Pastor Hopkins preached this sermon on the first Sunday in Lent, 3/1/2020. The texts for the sermon were the day’s gospel and Old Testament lessons. To read the Bible texts for the first Sunday in Lent, click here.
Genesis 3 begins by declaring Satan to be very crafty; and so he is. But he doesn’t seem all that crafty. What he serves up in the garden doesn’t sound crafty or clever at all.
First, he simply asks if God really said not to eat of any tree. Next, he out-and-out lies, declaring that they got God wrong – that the perceived danger isn’t real; and finally, that eating from the tree will actually be a good thing. It’ll make them like God. And they’ll learn things they never dreamed of.
Satan only spoke three sentences. That’s all it took. That’s all it took to twist God’s Word. That’s all it took to deceive God’s people. That’s all it took to bring ruin to God’s world. And turn Eden into a wasteland.
It’s embarrassing, really. And yet, it doesn’t appear as if we have truly learned from this.
Which is strange, because we are people who won’t go back to a restaurant that’s disappointed us. We won’t trust a newspaper that we know fudges facts. We won’t tell our secrets to a friend who has even once betrayed our confidences.
How is it that we can be so discerning with things that ultimately don’t matter, even as we are so easily deceived concerning things that do matter?
Three sentences is still all it takes. And what’s even more embarrassing is that they’re minor variations of the same three.
Did God really say…?
You have misunderstood Him.
Here’s what He really meant.
Did God really say? Today that comes out more like: “Is this really the Word of God?” It’s base and boring, but it’s still effective. And if that has worked on you, then I hope you were working through that with us this fall.
You have misunderstood Him. This one has hit your ears in many ways. “I know what He says, but that can’t be what He means.” Or, “We can’t possibly know what He means.” And so, we all have one more reason to be in Bible Study.
Here’s what He really meant. We’re most susceptible to this when it comes from within. But what makes the lie most believable is that we want it to be true. We want God to have meant something different than He declared.
We want our own way, but we want that way to also have God’s blessing. And so we lie to ourselves. We do Satan’s job for him.
And so we find ourselves there with Eve, believing the lies. We find ourselves there with Adam, pointing fingers and shifting the blame. Which is to say that we find ourselves outside of Eden, bound for the dust from which Adam was brought forth, and which Satan was condemned to tread upon.
But all is not lost.
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.” verse 15
This is known famously as the protoevangelium, the proto-Gospel. This is the promise that Eve’s descendant would crush the serpent beneath Him, even as He Himself would suffer and die. That part about the Savior dying was made clear in what happened next.
And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them. verse 21
To cover Adam and Eve’s shame, brought on by their sin, would cost something. The fig leaves were not sufficient. “Garments of skin” means that something had to die. The first death ever, occurred so that God’s children would be covered. It was a picture for us of the One we encounter this morning.
Jesus has just been baptized by John in the river Jordan. He has just been declared by God to be His Son, with Whom He is well pleased. Jesus knows His charge; His ministry has begun; and so, out He goes. Out, Jesus goes, into the wilderness, to the land of Adam’s exile, to be faithful where Adam was not, and where you were not.
As Satan lay in wait back in Eden, so he lies in wait for Jesus now. Still, with just three lies – three temptations. “Did God really say you were His Son? Because if He did, You should be able to turn these stones to bread.”
“And isn’t this what He meant about the protection of His angels? That they would catch you if you tried to jump off a building?”
And finally, “If you would recognize that all this is unnecessary; that everything written of You can work out quite differently, then we can both just call it a day.”
What is perhaps most beautiful is that Jesus does not even respond by appealing to His divinity. He does not bring down lightning from heaven. Instead, Jesus simply untwists God’s Word. He points to what God, in the Scriptures, did, in fact, say; that what He meant is plain; and that all of creation, even Satan, is bound by it.
Here in the wilderness, Jesus, the New Adam (1 Corinthians 15:22), is faithful; for Adam and for you. His faithfulness answers for Adam’s unfaithfulness and your unfaithfulness. But it is not sufficient to merely be faithful in your place. Remember the promise from Genesis, and the accompanying sacrifice.
The Messiah, the seed of the woman, would have to die. To untie the knot of Eve’s disobedience, to pull Adam from the dust once more, to restore Eden out of the wilderness, and to pay the cost of the world’s sins, this Lamb would have to die.
By Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, your sins are atoned for, your shame is covered. Your death sentence has been rescinded, your exile has been revoked, and you are welcomed home again to Eden.
Come now and enjoy the meal that He sets before you: a Feast in the wilderness, the Bread come down from heaven, the Body and Blood of Christ shed upon the cross for you. Let no lie, however crafty, deceive you or convince you that it is anything less.For our Lord, Jesus Christ, on the night when He was betrayed, truly did say.