In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And then God spoke. Let there be light and there was light. Let there be a sky. And there was the sky. Let dry land appear. And there was land. Let there be a sun and a moon. Let there be fish, let there be animals, let there be vegetation. And they all came, and they were all good. They were his handiwork.
And then he said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And so he created male and female in his image and blessed them. Their names were Adam and Eve. Humans were to have dominion over the earth: to be fruitful and multiply, to raise the animals, to cultivate the land, working to display God’s glory. God had created his ultimate masterpiece. The God of the heavens, Father, Son, and Spirit, made us to walk with him, to be with him, to be satisfied in him. He ruled over us as a benevolent King; and we were his willing servants.
And then God told Adam that he may eat of all the trees of the garden, to enjoy their fruit, but there was one. There was one from which he could not eat: the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If Adam ate from it, God guaranteed his death.
Now there was a serpent who was more crafty than any other creature. He had a nasty ability to divide that which wasn't meant to be divided. And so he approached Eve and said, Did God actually say, You shall not eat of any tree in the garden? And she said, We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden but God said, You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die. But the serpent twisted, he divided, he conned her. He convinced Eve that eating that fruit will give her insight she didn't yet have: that she would be like God. The serpent convinced Eve that she could not only be the creature, but also the creator—that she could not only be God’s masterpiece, but she could also be his equal. And so she took of the fruit. For the very first time in human history, man maneuvered his way into God’s place. This is what the old Hebrews called “transgression”: to know a boundary and yet willfully go past it. Another word is “crime”: we are criminals doing that we are not supposed to do. We willfully went against the intentions of the Creator. We know that he intends to be the ultimate satisfier, the only location of our worship, but we have replaced him with other things. You and me. We have done this.
But the most devastating aspect of it all is the consequence. Its not just that we have sinned; it is more about who we have sinned against. This Creator God is alone. There is no other being, no other god, no other king, that can even approach the reality of who this God is. He is utterly and terrifyingly unique. The word for this is holy. To transgress this God is a death sentence. We are guilty criminals in the divine courtroom. And so as an old preacher put it, The wages of sin is death. The consequence, the result, the end-game of our rebellion against God is an eternal death. To sin against an eternal God can only mean to die an eternal death, to suffer in hell.
And so the fate of humanity was final. We came into the world and we sowed corruption. Our wickedness was great and every intention of our heart was evil. There was no hope for us. Or so it seemed…
Suddenly, just like God had created the world out of nothing, just like he spoke light into darkness, he began something new. He took a pagan and lowly man named Abraham. Abraham was nothing special. In fact, his lineage was embarrassing. He was married to a barren woman. In a time when producing children was the honor and reputation of a family, Abraham had nothing to show. But that is where we see the beginning of God’s redemption project. God promises to do something for Abraham and Sarah that they could not do for themselves. He tells them they will have a child, even though they cannot have a child. And through that child, God promised to bless Abraham, and that through Abraham all the families of the earth would be blessed. And so Isaac was born; the blessing, the redemption, of the world had begun.
After several generations, Abraham’s family became a people for God’s own possession. God had adopted this family of Abraham as his own. They became his sons and his daughters. And he said to them, ‘you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ They were destined to be a nation that displayed God’s glory to all mankind. They were the conduit for God’s fame among the nations of the world. They were to be a light to the nations, that as the pagans looked in on this nation called Israel, they would see the wonderful and glorious and holy God of all gods. They would see their Creator through this nation and that would lead them to worship.
But Israel is just like you and me. Though they knew the intentions of God, they did not uphold them. Though they enjoyed communion with God, they rejected him. They, just like their ancestors Adam and Eve, replaced the Creator with the creation. They had failed. Their mission to extend God’s glory to all people failed miserably.
And so they were punished by God for their sin. They were uprooted from their home as a result of their disobedience. God’s presence was no longer with them. They were separated from the one who had called them as his people. For Israel, there was no hope. It seemed as though God’s plan of redemption had failed.
Generations passed and the people eventually returned home. And though they were back, God’s presence was still not among them. They were longing for his return to them.
And then, when hope was lost, God, once again, began a new work. A new light was to shine in the darkness. But this time, it was different. In the midst of a broken nation, in the midst of an evil world, God sent no one else but himself. He sent Immanuel, God with us. And though he was in the form of God, he did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a slave, being born in the likeness of men. God became a man to do what we could not do for ourselves. And so being fully God and fully man, Jesus came into the world. And the history books tell us something remarkable: Jesus wasn't born into just any family. He was born into the family of Abraham. He was a direct descendant of Abraham. That promise that God made so long ago was happening right now. The blessing and redemption of all people was beginning.
Jesus came preaching the good news. He was known for saying, The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe in the gospel. Jesus was here to establish God’s rule in the world. He was to here to begin the restoration of humanity. He came to bring us back to the way God intended things to be. God would once again be our ruler and benevolent King, and we would be his willing servants.
In order to do this, Jesus would need to overcome two obstacles: Satan and sin. He would need to overthrow the one who lied to us at the beginning of it all, the one who divided us against God and one another. And then he also need to defeat our sin. He would need to deal with our rebellion against God.
So in his public ministry, we see Jesus casting out demons, we see him defeating the evil one. But it goes further, it goes deeper. He would need to die. The God of the universe would need to die, because our sin brought death. Our sin brought destruction. Therefore, the only way this Son of the Almighty King could truly be victorious is if he took on that death himself, if he absorbed that destruction within himself. And so he voluntarily was beaten, he was voluntarily mocked, he was voluntarily pinned to a tree, he was voluntarily suffocated, he was voluntarily ripped to shreds that he he might glorify his Father, and set us free. God was willing to be humiliated so that we might be called his sons and daughters again.
Jesus came to restore that which we could not restore for ourselves. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. And so Jesus nailed to the cross. And he died. He died our death. He took the death we were supposed to die. The debt that was on our backs was taken upon him. He became the curse for us! And then three days he rose again victorious over sin, victorious over death, and victorious over Satan. We were dead in our transgressions, dead in our sin, but now we have been made alive together with Christ. This is the good news of Jesus Christ.
But if we’re honest, a problem still remains. We wake up tomorrow and realize that world is still messed up. We still hear of awful things everywhere. We still hear of babies murdered, women trafficked, fathers abandoning homes. We still struggle with life, tempted by sin.
So did Jesus actually do anything at all? Here’s his answer: With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all seeds on the earth, yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade. Right now, our gospel may appear to be just a little tiny mustard seed—a tiny little speck that we could lose in a gentle breeze. But there is coming a day, there is coming a time, when that little, seemingly insignificant, seed will grow into a massive tree. A tree that grows above all the other trees. Soon enough, this gospel will exceed all other attempts. It will overcome all obstacles. This God that we serve will soon enough bring complete and ultimate redemption to all things.
Therefore, he asks us to have a radical faith, an undying and unshakable faith in him. He demands that we place our trust, our allegiance, our entire lives, in him and him alone. And though I can assume that we are all Christians in this room today, I still must ask. Have we placed everything before him? Have we given him our lives? Do we trust him to rule over us as our Father and King? This Christian life is hard, it is messy, and yet it produces the most joy and satisfaction any person can find. And so if you have not embraced this good news about Jesus, do it today. He is the one who saves and sustains.