Why do things happen to us? Why do we experience some good things and some bad things? In our society, we pride ourselves in personal autonomy. We want to believe that things are within our control. Do you want to get ahead in life? Roll up your sleeves and get to work. What do we tell our children? You can be whatever you want to be. This is a good thing. We do not want to be like some cultures that just accept their circumstances, even extreme injustice, because they see themselves as paying off the sins of a former life. Our society has benefited because there are people who have a dream and a vision and they are willing to work to achieve those goals. We are blessed because there are people who could see beyond their current circumstances. However, it is not completely true that each of us is in full control of our destiny. It is not true that we can do whatever we want. It is not true that the human experience is just a collection of individual choices. We are affected by forces greater than ourselves. In many ways, life is like being in a fast moving river. We can move around in the river, adjusting our position, moving around a bit, but we are still stuck with the current and with the twists and turns of the river. People have made choices that affect our life. This will seem very unfair. I should be able to choose my own destiny, it is not right for other people to choose it for me. And yet this happens all the time. You could be working for a company, seeking to be a model employee, doing extra work and trying your very best. That will affect you some. But if the owner of the company makes some bad business decisions that lead to bankruptcy, you are affected by their decisions beyond what you try to achieve as an individual. Is that fair? No, but it would be reality. What if the Prime Minister of Canada decided to declare war on the United States of America? Would that affect you if we went to war with our neighbours to the south, even if you were not involved in the decision? Of course. Parents make choices that affect their children, spouses make choices that affect their spouse and the government is always making choices that affect us all. That is the experience of life. Then we should not be surprised that is true in our spiritual life as well. Christianity is not just about a bunch of people, some choosing to be good, others choosing to be bad. It is much more complicated than that. Paul presents for us a picture of human existence and our relationship to God according to the choices of two men: Adam and Jesus. It is interesting that Adam simply means man and Jesus’ favorite title was the Son of Man. These two individuals, Man and Son of Man, made decisions that affect us all. We cannot avoid their decisions, although we can choose which choice will rule our lives. Let us look at the story of these two men.
The first man was Adam. In many ways, he was the ultimate parent. Just as I can make choices that will affect my family, Adam was given the responsibility of choosing for all of his family, including us. Adam was given a blessed existence. Life was easy and life was good. Adam had a close relationship with God, it was like two friends walking together in the garden. There was the potential for a wonderful existence for the human race. Then came the serpent. It is easy to blame the serpent and it was certainly not innocent. But the serpent did not make choices for the human race, Adam did. What was the sin of Adam? It was not eating the wrong kind of fruit. There was something much deeper going on here. The first thing he did wrong was lose trust in God. God promised to care for him and bless him. But Adam lost sight of that and wanted more. Can you imagine being promised ninety-nine things and being upset about the one that is withheld? We can imagine, because often that is our experience. The other part of the sin was wanting to be more like God. The serpent said that if the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil was eaten, the first couple would be like God. Obviously the serpent was trying to manipulate them, but the trick worked only because they really wanted to be more like God. When I say more like God, I do not mean they wanted to be more kind and loving and merciful and righteous and holy. They wanted to blur the lines between the Creator and the creation. They craved what God had and coveted his greater power. If they had to disobey God’s one command so they could narrow the gap between God and humanity, then so be it. How do we know this happened? Should we be watching for an archaeological discovery of a man born without a belly bottom? We know this story is true because this still is our story. We are still on the same quest as our father Adam to push God off the throne. People do this through new age mysticism in order to become a god or through technology, playing god in the laboratory. What was the result of Adam’s choice? He got what he wanted. He gained the knowledge of good and evil, by losing the one and receiving the other in experience. This brought death into the human race. What kind of death? Theologians disagree on some of the details but we do agree on is that this was spiritual death. It was death in that humanity was now separated from God. A huge wall went up that prevented God’s life power to flow back to us. Death reigned, not just for Adam as an individual, but for all the human race. One choice by one man, brought death into the world, all because he wanted to be more like God.
Son of Man
That sounds rather hopeless. However, Christianity is anything but hopeless. God had no intention of leaving humanity in its separation and in its bondage to death. But how would such a thing be reversed? Adam had the legitimate authority to choose the way for humanity and God would be breaking his own rules by arbitrarily overturning the decision. In order for God to reverse the results of Adam’s sin, he would have to almost repeat the original setting and give us a second chance. But who could take Adam’s place? Not just any person would do. After all, Adam went into this without a sin nature and everyone after him has a sin nature. God needed someone who was not already bound to sin and so was free to choose one way or another. The person who was chosen was God’s Son, born as a human being, coming into this world without a sin nature. It is interesting to compare Adam and Christ. Adam longed for what God had. But listen to what Paul says about Jesus: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2:5–7 ESV) Jesus already had equality of God and he refused to cling to that. What Jesus did was much harder than what was expected of Adam. It is one thing to decide that you are not going to pursue something, it is another thing to give up what you already have. If time was rolled back fifteen years, it would be possible for me to choose to not have a family. Many people make that choice and are happy with it. But if I had to choose to give up my family, to lose my wife and children, I could not do it. Experiencing it now, I would not be able to give up family out of ignorance. In the same way, Jesus already knew what he had and what it meant for him to give up that to become human. But it was not just about equality with God. It was about obedience. Adam brought death into the world through disobedience. Life could come flooding back into the world only by a much greater act of obedience. Adam had one commandment to obey: do not eat of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. He failed. Jesus has one commandment to obey: go and die on the cross. Do you see the contrast here? Don’t eat some fruit, go and die a painful death. I know the commandment I would prefer. And yet Adam could not obey the painless command, while Jesus was fully obedient to the painful command. Do not think that Jesus was just going through the motions, that this was no big deal because he was the Son of God. Read about Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, the night before the crucifixion. Jesus really wrestled with this, knowing full well the price of obedience. And yet Jesus was still able to say “Not my will, but your will be done.” That was obedience! The result of that obedience was as great as Adam’s act of disobedience. Life came rushing like a flood back to the human race. The opportunity to remove the separation from God suddenly was back. The repair process from all the damage done by Adam had no begun. What Adam as Man had done was bind us to death. What Jesus as Son of Man had done was to free us to life.
This is an interesting story. If we were looking at a piece of fiction, we might enjoy making the comparisons between Adam and Jesus on a literary level. But this is not just a story. It is literally a matter of life and death. Adam chose death for the human race. Jesus came and chose life. But what does that choice mean? It is not as automatic as what happened with Adam. Adam’s choice had to be honored. That means that death and separation from God are our natural direction. What Jesus did was give us an opportunity to change destinies. We cannot simply step out of Adam’s shadow, but we can step into Jesus‘ shadow. By choosing Jesus, we can move out of death into life, out of separation and into relationship, out of darkness and into light. We have only two options available. We can be in Adam or we can be in Christ. Which one will we choose?