wanted for us.
Shame entered into the world.
Grievance, offense, hardship, guilt. Evil. All these things entered our world and destroyed the Eden God had created within that garden of peace. The creation God had called “good” rejected Him, not by His own fault – for God is faultless – but by its own selfishness, its desire to not merely be made in His likeness, but to be Him. We declared ourselves gods and found meaning within this world, and though we thought ourselves free, we became slaves.
But the message I have for you today is the story of Christianity, the testament of God’s love.
You see, despite our rejection of Him and despite our constant abandonment of His Way, God stayed true to us. Like a cheating spouse we prostituted ourselves out into the world, making things like money, success, pride, other people, and even ourselves gods in their own right, yet He still stayed true to us despite even this. We took His name and we made it conform to our image rather than trying to attempt to conform to His – accepting some of His guidelines as long as we found no condemnation within ourselves, expecting good things to happen to us yet cursing Him when bad things arise – and even then, He remained loyal to His creation, though He had every right to condemn us.
But no, this was not His Way. His way was through a thing called forgiveness, and though He was unobligated and though we were undeserving, God decided to give us an unbelievable gift.
This gift is called grace, and this grace was displayed through a man named Jesus.
You see, even before Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden, God set a plan into motion. To the serpent He said: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.” (Gen 3:15). He promised that in the future, from the seed of a woman would come a Promised One who would deliver all of humanity. Yes, He would be ”a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isa 53:3) for the serpent would injure Him, but in the end He would be victorious and would crush the serpent’s head.
And then, from the seed of a woman – for no man had touched her (Luke 1:34) – came a boy, and they called Him Immanuel, “God with us” (Isa 7:14, Matt 1:23). For thirty-three years, despite being fully human, He lived on our earth with no advantage over us and lived the lives that we proved we could not.
Yet though He lived a sinless life preaching a message of nothing but peace and love, He was rejected and mocked, spat upon and accused. “Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it” (Luke 17:33), He told us, but we did not listen. Even if we had, we would not have understood.
As Adam and Eve had found themselves in a Garden, so Jesus, the second Adam, found Himself in a garden as well (1 Cor 15:45).
Whereas Adam and Eve – which are also you and me – stood in that garden and said “Not Your will but mine,” He knelt down in that garden and said “Not my will but Yours” (Luke 22:42).
Whereas Adam and Eve – whereas you and I – sought to keep their (our) own lives and yet lost it by introducing death into the world, so Jesus willingly lost His own life in order to preserve ours for the rest of eternity, thus proving His words true.
In seeking to keep our life we lost it, yet through losing our lives we gain it. By putting our hope in this world we find grievance, yet in hating this world – which is to say, holding it of no account – we truly experience life, which is the kingdom of heaven (Luke 14:26, 17:21). Only through Jesus can we once again enter Eden. Only through surrender – through bearing our own cross, through putting God’s will above our own – can we find happiness through eternal life (Matt 16:24-25).
Through His death on the cross, Jesus willingly allowed the serpent to bite His heal, yet in coming back to life He crushed its head by atoning for all of our sins – past, present, and future.
Just as through one man sin and death for all men entered the world, through one man life was restored to all men. It is simple, yet it is amazing.
And this is the story of Christianity – the Way so easily forgotten – one that should encourage you not only in its expression of God’s love, but also in the fact that it was planned from the very beginning of time! “For God loved the world so much…”
NOW LET’S BE HONEST…you know the rest.
(If you don’t, open up to John 3.)
When Jesus died on the cross, we died with Him, and when He came back to life, so we were resurrected into new bodies, no longer slaves to our old selves but instead slaves to God – which is to say, free (Rom 6:18, Gal 2:20).
We are in the world… but not of it (John 17:16). Jesus made sure to remind us of that.
This is my challenge to you: Change your perspective. As hard as it may be, remember your true identity as the son, the daughter, of the Father and live in constant remembrance of the sacrifice Christ willingly made for you, doing for us what none of us were capable of doing on our own. For each decision you make, ask yourself this: “My will, or His?” In seeking life you will lose it, but in losing life you will gain it. This is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, three things that are only accessible by looking towards Jesus and remembering what He has done.