Keeping Advent: December 3

The Serpent & the Forbidden Fruit

The Serpent & the Forbidden Fruit

Theme: The Fall of Man

1 Now the serpent was more subtle than any of the beasts of the earth which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman: Why hath God commanded you, that you should not eat of every tree of paradise? 2 And the woman answered him, saying: Of the fruit of the trees that are in paradise we do eat: 3 But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of paradise, God hath commanded us that we should not eat; and that we should not touch it, lest perhaps we die. 4 And the serpent said to the woman: No, you shall not die the death. 5 For God doth know that in what day soever you shall eat thereof, your eyes shall be opened: and you shall be as Gods, knowing good and evil.

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God made the world good, He made us in his image and likeness, and He created us to live forever with Him in happiness. So what happened? Well, Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, right? The serpent tricked Eve, and Adam went along for the ride.

But is that all there is? In The Great Adventure Bible Study, Jeff Cavins talked about the original word that we translate to serpent. The meaning of it is more along the lines of a huge, frightening monster. A leviathan. And the undertones to his comments, “Surely you won’t die if you eat the fruit,” is kind of like a mobster talking to a shopkeeper. “Nice store you’ve got. It’d be a shame if something happened to it.” Viewed in this light, maybe Eve’s decision to eat the fruit was one that she felt backed into a corner over. How often in our lives we feel like this – backed into a corner, feeling like we have to choose the lesser of two evils? Eve chose evil by disobeying God and eating the fruit.

And for a moment, Adam was left as the only sinless human being alive. How would he react? Would he stand up to the serpent, risking his own life to serve God first? Would he give in to the serpent out of fear – whether it was a fear for his life or a fear of losing Eve, his wife, forever? What would have happened if Adam stood up to the serpent and had died for his bride?

As Aslan tells Lucy, it’s not for us to know the what ifs in life. We only know the way things have gone.

We all know that Adam ate the fruit, and then he and Eve realized that they were naked, and it bothered them to be naked in front of each other. They fashioned some kind of covering for themselves, realizing that things were different, but probably not quite grasping what exactly made it so. Theology tells us that their intellects were darkened by this action – this rejection of God’s plan.

Later, God walked through the garden looking for Adam, calling to him like a parent who has found the broken cookie jar with half the cookies eaten. “Adam, where are you?” God knows. Adam suddenly doesn’t remember that God knows, and reluctantly comes out from hiding. “Who told you that you were naked?” Again and again in this encounter, God gives Adam and Eve the chance to ‘fess up. He knows exactly what’s happened, but he wants Adam to take responsibility. Adam was responsible for taking care of things, for tending the garden and everything in it. Did the angels silently pray, “Come on, Adam. Just tell Him. It’ll be okay. He will forgive – God is Mercy!”

But Adam couldn’t do that any more. His intellect stayed dark, maybe growing darker with every excuse he tried passing off to his Creator. “That woman You put here tricked me!” Then Even joins in. “That serpent fooled me!” One excuse after another, just like our children do with us. They weren’t even sorry for hurting God. They were only sorry that they felt so awful, and they couldn’t even figure out why they felt that way.

When I think of their intellects growing darker by the minute, I imagine a glass of water that someone is pouring ink into very slowly. The ink swirls around and mixes with the water, clouding it and making things hazy and darkened.

If Adam and Eve ate the Tree of Life now, they could never be redeemed. They’d live forever in this state. They’d never be able to be as close to God as they were before their Fall. And so God banished them.

But God is Love and God is Mercy and God gave them some provisions. First of all, He cared for their immediate physical needs and gave them some clothes made from animal skins. And then he took care of their spiritual needs and made them a promise.

Some day, He told them, I am going to set things right for you. Some day, I’m going to send Someone Who will redeem you and make things better. That Person will make sure that we can be together forever, and you’ll be able to see My face again.

The entire rest of the Jesse Tree focuses on this promise and how God prepared the world for its fulfillment. 

Meditation text and pictures © Christine Johnson

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