Death Through Adam, Life Through Christ
March 1, 2020
Trinity Mennonite Church
Death Through Adam, Life Through Christ
Today is the first Sunday of Lent. We are entering the 40 days before Jesus’ death on a cross and his resurrection from the dead. For some, Lent is a time to give up something as a reminder of Jesus giving up his life for us. It feels like some small sacrifice on our part. Of course, what you give up has to be something you love. You can’t give up eating white rice if you don’t ever eat rice in the first place. That’s no sacrifice.
For some, Lent is a time to take on something as a preparation of Jesus’ death. They add a devotional time before bed, worship at lunch hour, a lighting of a candle on their desk during the day, dressing in black, or wearing a cross necklace.
This Lent needs to be not what you will give up, but what you will live for. Not how you might demonstrate your piety, but how you might live in true obedience to God. Not what you will prove, but what reproves you. Unfortunately, we want to prove to ourselves and to others that we can overcome all kinds of things that we should resist, as if that which tempted Jesus can be reduced to passing over a piece of chocolate cake.
Rather Lent should be a time to stop, look, and listen. Slow down and breathe in the life of Jesus. It is a long and difficult journey to the cross, but if we pay careful attention Jesus shows us who he is. Jesus invites us into a deeper understanding or relationship with him. May it be so for you this Lent.
In our text for today from Romans 5, we learn where temptations come from. We learn of the saving righteousness of God in Jesus Christ. In the first 11 verses of chapter 5 Paul focuses on the sovereign love of God. And now in the verses that immediately follow, love is envisioned as an act of identity
Notice the contrasts the apostle Paul uses in this text between Adam and Jesus Christ. I am having these figures represent Adam & Eve on one side and Jesus on the other
Here it is in a nutshell:
Just as one person did it wrong, and got us in all this trouble with sin and death,
another person did it right and got us out of it. But more than just getting us out of trouble, he got us into life!
One man said no to God and put many people in the wrong;
one man said yes to God and put many in the right.
All that passing laws against sin did was produce more lawbreakers. But sin didn’t, and doesn’t, have a chance in competition with the aggressive forgiveness we call grace.
When it is sin versus grace, grace wins every time--hands down.
All sin can do is threaten us with death, and that’s the end of it.
Grace, because God is putting everything together again through the Messiah, invites us into life—a life that goes on and on and on world without end.
Today, choose life!
Here in the United States, we’ve been on a bottled water binge for a number of years. Even though most people have a safe supply of water that is free and readily available from faucets and drinking fountains, they still purchase bottled water. Choosing to pay for something that I can enjoy at no cost doesn’t make sense to me, but some people believe that a product they pay for is superior to anything they receive free.
This sometimes carries over into our spiritual lives. Some struggle to accept that salvation is a gift. They want to do something to earn it. The problem is, no one can afford it. The price of salvation is perfection and Jesus is the only person who could pay the price. To anyone who thirsts, He promises to give of the fountain of the water of life freely.
Some people try to purchase the living water of salvation with good deeds and charitable donations. Although these are forms of spiritual service valued by God, they are not what God requires for the forgiveness of our sin. Jesus already paid the price by dying in our place, and He offers to quench our spiritual thirst when we drink feely from God’s fountain that will never run dry.
The abundance of grace is free.
Elaine was picking a path through throngs of people, as she made her way up the busy city street. Her attention was drawn to a man standing in line at a sidewalk hot-dog stand. The leftover hot dogs from the lunchtime were selling for half price. The man’s gnarled fingers fumbled with a small plastic bag he had withdrawn from the same broken shoe he had probably used as a pillow earlier in the day.
Without warning, a man dressed in a business suit stepped into the line and pushed his way in front of the street person. Briskly he held out his money and waved it in front of the clerk’s face. “How unfair,” Elaine thought. Then she heard the businessman say, “He’s mine.” The man in the suit pointed toward the homeless man and said, “He’s mine. I’ll pay his bill.”
The moment passed quickly, but it left a lasting impression. In God’s eyes we are like the man on the sidewalk—poor alone, and unable to pay the debt we owe. But Jesus stepped to the head of the line and said, “They’re mine. I’ll pay their debt.” And he paid what we cannot pay.
Abundant grace is free.
Many years ago, Dwight was caught in a dramatic snowstorm that closed the airport and stranded him for two days. Not only were flights cancelled, but one could not even leave the terminal for comfort and sanctuary in nearby hotels. Dwight watched monitors as flight after flight was cancelled. As his plight deepened, frustration grew. People wandered the airport and, in some cases, in and out of restaurants and bars. The late afternoon quickly darkened into the evening; the howl of the wind outside deepened and was easily heard inside.
Suddenly the doors of the main concourse seemed to blow open, and several people wearing the white helmets and insignia of the Red Cross entered. They were soon followed by others with cots and blankets. From down the concourse I could see a large banner being unfurled with a giant Red Cross logo and the words “Help Found Here.” What struck Dwight were not only the resources they had come to provide but also the effort they had made to reach the stranded, to be with them and share their plight.
Beyond empathy, beyond sympathy, there is identification. Somehow, even at the human level, we are left feeling that this is too good to be true, too amazing to be believable. As all these strangers and wanderers in the airport made their way to the cross, they became more respectful of each other’s plight. What each received became a collective gift.
Jesus Christ lives his life in the midst of and as a part of this human story; he identifies with us completely, so that we may identify our true selves in him. It is this enactment of the sovereign, divine love that precedes and undergirds the Adam. It says: “Help found here.” at the cross.
Paul says, “God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us…. The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
In Romans 5, our text for today, Paul is trying to impress on us that Christ did not die and rise again merely to provide a bit of needed improvement, or to fill some gaps in our life. He died to save us from a mortal disease that lies at the core of our being, affecting all of our thoughts, words, and deeds and corrupting human society as a whole. The truth about sin is a central part of the gospel, because it illuminates our real condition before God and, consequently, the depth of mercy love, and forgiveness that God offers us in Christ.
Paul’s deep analysis of sin and death serves to fill out the gospel of Christ crucified and risen. In the same way that our sin and mortality have their determinative origin in the one man Adam, so too our life and salvation are uniquely rooted in the one man Christ. While Paul urges us to appreciate the gravity of the human condition, he is even more concerned to impress on us that Christ’s power and saving grace exceed the separation and destruction of sin and death. Whereas sin and death have dominion over fallen creation, those who are in Christ live instead under the dominion of grace through a life of righteousness. Either way, we are under the domination of a force that is greater than we are. We must choose whether to serve sin or to serve Christ, who has set us free for life and joy. Although death is the deserved result of our sin, righteousness and eternal life are God’s undeserved gift to us through Christ.
Our sin is deep unavoidable and devastating, but the grace of Christ far exceeds the power of sin and death. God is on our side against sin and death, and nothing can separate us from his abundant grace and love in Christ Jesus.
In response, let us stop and look inward. What part of Adam do we have in us. What temptations do you encounter? What disobedience have you been a part of? What is separating you from God this morning? I invite you to come forward and pick up one of the stones on the table and place it in a bowl of water. This represents your repentance and the wash of God’s grace over you. Come while the song “Give me Jesus” plays.
Feasting on the Word. Year A, Volume 2