Then Their Eyes Were Open
Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7
If there was one book of the Bible I could happily spend the rest of my life studying. It would most certainly be Genesis. And I am fairly sure that I would never run out of material. Every time I read through Genesis (or even just a part of it), something new is made bright and alive in the world. It is a brilliant piece of art. Its lessons are abundant.
Genesis means ‘beginning’, because that is the very first word of the Bible. “In the beginning, God made the heavens and the earth.” Every story in this piece of art is a story about a beginning. They are all firsts: The first moments of God’s creating work. The first star to light up the night’s sky. The first water to run smoothly across the earth. The first animals to inhabit dry land. And then the camera lens sort of zooms in on creation and we get to see all the firsts happening in the Garden of Eden. There we meet the first people… the first family… the first very dysfunctional family! And this is all in just the span of 4 chapters!
Even beyond what we call the Creation Narratives, there are other stories of great beginnings within the book of Genesis, like: Noah (the beginning of a new earth), Abraham (the beginning of a new people), Joseph (the beginning of a new kind of ruler or leadership)- all stories of great and profound starting points.
Today, on this first Sunday of Lent, at the launch of our journey to the cross, it is fitting that we are considering the story of Genesis, of how all this began.
Now, we all know the story of Adam and Eve. We all know about the notorious apple, and the deceptive snake. Whether you were raised in a Christian home or not – it is still likely that you would know about Adam, Eve and their fig leaf clothing even as a small child. And that very fact makes these verses in the Bible really dangerous. The second we are overly confident that we know God’s Word… is likely the second we get things wrong. The most familiar stories of the Bible come with the most misconceptions about who God is, and the message of the Word. So this, the Creation Narrative, (as familiar as we are with it) is a very dangerous passage.
This morning, as we begin to talk about sin and the roots of our sin… we need to comb out some of our preconceived understandings of the creation story and the happenings in the Garden of Eden so that we can learn from God’s Word with out us getting in the way. Without all of our assumptions tangling up truth.
So, lets start by addressing a couple of the big assumptions, and then we will get into what this passage has to say for us as we make our way towards the cross.
You may have heard it said that the story of Adam and Eve tells us: “It’s the woman’s fault! She is to blame for the sin of the world”.
When our Scripture passage today began, only the “human” exists. Just one. The word used in the Hebrew is “Adam”, which later we turned into a proper name for this first human. But ‘Adam’ – the word- its origin means earth-creature, groundling, formed from the “Adamah”- the earth. All referring to how this creature, this human, was made – pulled up from the dust and molded by God’s own hands. Adam is not really the first man, but the first human. It isn’t until later when the woman is split from Adam’s side (formed from a rib) that we get two human beings that are now made unique form each other. Man and Woman.[i] One creature (made by God’s own hand) that became two unique but equal creatures at the same time. Not one before the other.
Eve, who is named much later on in the story (Eve being a reference to the woman as mother to all things), has been painted in our history as the weaker or secondary sex and thus susceptible to the snake’s influence. She is considered a temptress herself, leading her poor innocent husband astray…
There is this really famous Venetian painting called the Fall of Man… where Eve is reaching out her hand for the apple and Adam has his hand pushing against her shoulder as if to say “No don’t do it!” Trying to make him look like the innocent party in all this. This theory of the “woman is to blame”, honestly, has been really harmful to women for thousands of years.
For example, in the 15th century, a document was released from the Church called the Malleus Maleficarum, which was used to condemn women accused of witchcraft. It says that “women were, from their creation, imperfect and lustful beings who posed grave dangers to men,” and consequently they served as the source for witchcraft. All because Eve was seen as “easily seduced by the devil.” This document provided the basis for two centuries of persecution of thousands of presumed witches. Thousands of women dead because of our dangerous familiarity with this passage in the Bible. Women burned at the steak, drowned… because we need someone to blamed for the sin and evil of the world.
Yet, Scripture says that Eve was “bone from bone” – “flesh from flesh.” They were equals connected to each other. Man and woman.[ii] Partners in crime.
You may also have heard it said “that it is the snake’s fault there is sin in the world… the snake is to blame.” Christians for a long time have been pointing their figures at Satan for ushering sin into the world. For making us stray from God’s commands. But if you read carefully over this Scripture text you will notice that the snake never really lied. The snake never even pushed. The sad thing is, is that the snake didn’t have to. The snake was far too clever for anything obvious like lying or pushing.
What the he did, and what Satan still does, is introduce confusion. The snake brings that horrible wedge of doubt and confusion. He doesn’t have to lie. He doesn’t have to push… but the snake plays with our own weaknesses. He doesn’t need anything more than that to try and separate us from God.
The thing we have to understand about this story, and about Genesis as a whole, is that it teaches us that we are responsible for our relationship with God. There will always be snakes… things/ people/ Satan himself that try and separate us for our Maker. Things that try to bring that horrible wedge of doubt and confusion into our relationship with God.
As much as we want to blame all sin and all of our actions that lead us towards sin on Satan… he is often just playing with our own weaknesses. That is why we call out to God as our Rock, that being of strength in times when we are our most weak and vulnerable.
You also may have heard it said that the worst of Adam and Eve’s punishments for disobeying God’s commands, was that they could no longer walk around naked. (I’ve heard it said before).
Nakedness, as referred to in Genesis means a lot more than physical nudity. Nakedness refers to shame. So, if I rephrase this assumption… “You may have heard it said that the worst of Adam and Eve’s punishments for disobeying God’s command, was that they now could no longer walk around unashamed”… to that I would have to, wholeheartedly, agree.
Adam and Eve were blessed to be able to walk around oblivious not only to their nakedness, but oblivious to pain, oblivious to trickery… oblivious to all bad things! Yet the moment that they ate of the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil they became ashamed. Their eyes were opened to everything.
In that moment, they realized their profound vulnerability, their weaknesses, their ability to be deceived/ tricked/ fooled. They lost their perfect innocence that God made them with. Their eyes had been closed off from evil, from sin, from any kind of struggle.
I think many of us here would agree that this lose of innocents is a big blow… wouldn’t we love to be able to shut our eye to sin and hurt?
The burden of shame is, the cloak of shame, is perhaps, the biggest tragedy in this story that we aptly call The Fall of Mankind.
I don’t know if any of you caught the debate that was televised from the Creation Museum between Bill Nye (the Science Guy) and Ken Hamm about a mount ago. It was all over the news for about a week. But these two gentleman, were debating whether or not the Creation story in the Book of Genesis is a “viable model of origins.” Meaning that they were debating whether or not the stories in Genesis really happened and if they should be taught in school.
You have Mr. Hamm on one side of the debate, a man that operates the Creation Museum, which is a facility that attempts to offer a timeline for the existence of the universe that fits within the timeline of the Bible (about 6,000 years). And on the other side you have Bill Nye the Science Guy, who is a well-known advocate for science education and a self-proclaimed skeptic in religious matters.
They went back and forth trying to refute each other’s arguments… both getting a little frazzled as the night went on… but by the end of the debate (which was at least 2 hours…) the only thing that I walked away thinking was that both of these gentleman have a very small picture of who God is.
The Creation story in Genesis is not about what God did a long time ago when God created the universe. It’s about what God continues to create in our world today. The Genesis, the beginning, is not a story that is frozen in time. But one that continues to live and breathe and teach us about how big our God is.
Just after our scripture passage today, down about 10 verses, God is describes in a very human way… as one that was out simply walking in the garden. Just casually going for a stroll through Eden. Checking things out. When God comes upon Adam and Eve hiding/ cowering in the bushes he asks “where are you?” Adam and Eve emerge heads hanging low… And God has to pull the answers out from them about what is going on – why they are both hiding. God offers them chance after chance to confess… but they dodge the questions. When God finally gets to the bottom of things, and after Adam and Eve finish blaming each other… and after the punishments are divvied out… You know what God does? God returns to them again, and sews them some clothing. Chapter 3, verse 21: “The Lord God made garments of [animal] skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.” The lord of the universe. That breathed life into clay. That pulled our existence together out of chaos… God in then on the ground sewing clothing… God has compassion for them! The God of the Universe, love and cares for us… that is how big God is. Big enough to do the small things. Even though Adam and Eve had just violated the one rule that God had for them…there is compassion is in the aftermath. That is a big God!
Their eyes were opened. To all the sin and darkness of the world. God never wanted that for us.
Eve and Adam learned the hard way that sin delivers destruction into the lives of those who commit it. They had been warned by God that serious consequences would follow from their disobedience, but they paid no attention.
Sin had found its way into their lives, and it still lives on in our lives now. We can curse Eve, or Adam, or that horrible snake all we want… but the aftermath is all the same. Sin destroyed our paradise on this earth. Their was once no hunger, no pain, no sickness, no knowledge of good and evil… Sin destroyed all of that. Leaving us clothed in shame, stripped of the innocence that God intended for us.
With open eyes we, now more than ever, must hold tight to our God. Not let wedges of doubt or confusion get in the way of our relationship with God.
In our Gospel reading from Matthew, we see Jesus in the desert being tempted. Shown everything anyone could every want: riches, power, the perfect snack when you are starving… he has all of that dangled in front of him! Yet, when Satan tried to drive a wedge between him and God, Satan wasn’t given an inch of room. Jesus held fast to his Lord.
Jesus’ time in the desert is a mirror opposite of the Garden of Eden. Jesus was in the desert wilderness – not paradise. Jesus was starved from his fast – Adam and Eve had all the food they could want. Jesus was alone and weak. Adam and Eve were a ‘bone of bone’/ ‘flesh of flesh’ each other’s perfect companion… they had each other.
Yet even at the height of struggle. Jesus resisted temptation. Held fast to his God.
But what is the same in these stories… is that temptation doesn’t just disappear.
Jesus would emerge from the dessert – still- with a long road full of temptations ahead of him. They would follow him all the way to the cross. Humanity faces the same thing. We all must deal with all that threatens to pull us into sin – what threatens to drive that wedge between us and God.
But because Jesus resisted, from the desert all the way to the cross, there is hope for us that are lost in our weakness.
In Paul’s letter to the Romans he addressed the sin that took place in the Garden of Eden… but in light of Christ and his saving work of the cross he has this to say: Romans 5: 18-19 states…
“Here it is in a nutshell: Just as one person did it wrong and got us in all this trouble with sin and death, another person did it right and got us out of it. But more than just getting us out of trouble, he got us into life! One man said no to God and put many people in the wrong; one man said yes to God and put many in the right.” Romans 5:18-19 (Message)
Lent is a Journey to the Cross. We spend six weeks reflecting and talking about sin and brokenness… gathering as we go… knowledge of our own wrongdoings. So that one day soon we can set all of that down at the feet of Jesus. Jesus is that one man that said yes to God and put many in the right. And thank God for that.
[i] Blog post: Magdalene’s Musings (March 13, 2011)
[ii] Claassens, Juliana: Commentary on Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7 (Working Preacher)