Let’s pretend. I know we’re adults. I know we’re not supposed to. But let’s pretend. Let’s pretend that it’s a perfect world. Let’s pretend that you have a completely free evening. I’m talking nothing planned: nowhere you have to be, nothing you have to get done. Just a free night to do whatever you want. Doesn’t that sound nice? Okay, I know some of you are thinking I’ve lost my mind. I can hear you – especially you parents of young kids, “Todd, there’s no way. There’s just no such thing as a 'free' night like this.” With our first kid on the way, Amanda and I are trying to prepare ourselves for the adventure of parenthood. We’re excited for sure, but we’re also trying to mentally prep ourselves for all the responsibility and the lack of sleep and just the reality of how much life is about to change for us. But even the rest of you without little kids, it’s just rare to just have a free night. There’s always something, right? Always something demanding our attention. Always something that needs to be done.
But let’s pretend. If you had a completely free night, what would you do? Go out somewhere for dinner? Start a new project? Go on a walk? What about watching a TV show or a movie? Wouldn’t a TV show or a movie at least be near the top of your list? It would for me. Why do we love TV shows and movies so much? Why do we give up our weekends and pay money to go watch movies?
The Power of Stories
I think it’s partly because we love stories. There’s something about a good story that we’re drawn to. Stories move us. They stir up something in us. There is something very real about stories. Even if we know that a story is fiction, if it’s a good story we intuitively know (we just know) that there’s something true about it – even if we don’t know exactly how to express what that is. Fiction stories are not just a way to escape from reality. They’re not just make believe like the world of Peter Pan.
You all know the Peter Pan story, right? Peter Pan is the boy who refused to grow up. He lived in a make believe world full of pirates and Indians, mermaids and fairies. Have you ever heard of Peter Pan Syndrome? It describes men who have never grown up – who have never actually moved into the real world of mature adulthood. We’re grown ups. We’re adults. We’re not supposed to pretend and live in a make believe world. Now, for all the ways that we might not want to be like Peter Pan, we are actually far better at pretending than we give ourselves credit for. For all the ways we might try to dismiss children stories as just make believe, we are actually far better pretenders than we would like to admit.
Tonight we’re going to dive into a story – a very true story. It is not fiction. It is not a fable. This story is historical – it actually happened. But this story is also true because it is the Story that we all find ourselves in. It is the grand Story that tells us more about ourselves than we might think. But before we jump into this Story, we need a little bit of background. We need to set the scene.
God created the first man, Adam, and placed him in a garden. This garden was perfect. This garden was a place of beauty and order, a place of rest and peace. It was paradise. And God gave Adam the fulfilling job of cultivating the garden – of taking care of it. God told Adam, “You can freely eat the fruit of the trees in the garden. Eat to your heart’s content. I want you to enjoy the good things I have created. But, there is one tree in the midst of the garden that you are not to eat from. If you do, you will surely die.” Now, Adam had every reason to trust God: He created him and gave him life in the first place. He also gave Adam a meaningful existence and provided him with a partner. Adam and Eve lived together in perfect harmony. They knew each other and they were perfectly known.
Now, let’s jump into the Story:
1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 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.’” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.
All was harmony in paradise. But then came a snake. And he was crafty. His strategy was simply to convince Eve that God wanted to steal her joy. He basically said, “Eve, God wants to keep good things from you.” The snake tricked her into thinking that God was some kind of cosmic killjoy, who wanted to make her life more difficult and more miserable. And then came the final blow, “Eve, God knows that when you eat from the forbidden tree you will become wise like Him. God wants to keep you out from the privileges that He enjoys. Can you really trust this God?” She gave in. Her desires got the best of her. Eve didn’t trust God. She listened to the created snake rather than her Creator. And Adam listened to her. They rebelled against God. And the consequences were far greater than they could have ever imagined.
8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
Adam and Eve knew something was wrong, so they tried to hide. They had already tried to fix the problem by covering themselves with leaves. Now, they’re just hiding. We all know something has gone wrong. Don’t we? In this grand Story that we all live in, we know something has gone amiss. We all know something is wrong with us. If we’re honest, we fit into this Genesis story quite well. We try to distract ourselves – we spend so much time on our iPhones, looking at random and worthless stuff on Facebook, browsing on Netflix – doing anything we can to escape this feeling that nags at us. Or we play the blame game like Adam and Eve did: “It’s not my fault. I’m just a victim.” We blame it on other people. We blame it on our circumstances. But it’s all a façade. We know. We try to fix the problem ourselves. But the problem is not just that we do bad things; the problem is that we are bad people. And we can’t fix ourselves. We’re broken. And we know it. But we’re pretenders.
Even as adults, we are often better pretenders than children are. We might dismiss Peter Pan because he refuses to leave his make believe world, but we pretend all the time. We pretend that everything is fine. We pretend that we have everything together. We try to convince ourselves that we are basically good people. Now, maybe you’re honest than this. Maybe you’ll admit to yourself that everything is not okay. But even then, we still hide our true selves from each other, don’t we? I do. I hide. Very often I don’t like to expose my true self to others. It’s hard. It’s risky. I have this built-in self-protecting mechanism and so I put on a mask and keep others at arm’s length. And I hate that I do this. I’m not just saying that because I’m supposed to. I really hate that I hide like this. I don’t want to keep on pretending. I want deep relationships. I want to know others and be known.
We pretend all the time around others, don’t we? It’s safe that way. We’re not going to show others who we really are and what we really struggle with. It’s just too risky to expose ourselves in front of them. How can we trust them with ourselves? So we hide ourselves. From each other. And from God. We don’t feel worthy to approach God. We don’t feel safe to expose ourself in front of Him. We don’t trust God. So we hide from Him.
14 The Lord God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this,
cursed are you above all livestock,
and above all beasts of the field;
on your belly you shall go,
and dust you shall eat
all the days of your life.
15 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.”
16 To the woman he said,
“I will surely multiply your pain in [conception];
in pain you shall bring forth children.
Your desire shall be for your husband,
and he shall rule over you.”
17 And to Adam he said,
“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.”
We can try to pretend that this world is not all that bad. But we know better. This world is not the way that it should be. We don’t have to pretend. Because of Adam and Eve’s rebellion in the garden, this world is under a curse. All of creation has been placed under a curse by God himself:
1. Men and animals no longer live in harmony together. We hunt each other and defend ourselves against each other just to survive.
2. On top of that, there is pain in raising children. Our English translation of Genesis 3:16 makes it seem like the pain mentioned here is all about childbirth. Which certainly makes sense, right? Amanda and I just took a childbirth class a couple of weekends ago and learned all about labor and childbirth. And let me tell you: I have a whole new respect for moms. Seriously. Okay, so pain being associated with labor and childbirth certainly makes sense. But, the original text here in verse 16 actually says: “I will greatly multiply your pain and your conception.” Then the next phrase in verse 16 talks about childbirth. So, this verse starts by saying that conception will be painful. Wait, how is conception painful? Are you following me? Something is weird here, right? “Conception” here at the beginning of verse 16 represents the whole process of childbirth and child-raising from the start. Not only is childbirth painful, but raising children in this broken world is painful. I know this sounds strange. I know we're supposed to be happy when a baby is born and a new addition to the family is welcomed into the world. But joy not the full picture. Now, I’m not just being an Eeyore. I’m not just being a bleak and gloomy and melancholy. Yes, of course there is joy in having children. I’m looking forward to having a baby girl soon. I’m excited about being a dad. But there is also pain in bringing a child into this broken world. Here's what I mean: my baby girl will deeply desire to know and be known by others, but she will pretend and hide herself like I do. My baby girl will rebel against God like I do. My baby girl will hurt others and be hurt by them. Knowing this is painful. Just think of Adam and Eve’s first children, Cain and Abel. In the very next story in Genesis (chapter 4), Cain murders his brother Abel. He murders him. Now, what kind of pain and grief and anguish does Eve go through? This is the pain of bringing children into this messed up, fallen world.
3. On top of this, there is deep conflict in our marriages. Husbands and wives, we try to dominate each other. We don’t submit to each other. We don’t give up our own rights and desires to try to meet the needs of our spouse. No, we’re two people each just trying to get our own way.
4. And on top of all this, our work in this broken world is exhausting. Our work is no longer as fulfilling as it was meant to be. The ground fights back against us.
5. And on top of all of these great things, our bodies will one day return to the ground out of which we were made. None of us gets out of this alive. All of our bodies get tired, sick, weak, and eventually decay and die.
This world is not the way it should be. We don’t need to pretend.
20 The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. 21 And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.
Adam names his wife “Eve” which sounds like the Hebrew word for “life-giver.” So, after all of this judgment – after this horrible curse – Adam wants to celebrate that his wife is the mother of all living. Wait, what? Did Adam not hear what the Lord just said? Is he delusional? Why would Adam say something so hopeful after such a horrible curse? Look back with me at Genesis 3:15. Remember, the Lord is talking to the serpent:
Genesis 3:15 - A Foreshadowing
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.
So there will be conflict between the offspring of the serpent and the offpring of the woman. One of the woman’s descendants will crush the serpent’s head, and the serpent will bruise his heel. Now, this could just be about men having problems with poisonous snakes. But this verse has been seen as so much more. Genesis 3:15 has been seen as a foreshadowing of the Messiah. After this horrible cursed was announced, Adam called his wife “life-giver.” Why? Because in the midst of all this judgment, Adam and Eve were clinging to something that gave them hope – that one of their descendants would deliver them from the curse.
We have another hint about this strange, surprising hope that Adam had. Look at what God did next: He gave Adam and Eve animal skin coverings. Adam and Eve had tried to fix the problem by covering themselves with leaves, but now God provides them with better coverings. These animal skin coverings point to the sacrificial system that God provided for Israel. They would bring animals to the tabernacle or temple. They would sacrifice these animals and by the blood of the animals their sins were covered and they could be in a right relationship with God. These animal skin coverings that God provided for Adam and Eve points to this sacrificial system. And this sacrificial system points to Jesus, our sacrificial Lamb – the sacrifice once for all for our sins. Therefore, Genesis 3:15 has been famously called the ‘protoevangelium’ – the first gospel. For here we have the first glimpe Jesus, our Messiah who will deliver us from the curse.
Jesus our Messiah
Jesus came to undo this awful curse of sin and death. Think about the curse placed on Adam here in Genesis 3, and then think about what Jesus did:
1. God told Adam that he would have to work in painful toil – that he would only be able to eat by the sweat of his face. Jesus sweat drops of blood down His face in the Garden of Gethsemane when He cried out to His Father about the suffering He was about to endure.
2. For Adam, work would be exhausting because the ground would fight back against him; it would produce thorns and thistles. Jesus had a crown of thorns placed on His head. Jesus suffered in exhausting pain and agony for us.
3. Adam and Eve ate from a forbidden tree, bringing a curse upon all of creation. Jesus suffered on a tree (i.e. a Roman cross) to redeem us from this curse.
4. Adam would return to the ground out of which he was made. Because of Adam, we all die. Jesus died. He was buried in a tomb. But He was resurrected – He got up out of the grave.
Jesus entered into our broken world to undo the curse from the inside out. Do you see it?
Waiting in Hope
Jesus has come, and He has done great things. Jesus was victorious over Satan in His death and resurrection, and so we now have a very real access in to God’s presence. But even though all of this is true, we are still waiting. We are waiting. And waiting. And waiting. We’ve been waiting since the beginning with Adam and Eve. And we are still waiting. Because we are not fully transformed yet. Because all of creation is still under a curse. As Paul says in Romans 8, the creation has been groaning in the pains of childbirth. It has been subjected to this groaning in hope of being delivered – in hope of one day finally being restored. We’re still waiting. But this time we’re waiting for Jesus to come again – to return in glory. We’re waiting for Jesus to come back and finish what He started. To finally make our transformation complete. To raise us up out of the ground and to fix this broken world. We’re still waiting. But we wait with hope.
We don’t need to pretend anymore.
Because of this great hope that we have in Christ, we don’t need to pretend anymore. We don’t need to put on a mask in front of others and pretend like we’re something we’re not. And we don’t need to pretend that this world is somehow the way it’s supposed to be. We don’t have to pretend anymore. Because this isn’t the end of the Story. Because our hope isn’t in the here and now. Because our hope is in something great that one day is coming for us. Because Jesus is coming back to finally deliver us and all of creation from the curse.
Drawing Near to God
Because of this great hope, we don’t need to hide from God anymore. Because of Jesus’s death and resurrection, we can actually have a real connection with God. We can freely express ourselves to Him – because after all, He is a Person. Yes God is all-powerful and all-knowing. He is the sovereign Creator of the universe and He is more glorious than we could ever fathom. But He is also a Person. He is a personal being. The Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit have always existed together in perfect harmony. Always. At the core of His being, our God is relational. We can experience the joy of actually knowing Him. We can be honest with Him. We can be human in front of Him – with all of our hopes and dreams, all of our desires, all of our pain and our questions and our anger and our needs and everything within us. We can come before God and be known by Him. We can hear back from Him and actually know Him. I know we have all kinds of issues that we wrestle with. I know it’s hard for us sometimes to approach God. But we don’t need to hide from Him anymore. Because He has done great things for us through Jesus. And because we are clinging to His promise to one day Jesus is coming back to deliver us from the curse. Don’t run away from God. Don’t hide from Him. Trust Him. Draw near to Him.
Drawing Near to Each Other
Because of our great hope, we can also be honest with each other. We can actually experience the freedom of deep, authentic relationships with each other. I know these kinds of deep relationships are scary. I know they’re hard work. I know it’s risky to expose our true selves in front of each other. But it’s worth it. We were made for these kinds of relationships. God’s Spirit moves in powerful ways through these kinds of honest relationships in the church.
So, let’s stop pretending. Let’s stop hiding. Let us draw near in the hope that one day our Messiah is coming back to finally lift this curse.
Download the sermon audio here.