From the very beginning of time there has been a spiritual struggle for the soul of humanity. Soon after the account of creation introduces us to God and to Adam and Eve, we meet a darker and more sinister character – that of the serpent, the craftiest creature of all. Subtly and subversively the serpent sows seeds of distrust, and before we progress far beyond the introduction to the grand narrative of creation, things go horribly wrong. The open relationship mankind was intended to enjoy with God was broken because of Adam and Eve’s disobedience. The ultimate enemy of God – filled with hatred for God’s purposes and willing destruction for God’s creation – had won an apparent victory very early in the contest.
But, there were also other seeds being sown very early in this story. When God confronted the serpent in Genesis 3, he pronounced a curse that contains within it the seeds of the serpent’s demise. Genesis 3:15 is known among theologians as the protoevangelium, the first announcement of the Gospel recorded in the bible. Listen to the powerfully prophetic pronouncement from God Himself, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”
This verse first indicates that the struggle for the soul of humanity would continue. There will continue to be “enmity” between the forces of darkness and humanity. As long as humans inhabit the earth, spiritual darkness will be a work to bring discord and destruction. We can see its influence manifested in the wicked leaders that oppress people, in the monsters that prey upon the helpless, in the greed-driven policies that perpetuate poverty. The forces are real. They are strong; and they hate everything good. They have “enmity” toward us.
That hatred was most evident in the most evil crime ever committed – the murder of God’s Son. Betrayed by a close friend and arraigned on trumped up charges, Jesus was tried before an illegal assembly and sentenced to death based on politically motivated fear. Beaten beyond recognition and publically exposed on a Roman stake of execution, Jesus died a miserable and lonely death. When the Roman soldiers sealed his tomb with that cold stone stab, it seemed that the archvillain in God’s story had won an irreversible victory. But, remember the promise of Genesis 3:15. The murder of Jesus was the serpent’s strike. The venom of death was absorbed by him. But, the sting of the serpent was only a strike to the heel!! Though a deadly strike, it was not a final wound.
The final wound comes when the serpent’s head is crushed! The serpent’s blow would cause its intended effect, but the seed of the woman would utterly destroy God’s ultimate enemy. Three days after it seemed all hope of victory was gone, the greatest crime ever committed was followed by the greatest miracle ever witnessed. The death of Jesus was only a strike to the heel. Jesus rose from the grave and served the serpent a sound defeat! Jesus won big! He made a public spectacle over the enemy by turning the deadly symbol of the cross into the symbol of his triumph. He defanged the serpent by providing an anecdote to its venom. Death was swallowed up by life. That is the hope of Easter. That is what we celebrate every Sunday when we gather. It is what we especially remember during this time of year. I pray that as we reflect together upon the death and resurrection of Jesus, the hope he offers us will overpower every doubt, every fear, every seed of discord, every destructive and deadly venom that threatens our soul. May we rejoice that death has been swallowed up by life!
Please spend some time preparing your hearts as we approach a celebration of Easter. It may seem you are right in the middle of one of those irreversible defeats that threaten the outcome of God’s story for your life. You may feel the weight of the cold stone slab of death upon your life. You may know people who seem to have been bitten by a deadly serpent. Remember the proclamation of Genesis 3:15. There will always be enmity. But, also remember the promise. Jesus has crushed the head of the serpent. And because he won, we win, too! “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you (Romans 16:20).”
Allow the hope of his victory to counteract the venom. Celebrate the joyous truth that Jesus is alive, and don’t miss out on the joy of sharing this liberating truth with someone who does not yet know it!