By Paul Koch –
Genesis Chapter 3 is an incredibly profound and rich text. It tells the story of mankind’s great fall into sin. We see here the beginnings of the rebellion, the mistaken movements in the name of misplaced freedom. We hear the echoes of the desires of our own hearts, the longing to stand on our own, to know good and evil, to be like God himself. It begins with the rejection of the Word of God, when the serpent asks, “Did God really say?” God just wants to hold you back. He wants you to remain subservient. And so, they take and eat. They do what was forbidden, and their eyes are opened. They now know good and evil, and they are terrified by what they’ve done. They hide from their Creator, their relationship with Him is torn. Instead of assurance and confidence it is now marked by doubt and fear. They see their nakedness and are ashamed.
When God comes to His creatures, they begin to make excuses and blame others. The man says, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” It is as if he’s laying the blame not only on his wife but on God himself who gave him his wife. The woman says, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” She blames the snake. But God is having none of it. Beginning with the snake and moving in reverse order, He begins to speak the horrifying truth of the ramifications of their actions. Our God is a just God. He is true to His word and so He proclaims curses into the beauty of His creation. We learn about the great war between the offspring of the woman and that of the of the serpent. We hear about the pain of childbirth and the disruption of marriage. We hear of our end, that we are dust and to dust we shall return. And yet, right in the middle of it all there is a different sort of word. Right amid the curse, there is a blessing, a promise that gives hope and encouragement.
The early church called this word the protoevangelium, or the first Gospel. It isn’t a full-blown articulation of the suffering, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ but it is there none-the-less. Right after the curse of enmity between the offspring of the serpent and the offspring of the woman, God says, “He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” And there in that simple line we are given a promise that the battle between Satan and man, between God’s will and the perversion of the world, between good and evil, will not go on forever. There will be an offspring from woman and this Son of Man will bruise, or crush, the head of the serpent once for all. There will be a battle and they will inflict injuries on each other, but the result is not the same. One is wounded in the head and the other upon the heel.
Now this first Gospel isn’t as eloquent of a description as our usual images. It doesn’t use the courtroom image of forensic justification, where we are justified by grace through faith in Christ alone. It isn’t the image of adoption, or the one of the shepherd seeking the sheep, or even the great exchange where all that is his is given to you and in return he takes all that is yours. No, here the image is simple. It is of one who will stomp on the head of Satan, one who will crush the opposition. And, perhaps, it is this primal image that we need to dwell on a little more. For sometimes this is what we really need to hear. It is what we really want confirmation of. We need the reminder that our God from the beginning has planned to destroy the evil foe, that he will crush him and so end the war, that he will end the battle between his love and our sin. There are times when the old Accuser is so loud, so vociferous in his condemnation of all our thoughts and deeds, that we just want him to be silenced. No give and take, no witty banter, just crushed.
However, the crushing doesn’t always take the form we want it to take. We want it to be profound and decisive, evident that the loser has really lost, that the evil one has been judged and sent running scared with his tail between his legs. We want those who reject the name of our Lord to be silenced, those who mock the church to be punished, those who despise what we love we want to be crushed. Crushing the enemy ought to look like victory. It ought to be a hallmark of power and glory. I’m not saying that we want some sort of paradise on earth, but we at least want everyone to know where the victors gather and in this cosmic battle who the losers are.
But it isn’t all that obvious who the victors are. In fact, if when you align yourselves with the winners you will often find a struggle because it turns out that you don’t look too much like winners. If you are on the side of the one who crushed the head of the serpent, then why then do you continue to struggle? Why does so much of life feel and look like we’ve drawn the short straw, that we are the losers? Perhaps we long for the one who promises to crush the serpent’s head because we ourselves are being crushed. For we know all too well what it is to fail to do what we know we should do. You know how you ought to live as the children of God. You know what things bring honor and praise to your Lord yet over and again you don’t do them. You know how you ought to treat one another, you know the call for love and forgiveness and charity, but it doesn’t seem to be your gut reaction. You can’t conquer your own flesh, your own sinful desires, your own thoughts words and deeds. So, how can you be sure that you are on the winning side?
God says to the ancient serpent, “He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” There is a wound inflicted on both sides, but who knew how powerful that strike to the heel would be? The wounding of the heel looks like a weak and broken man. One who endured the mocking of mankind, felt their ridicule and disgust. The wounded heel looks like One stricken, smitten and afflicted by God, One who dies a cursed death upon a cross. For we know that the One who does the stomping of the head is the same one who suffers and dies. Everything is turned upside down in Him. Strength looks like weakness and victory looks like death. But here our God does His great work.
Unlike the crushing of the head, this blow would not stop the work of our Lord. It is a real death, real pain and suffering. Real punishment for your sins was endured by your Lord. But on the third day something new happened. Death did not hold Him, death was not the victor. In fact, death becomes the weapon of our Lord. For it is by His death that He crushes the head of the serpent. By His dying and rising He brings about true and eternal victory. And that victory is yours even now. For every accusation leveled against you, every condemnation that would keep you from eternal life was crushed on that cross.
We then live each day in the gift of the cross of Christ. We live in assurance that the serpent is crushed, and victory is already ours in Christ and we long for the day to come when we will see it with our own eyes. For this is the hope of the Christian. This is what our life together is all about. We endure, we press on, in the certain hope of the victory that began at Calvary as it goes through the empty tomb and will come to conclusion at the day of our Lord’s return. In the meantime, you bear the promise of the One who crashes into a world of the crushed.
It may not look like glory and power, it may not look like victory in the eyes of the world, but victory it is. The old serpent is doomed, crushed by our Lord.