Last week we looked at creation. We saw Adam lying there, helpless, lifeless, utterly powerless to do anything on his own. He couldn’t “wiggle” his way into position to receive the breath of life from God, as our good friend Joyce Meyer would have put it. He could do nothing whatsoever except receive the breath of life from God into his nostrils. He received it, and he came to life.
This week we are going to fast-forward a little bit. Our story comes from Genesis 3:
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’?”
The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 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.’”
“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
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. 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.
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. But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”
He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”
And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”
The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”
Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”
The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
So the LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,
“Cursed are you above all livestock
and all wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly
and you will eat dust
all the days of your life.
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.”
To the woman he said,
“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you.”
To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’
“Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat food from it
all the days of your life.
It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
and to dust you will return.”
Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living.
The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. And the LORD God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life. (Genesis 3:1-24)
We don’t know how long it took for all this to go down. It may have been a few days from the time Adam and Eve were created to the time the serpent appeared to them. Or it may have been years or even centuries. The serpent may have only asked Eve the question once, or he may have repeated it every day for a very long time and finally worn her down with it until she gave in. We don’t know. And the Biblical writer does not consider it important for us to know.
All we know is that Adam and Eve sinned against God by disobeying his command, and they suffered the consequences. And all of humanity has been suffering the consequences ever since.
It was this tragedy that led ultimately to Jesus coming to earth and dying on the cross. God hints at this in his words to the serpent: “And I will put enmity / …between your offspring and hers; / he will crush your head, / and you will strike his heel.”
There is a line in the Catholic Easter Vigil liturgy that reads “O happy fault, o necessary sin of Adam, that won for us so great a Redeemer…” This is over-the-top; I don’t think we can say anything about the Fall except that it was a very tragic occurrence. Although I can kind of see where it is coming from: if you say that if not for the Fall Jesus would not have come to earth and died on the cross, then in a sense the Fall overshadows the redemptive sacrifice of Christ on the cross. This line is attempting to speak against that.
So Adam and Eve sinned. The first thing God did for them after pronouncing the curse was to kill an animal and provide skins for them to cover their nakedness. God fully recognized that their fallen state created a need, and he took measures to provide for that need in a much better way than the fig leaves that Adam and Eve sewed for themselves. Furthermore, an animal died in order that Adam and Eve’s nakedness might be covered. This points to the Cross, when Christ dies so that our sin might be covered with His righteousness.
Then God proceeded to expel them from the Garden of Eden. God put an angel there with a flaming sword to guard the way to the Tree of Life. In a way, this was an act of mercy; if Adam and Eve, in their fallen and sinful state, had then proceeded to eat of the Tree of Life, they–and all of us by extension–would have been stuck in that state forever. As it is now, however, we have the possibility–or, rather, the inevitability–of dying to our sinful state, and thanks to the redemptive work of Christ, rising again to newness of life.