Wednesday, 18 February 2015
The Easter Story: The Beginnings
JUST AFTER THE BEGINNING.
The earth is sick. The soil has grown dry and unyielding. The plants were now covered in thorns and weeds littered the ground. The earth is sick; the earth is broken.
This was not how it had begun. The trees had once been pregnant with fruit- their boughs sagging under the weight of the crop. The corn heads were full, shimmering gold beneath the sun. The soil was rich and fertile. But this was now in the past. This was before they took the fruit.
In the Garden there was a tree and that tree was able to give those who ate of it the knowledge of good and the knowledge of evil. Before this knowledge, there is just innocence. To know of good or evil - to see something and judge its goodness, its purity; or its cruelty, its malice - is the loss of innocence. With innocence is life and freedom. After innocence is guilt and shame and damnation. With damnation comes a curse.
To know goodness is to know evil. To know evil is to know death. This is the curse.
The earth was innocent once. Now it is sick; now it is broken.
The serpent had told them that to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was not bad.
"For surely you will not die," the serpent whispered. And so they ate. They knew of good and they knew of evil. Their innocence had been lost. With their new understanding they knew of their nakedness. Guilt, shame, damnation. Death, sickness, pain, despair. These entered into the world.
God cast mankind from the Garden. The soil was now to be hard and unyielding. Man had to sweat to make the soil produce anything. And they would die. From dust they came; dust they will become.
Had the serpent won? Men were cast out. The earth was sick. What God had called good had been spoiled.
Who will bring healing to this sickness? Who will restore this brokenness?
"I will put enmity between you and the woman," the Lord God said to the snake. "Her offspring will crush your head, and you will bite their heel."
And so began the Easter Story.
The text of Genesis 3:15 is often seen as the first declaration of God's intentions to see his son die by the crucifix. This, of course, is often disputed, but there are various reasons why I believe this to be the case. It offers many insights into the newly broken world that was the result of the Fall and also of God's plan to restore his broken world. There are to be two inhabitants of this world, the offspring of the serpent and the offspring of the woman: the sinners who are at enmity with the Redeemer and his redeemed.
The woman's offspring will go into battle with the serpent. Her offspring will suffer when the serpent bites his heel. But, in the end the serpent is defeated and the woman's offspring is victorious.
Therefore, from the very outset of humanity, from the moment sin and rebellion entered the world, the redemption and victory of Jesus was promised.
Ash Wednesday begins the period of Lent, a time of fasting and contemplation. The ash is sprinkled or marked on the heads of believers, with the words from Genesis 3:19 reminding them that they will too become dust. These acts are to remind believers of their inherent sinful nature, as they too are marked by the sickness and brokenness that is in the world.