Text: Genesis 3:1-21
The account we hear tonight of our first parents’ fall into sin is familiar to us. We hear it each year during the first week in Lent. It’s also a lesson we cover 3 out of the 4 years in our Confirmation instruction. It’s a lesson we’ve taken to heart because the outcome of this event has affected all humans ever born, even us. Well, all humans everyone except for One – our Lord.
We know this text but, at times, we show we’ve failed to learn from it. We very easily fault our first parents. Then we go and do the same thing. The temptation wasn’t really to eat from the tree. It was to doubt God’s Word. Our parents did that first, and then they ate. We do the same every time we sin. Tonight, we confess and mourn our sin. We are comforted that God continues to give us His Word, that we might stand firm against the devil.
Our text tonight takes place in the Garden of Eden. The Holy Spirit doesn’t tell us plainly how much time has passed since Creation. Martin Luther suggested not much – that this all happened on the very first Sabbath. If true, it only makes what ensues sadder. On the Sixth Day, our Lord created man and woman. He placed them in the Garden to work and keep it. They were to live in perfect fellowship with God and each other. It was His will for them to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. There was but one prohibition. God said,
of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.Genesis 2:17
Along came the devil. The Spirit teaches us to understand this from Moses’ word. He said, “Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made.” (1) He came to the woman and asked her if God had forbidden them to eat from any of the trees in the Garden. With his question, we already see the devil’s technique – to drive a wedge between the believer and God through doubting the Word. Eve perceived this and did attempt to answer correctly. But it was too late. It’s very easy to miss what happens. Listen to how Eve ended her response. “You shall not eat it…lest you die.” With her words, Eve suggested that God did not really mean what He said. Perhaps He was a liar. Perhaps He wouldn’t make good on His threat. By then, it was too late. The devil capitalized on the breach. Adam and Eve ate and the whole creation was plunged into sin.
St. Paul encourages us to not be ignorant of the devil’s schemes. The devil’s plan in the Garden wasn’t immediately to get our parents to eat. It was to get them to abandon God’s Word. He knew it would all be over if he could do that. It has been said that since the devil is an angel, he can’t actually create anything. He can only corrupt. This might even extend to his tricks. He does still use the same one, even now, even on us. Sadly, he is often successful.
The devil’s trick is to remove the Word from the believer’s heart. This is hard to do, so he enlists his helpers – the world and our own flesh. Since the Fall, we all have been affected by concupiscence. This means, in part, that we – by nature – don’t want to have anything to do with God’s Word. The Old Adam is beaten back in our Baptism, but this corruption remains. We must work to keep the Word in our daily lives. But that takes effort – to plan ahead and set aside time daily for family and personal devotions. Do you know what makes that even harder? Everything! We all have many commitments. We have work and family. For many in our parish – and in every parish – it’s fun, our commitment to pleasing ourselves, that pulls us away. Why else are sports on Sunday mornings, if not to remove the Word from our hearts and mouths? Why else have we become so convinced that doing nothing feels so much better on Sundays than other days?
There was one, though, who did not let the Word depart from His heart. We heard about Him, too. Jesus was not defeated by the devil but defeated him by the Word. That way, Jesus could fully crush the devil, sin, and death through His own death and resurrection. Through these, we are forgiven. God triumphed for us so that He might be gracious to us. By His grace, someday we will joy in a renewed creation at our Lord’s Return. May He grant us, in the meantime, the continued grace of the Holy Spirit. When we are faced with temptation, may He grant us to remain in the Word. St. James says, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”(4:7) In the Name.