“A Tale of Two Trees” (Genesis 2:8-9, 15-17; 3:1-24)
This is “A Tale of Two Trees.” Oh, there were a whole bunch of other trees besides, lots of them, but this story will focus on just two.
Our story begins back in the garden, the garden of Eden, that is. There the Lord God had formed the man from the dust of the earth, and he gave the man the authority and the responsibility to take care of it. The Lord was very generous toward the man, withholding nothing, providing him with everything he needed, in abundance. There were lots and lots of trees in this garden, all sorts of trees that were nice to look at and good for food.
Now there were two trees in the middle of the garden that were especially important. One was called the tree of life, and the other was called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. These are the two trees our tale is focused on.
The tree of life was as its name describes: the tree that sustained life for the man and his wife. And they had free access to this tree. They could eat and live forever. Eternal life. No death, ever. Perfect communion with God and with one another. Harmony with nature, man and beast. No disasters, no disease, no death. Only wholeness and health and harmony. This truly was Paradise. And the tree of life was at the center of it. Eat of it and you shall live.
And then there was another tree, located nearby. This was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The meaning of this tree’s name is a little more mysterious to figure out. What does it mean to know good and evil? Well, up to this point man had known only good. He had experienced only good. The Lord God had created and provided him with all that was good, very good. Our Creator God knows what is good for us, his creatures, and he knows what would be evil for us. He is our Creator, and thus he knows best.
And so there in the garden, God wanted to keep man from knowing and experiencing evil. He put a hedge around that tree, so to speak. The Lord God gave man a command, telling him not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil: “You have plenty of trees to eat from, Adam, all of them good. You are not lacking for anything. You even may eat from the tree of life and live forever. But this one command I give you: You shall not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. For in the day you eat of it you shall surely die.”
Well, now you know how the story goes on from there. Indeed, you and I live the story that goes on from there. We live it out, every day, the same story, the same scenario, that Adam and Eve fell into. It’s a story of temptation, unbelief, and sin–and the consequences, the curse, which follow upon that unbelief and sin.
The tempter comes, coming in the form of a snake. A subtle, slithering tempter is Satan. And he whispers in the woman’s ear. “Did God say?” the temptations begin. The devil would cast doubt upon God’s word. Is that really what God meant? How do you know that’s true? “No, you will not die.” The devil denies God’s word. God must have some ulterior motive in mind, that’s why he told you not to eat of it. Satan plants this seed of distrust in our mind, the idea that God is holding out on us, wanting to spoil our fun, keeping us from that which we desire. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
So then the woman looks at the tree, the appeal of it. She dwells upon that and dismisses God’s word. The tree looks delightful, its fruit looks delicious, and what it promises sounds most desirable. They will be as wise as God! They can be their own god, free from the constraints of that big old meanie in the sky!
And so the woman takes and eats. She shares some with her husband, who willingly goes along with the idea. Bzzt! This is sin. This is the original sin, the sin that lies at the basis of all the sin that we commit, namely, to disregard God’s word, to not fear, love, and trust in God above all things. Adam and Eve, you had one command, and you blew it!
In disobeying God, man and woman now know and experience evil. They decided to be their own judge of what is good and evil. They wanted to be their own god. They think they know better than God. And now look where that gets them.
They hide from God. They blame one another. They blame God, ultimately, for their own disobedience. Shame, blame-shifting, guilt, conflict, and rebellion have entered into the human story. And all of that is carried down to this day. We all do all this stuff, in one way or another. “All mankind fell in Adam’s fall; one common sin infects us all.”
Do you own this sin? Do you see it as your own? It is, you know. You and I are guilty of the same thing, over and over again. Tuning out God, ignoring his word. Wanting to do what we want to do, regardless of what God says. I am guilty. How about you?
And so now, back in the garden, the curse descends. Life, from this point on, will be all fouled up. Things won’t work right. Nature won’t work right. People won’t work right. Futility will enter the picture. Pain in childbearing for the woman. Men will find futility in their work; now it will become toilsome labor. Conflict between man and woman, striving for who’s the boss. Ugly, ugly stuff.
And then God pronounces the curse that he had earlier attached to the breaking of his command. “In the day you eat of it you shall surely die.” Listen, Adam, man formed from the dust, here is the curse you have brought upon yourself by your disobedience: “You are dust, and to dust you shall return.” This is the curse of death, which impends over us all. And to seal the deal, man and woman are driven out of the garden, a flaming sword at the entryway, no longer permitted to eat from the tree of life. And so the dust of the grave awaits us all.
And so that is the tale of the two trees, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil–we ate of it–and the tree of life–we are barred from it. But wait, I think we missed something! Along with the curse, there is also a promise that God speaks. He speaks it to the serpent, but it really is a promise for us. God says to the devil: “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.”
Enmity–opposition, hostility–between the devil with his demonic crew versus the human race. The woman’s offspring, the woman’s seed–the devil will strike him in the heel, even as he, the woman’s offspring, stomps on the devil’s head. Friends, this is a picture and a promise of Jesus Christ, our Savior and our Deliverer from death and the power of the devil. Jesus Christ, the woman’s seed, born of the virgin Mary. The devil will strike him in the heel and, in the process, Jesus will deliver the death blow to the devil’s head. This is a picture and a promise of what would happen at the cross. The serpent snapped at Jesus’ heel, gleeful that the Son of God would get nailed to a cross. But that was the trap that was the undoing of Satan. For by dying on the cross, Christ paid the price for all of man’s rebellion, all of man’s sin, your sin and mine–Jesus shedding his holy blood on our behalf, and so cleansing us and covering our many misdeeds. Jesus broke the devil’s back on that cross. Now there is nothing to accuse us with, our sins are atoned for, forgiven.
The evil empire of death has been plundered and spoiled. Jesus our Champion has won the victory and shares it with us. Death no longer is the end of the story. “For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man,” that is, Adam, “much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.” Here is your Savior, dear friends! It is Jesus! “For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”
Yes, Jesus Christ is the resurrection and the life. He is the way, the truth, and the life. True life, eternal life, life that overcomes the grave–this life is found only in him. And it is his free gift to you. Trust in him, beloved, trust in Christ, and know for certain that this life is yours.
Today we have heard a tale of two trees. Although we ate of the one from which we were told not to eat, yet, by God’s grace and because of Christ, we will have access once again to the tree of life.