When Adam and Eve rebelled against God in the Garden, humanity’s authority over creation was ripped from them. They were divided from God, divided from their inner selves, divided from each other. God had warned them, “In the day you eat the forbidden fruit, you will surely die.” And they did. They experienced an immediate death in their spirits; it was now only a matter of time before their bodies would succumb to the death that had claimed their souls.
This is what it means to reject God’s authority. It means hiding, blaming, fearing, distorting, hurting. It means division between people, even husband and wife. Look at verse 17: “To the woman he said, ‘I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.’” The word translated desire is used in the next chapter of the desire to control a person. Pain and division came pouring into the most intimate relationship on earth like a flood. Husbands ruling over wives, wives trying to control husbands, and marriages cracking under the weight of sin.
Work, which had been given to man as a blessing, now became a pain and a drudgery. Verse 18: “Through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.” When Adam and Eve disobeyed God, humankind stepped off a cliff. When theologians talk about Genesis three, they often describe Adam and Eve’s sin as The Fall. But I believe what happened in the garden was only the initial tumble down a long, steep hill. Humanity is still falling. Our downward progression has not stopped.
The would-be ruler of creation has become the subject of pain and sorrow. In the next chapter we learn that sin was passed on from parent to child. Sin is the ultimate pandemic; it has infected us all. The story of the first sin does not end with man banished from the garden because sin does not end. It continues.
Humankind has fallen, and is still falling, and who can stop our plunge? But the Creator is faithful to his creation. The psalmist says, “he will not harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve . . . ”6 He will stretch out his arm and rescue us.
I said that humanity is still falling, but in our headlong plunge toward fear and hiding and blame – towards hell itself – a hand is stretched out toward us. It is a scarred hand, and your name is engraved on its palm. He alone can break our fall, but he can only do so by gathering all the force of the fall into himself.
This was God’s plan all along. He who was at the beginning and is already at the end foresaw this. You see, history does not stretch out like a line – a timeline, as we say; rather the line has not just width, but height and depth, and it towers up, like some great cathedral spire, to the cross. It is in view in the beginning – in creation: Jesus is the Lamb slain before the foundation of the earth.9 And it is in view at the end: at the judgment and beyond: the new song of heaven is: “You are worthy . . . because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.”10
Man will again rule on the earth – when he comes back under the authority of God. Despite the fall, the story goes on, but from wherever one stands, in the chaos of the early earth or the worship of the glorified in heaven, one sees towering above history the cross and, reaching into history, the outstretched, scarred palms of Jesus Christ our Lord.
6 Psalm 103:9-10
9 Revelation 13:8
10 Revelation 5:9-10
(You can read previous posts in the Wide Angle series by typing “wide angle” in the search box on the top right of this page.)