Beckett: Sermon – The Garment of Christ’s Flesh

Date: February 26, 2023
Festival: 1st Sunday in Lent
Text: Genesis 3:1-21
Preaching Occasion: Zion Lutheran Church, Mt. Pleasant, MI, and CTKLC
Appointed Scriptures: Genesis 3:1-21; Romans 5:12-19; Matthew 4:1-11
Sermon Hymn: LSB #656 A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, no one knows the length of time between the creation of mankind and our fall from God’s grace. Many make their speculations, but the Scriptures have not given us knowledge of the length of time, so it is best to leave it as a mystery. But one thing is clear: the crafty serpent named Satan deceived both man and woman to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Why would God place this tree in the Garden? It was their liturgy—the altar for their sacrifice. They were to sacrifice the knowledge of good and evil and trust in God only, who gave them all they needed for life in the tree of life.

But they were not content. God had given them everything, but they wanted more. They wanted knowledge. They had no idea what evil was; all they knew was the goodness of God. Yet this was not enough. Satan convinced them they could be just like God if they ate from the tree and knew what good and evil are. Ironically, as time would show, having acquired the knowledge of good and evil, we often get it wrong and fail to distinguish between the two. In a time of open rebellion against God in Israel, Isaiah would proclaim, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil” [Is. 5:20]. With all the knowledge in the world, and right at our fingertips, we fail to distinguish good from evil. The evil of murder in the womb is painted as the good of women’s rights. The good of a wife choosing children over wealth and notoriety in her career is called evil. The good of a husband choosing to spend more time with his wife and children over chasing a promotion is called evil.

Adam and Eve illustrate this depravity of man’s knowledge immediately. They hear God walking in the Garden, and for the first time, they fear Him—they’re scared to death; and for the first time, they hide from Him. For the first time, the goodness of God’s presence is deemed to be evil, so they run from Him. They want to hide their sin. What sins might we try to hide from God, I wonder? What sins cause us to run from Him rather than to Him as our mighty fortress?

Adam and Eve’s disobedience to God ushered in the world as we know it: the struggles and suffering that come with life. The curses laid upon them for their disobedience set the pattern for sin, and thus reveal the need for the Ten Commandments to tell us how to live rightly with God and neighbour. They desired knowledge rather than faith in God only. What might we fear, love, and trust more than God? They despised God’s Word so much that they made up their own word. What Word of God might we despise, and what words do we use to justify our sin? What idols cause us to run from God on the Sabbath and toward whatever false god it is we love more?

There is strife in marriage and family—abuse, infidelity, divorce, pain in childbirth, miscarriage, stillbirth; husbands don’t love their wives as Christ loved the Church [Eph. 5:25], wives don’t submit to their husbands (and even scoff at the idea [5:22]), young couples move in together without getting married, and children disobey and even rebel against their parents… There are also life issues: murder, serial killers, mass shootings, terrorism, war, abortion, hatred… Sex is not safe from corruption either: adultery, lust, homosexuality, fornication, pornography, human sex trafficking… We struggle to live with our fellow man: stealing, thorns and thistles in our work and agriculture, gossip, slander, defamation, coveting what we do not have…

All these curses continue in the world until we return to the dust from which we came, for we are dust, and to dust we shall return [Gen. 3:19]. At this point, it all seems helpless… even hopeless. Perhaps we should succumb to the way of Adam and Eve and seek knowledge above all else to live the most comfortable life we can live until we finally bite the dust, be it nihilism, rationalism, the pursuit of enlightenment, hedonism, whatever it is that soothes our pride that caused us to fall in the first place. But these are merely byproducts of the knowledge of evil; they cannot save you. So, what is there to do in this life of death and sin?

God gives us the answer. You can run from God like Adam and Eve did, hiding your pet sins, but it won’t do you any good. He bids you come and lay it before Him; you cannot hide from Him. Sin cannot hide from God. As the Light in the darkness, He exposes it. Wherever there is light, there is bound to be shadows. But God’s light is so bright that there is no shadowy corner for sin to hide. Our sins are exposed to the light of day whether we like it or not, just as Adam and Eve had no choice but to answer to God.

But He does this not that He might punish you with death, as Adam and Eve no doubt expected, but that He might clothe you as He clothed our parents in the Garden. The devil told them they would not surely die if they ate the fruit, but they soon found this to be a vicious lie. Why else would they hide? They didn’t want to die. So, when they heard God walking in the mist of the Garden, they thought God was coming with recompense, for the wages of sin is death [Rom. 6:23a]. But they didn’t die, at least not immediately. The first death was not a human death—one of the only two human deaths in existence at this point. No, the first death was an animal. Suddenly realising they were naked, they did a poor job of covering themselves up with fig leaves, so God did a better job of giving them better clothing with the sacrifice of an animal. They could not cover their shame and sin, so God covered it for them. This is grace—unexpected, undeserved mercy.

The threat of death for eating the forbidden fruit was more than a threat; it was a promise. But there is another promise. The first person God addresses is the serpent, “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” [3:15]. This seed of the woman is Jesus, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the seed of the Virgin Mary, Eve’s descendant. Jesus was only an infant when this enmity rose between Him and the devil. There was a vile king named Herod, who heard Micah’s prophecy from the magi that a king would be born in Bethlehem, so he viewed this as a threat to his own reign. The devil, being a murderer from the beginning [John 8:44], used Herod to slaughter all male children in Bethlehem 2 years and under, but an angel of the Lord told Joseph to flee to Egypt with his wife and child to escape the enmity [Matt. 2:1-18].

When Jesus grew to be a man and fasted in the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights before beginning His ministry in Galilee, Satan found this to be a good opportunity to attack Jesus at His weakest once again [4:1-11]. You see, that’s what the devil does. He’s a coward. He attacks babies and children, and he strikes just when you’ve turned your back and you’re at your weakest. But Jesus did in the wilderness what Adam failed to do in the Garden—He rejected the devil and his clever lies and sent him packing. But then the serpent returned at a more opportune time again. At His most weakest, the serpent struck Jesus’ heel as His feet were nailed to the cross, yet by His death Jesus struck a more fatal blow to the serpent’s head, knocking all his teeth out so that the worst he can do now is gum you to death.

So then, what reason is there to run from God? Rather than strike you down as you and I justly deserve, God clothes you with the robe of Christ’s righteousness, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, covered in His blood [Rev. 7:14; John 1:29; Gal. 3:26-27]. We do a poor job of hiding our shame and sin. We dress them up with rationalisations like, “Well that’s just your interpretation of the Bible.” Or we even repeat the devil’s lie, “God didn’t actually say that. That’s not really what the Bible means.” So, Jesus approaches you, He strips you naked of your poor clothing, revealing all your sin and imperfections, even your so-called righteous deeds that even at their best are merely filthy garments [Is. 64:6], and He gives you better clothing—His robe of righteousness. No longer covered in the grime of your sin, He covers you in the purity of His humanity.

All this came at the high cost of His own blood. He sacrificed Himself that you might be covered in His perfect righteousness—a garment eternally better than our filthy fig leaves of self-justification and playing the blame game. The one man Adam brought condemnation, but the one man Jesus Christ brings justification—He makes you right with God again [Rom. 5:16-19].

The LORD God bid Adam and Eve come. Though He makes them answer for their sin, He is also gracious toward them and clothes them with the flesh of an animal. Jesus bids you come, too. “Come to Me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” [Matt. 11:28]. Today, He bids you come, that He might clothe you with the garment of His own flesh. Our parents in the Garden divorced themselves from God, and they likewise sowed the seed of marital conflict when they shifted the blame onto each other. Therefore, Christ invites you to the wedding banquet of His Supper, that He might be one flesh with you again. He bids you come and eat His body and drink His blood that was sacrificed for you on the altar of Mt. Calvary, where the tree of the cross became the tree of life for you, that He might also clothe you with His perfect righteousness.

Sacrifice all knowledge—whatever it is you think you know—and trust in Jesus only—right here at the altar of the cross where you are bidden to eat and drink from the fruit of the tree of life and receive the garment of Christ in His body and blood that covers all your sins. To Christ belongs all the glory, forever and ever. Amen.


Featured image: Paradise (1530) by Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553). Wikimedia Commons.


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