Christ in the Garden

meeting-of-mary-magdalene-with-the-resurrected-christ2

Mary Magdelene meets Christ “in the garden” after his resurrection

In the Gospel of John, there is an interesting “garden” theme that runs from the betrayal of Judas all the way through the resurrection. I cannot help but assume that John is attempting a connection between Adam and Christ.

The setting for the whole garden theme begins in John 13. After Christ washed the disciples feet, John says that Jesus signaled Judas as betrayer by dipping the bread and giving it to him to eat. John tells us that “after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him” (13:27) (almost an anti-Eucharist, no?). After this, it is said that Judas/Satan left to betray Jesus.

What is interesting, is that after Jesus finished his instruction of the disciples, it says in John 18:1 that Jesus “went out with his disciples across the brook of Kidron, where there was a garden”. This garden is where Judas, possessed by Satan, came to capture Jesus and his disciples with a Roman army. It is almost certain that Jesus’ disciples would have been captured and killed along with their leader. And yet John tells us that Jesus protected his disciples by telling the soldiers to take only him and to “let these men go” (18:8). This means that Jesus protected his disciples from Satan’s attack in the garden.

One can’t help but see how this scene almost mirrors Satan’s entrance into the garden in Genesis 2. Satan entered the garden to attack Adam and his bride. The only difference here is that Adam failed to protect his bride. He allowed Satan to seduce her into sin. Christ on the other hand stood up to the enemy. He protected his people by giving his own life for theirs. John then portrays Jesus here as the faithful Adam who stood up to the enemy in the garden, protecting his bride with his own life.

Fast forward to the crucifixion scene, John tells us that the “place where [Jesus] was crucified was a garden” (19:41). John wants us to know then that Jesus gave his life for his people in a garden. On the one hand, this could be a mere historical fact; and yet the detail is random. I believe the detail is theological: Jesus gave his life on a tree in a garden for his people, while Adam on the other hand saved his life in a garden at a tree, and gave his bride to the tempter. John is contrasting the selfishness of the one, and the selflessness of the other.

One last detail is during the resurrection scene. We are told that Mary Magdelene, having discovered Jesus’ body missing from the tomb, was weeping. John tells us that while she was weeping, Jesus came up to her and asked: “Woman, why are you weeping?” (20:13). Mary answered, “supposing Him to be the gardner, [and] she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him'” (20:14). Notice two important details: first, Jesus called Mary “woman”; second, John tells us that Mary supposed him to be the gardner. Adam named his wife “woman”, or Eve. And he was tasked as the gardner! John is clearly referencing the creation account. Christ’s resurrection restores Eden. Jesus in himself becomes a second Adam.

So then it becomes fairly clear that throughout the entire betrayal, crucifixion and resurrection narratives, John is making a connection between Jesus and Adam. Jesus steps in to protect and give his life for his bride in a garden. Adam allows Satan to tempt and seduce his bride, and dies in a garden. Jesus is, as Paul says, the Last Adam.

Advertisements

Christ the New Adam

temptation_of_christ

One of the earliest models of atonement was Irenaeus’ recapitulation model. In this model, Christ replaces Adam as the head of the human race by obeying and overcoming where Adam sinned and was thus overcome. Irenaeus famously gets his “recapitulation” idea from Ephesians 1:10, which says that God planned to, as the ESV says, “unite all things in [Christ]”. The Greek word for unite, anakephalaiosasthai, is better translated as “sum up”, or “to bring things together”. Paul uses the root cepha in this word, which is “head”. Irenaeus thus translated it as “re-heading all things in Christ”. The idea here is that Christ is the new “head of all things”. Through his life and death, Christ “re-starts” that which was lost in Adam. Christ is the beginning of a new humanity.

Irenaeus got this theme primarily from Paul, who in several letters drew a strong parallel between Christ and Adam. In Romans 5, Paul tells us that death was transmitted to all mankind through Adam, even to those who were not guilty of Adam’s primordial sin; but through Christ’s “one act of righteousness”, death has been defeated and righteousness is thus returned to the human race in him. Paul brings the same parallel to bear in 1 Corinthians 15, saying that Christ is the last adam, the last man who replaces Adam. The point here is that Christ came to undo or overcome or reverse the effects of Adam’s sin. As Irenaeus says, “God recapitulated in Himself the ancient formation of man, that He might kill sin, deprive death of its power, and vivify man; and therefore His works are true”. (Patrick Henry Reardon, Reclaiming the Atonement, Kindle 2209-2210)

The Christ/Adam theme is not unique to Paul, though. Patrick Henry Reardon, in his book Reclaiming the Atonement, argues that Paul’s Christ/Adam theology was actually drawing from a much older tradition evident in other NT writings. 

As proof for this, Reardon turns to the gospel narratives. In each of the gospels, the authors are careful (almost unnoticeably) to connect certain narratives with the Genesis creation accounts. For instance, after Christ’s temptation in the wilderness and subsequent victory over Satan, Mark tells us that Christ was with the “wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him” (1:13). Reardon comments on this verse:

[A]n early story transmitted in Mark, precisely in the context of Jesus’ temptations, preserved the tradition of our Lord’s companionship with the animals (1: 13). This story, of course, puts the reader in mind of Adam in the midst of the animals in Genesis. Jesus’ victory over His temptations by Satan thus inaugurates a new state of Paradise, as it were, in which the friendly relations of men and beasts, disrupted since the Fall, are restored. (Kindle Locations 2155-2158)

The verse is so small one could easily miss the significance: Christ was tempted by the “snake”, and yet has overcome! Thus he began to restore the paradise which Adam lost through his sin. The wild animals are no longer “beasts”, but are becoming tamed and under his headship as Lord.

Reardon also brings in Luke’s gospel:

In Luke the Adam/ Christ analogy is subtler, and we discern it in the way the Lord’s genealogy is arranged. To detect this, we may observe two differences between the genealogies in Matthew and Luke.

First, unlike Matthew, Luke traces the Lord’s lineage all the way back to Adam, not just to Abraham. This format emphasizes Jesus’ relationship to the whole human race and not just the Jews. For this reason, in citing the famous Isaian text that begins the ministry of John the Baptist in all the Synoptic Gospels (Matt. 3: 3; Mark 1: 2– 3; Luke 3: 4– 6), Luke alone quotes the words, “and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

Second, whereas Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus comes at the beginning of his Gospel, Luke places it after the Lord’s Baptism and right before the account of His temptation. This arrangement prompts the reader to make the comparison that Luke has in mind to imply, the temptations of Jesus and the temptation of Adam. (Kindle Locations 2158-2165)

So, Luke carefully situates Christ’s baptism before his temptation, thus alerting us that he is facing the same temptation as Adam. Thus the temptation narratives become a way of retelling the creation story, but under the headship of Christ. Christ is called to reenact, as it were, the temptation of Adam in the garden and to overcome the effects of sin.

From this Reardon argues that Irenaeus’ doctrine is very ancient, and very biblically rooted: Christ has come to reverse the effects of death, to renew the human race in himself as its new head:

He commenced afresh the long line of human beings, and furnished us with salvation in a succinct, inclusive manner, so that what we had lost in Adam— namely, to exist according to the image and likeness of God— that we might recover in Christ Jesus. (Kindle Locations 2199-2201)

 

 

On the Doctrine of Original Sin: Why we fell with Adam

Adam original sin

One of the more novel notions of Christian doctrine — at least from the world’s perspective — is this notion of original sin. Namely, that human beings are born apart from God. And, that they are born apart from God on the basis of an earlier act in which we weren’t present. 

Christian doctrine supposes that Adam, the first man, was brought into a covenant with God at the point of his creation; and that by coming into covenant with the triune God, Adam was given a share of divine life, becoming a son of God. Author Scott Hahn says that on the seventh day of creation, God made a “covenant with mankind. [And in doing so,] God took Adam and Eve into his own family. God made them his children” (Love Comes First, 55). And so God created mankind, but he did not simply create humanity: God transcended the Creator/creature relationship, and condescended into a Father/son relationship. And so Adam was elevated into God’s family by virtue of this covenant.

However, as is explicit in the Genesis text, Adam’s sonship was conditioned upon confirmed obedience to God. And as long as Adam was obedient, Hahn says, “the Father would raise up His son, Adam, to be a father himself, a father who would in turn raise up many children of God” (ibid, 56). In other words, as Adam confirmed himself in sonship, he would in turn generate progeny who, by virtue of Adam’s own sonship, would be divine sons. And thus, all of mankind would share in divine life as God’s family in Adam (cf. Rom 5:12-21).

However, we find that Adam did not continue and confirm himself in obedience, but instead “violated the covenant… [And] in breaking the covenant, he separated himself and all his offspring from God’s family… Adam chose instead to live outside the family as a slave” (ibid, 57).

As a result of sin, Adam broke this covenant with God, and tore himself from the divine sonship which he had. Thus, this participation that Adam had in God’s life was stolen from him — or better put, he ripped himself from that life, and from God’s family. And not just himself, but his entire progeny. Because of Adam, all of humanity — all of Adam’s descendants —  would be born apart from God’s life; would be born under covenant curses; would be born in brokenness and sinfulness.

This is why we may say that every person is born in original sin: in as much as we originate from Adam, we are left devoid of divine life and righteousness. We are a broken and marred species, for we are born apart from our divine destiny; apart from God himself. In other words, we have fallen from grace. And we are left lifeless and sinful, in the greater context of a broken covenant.

Karl Adams says this of mankind wholeness in original sin:

Adam, the first man, called to share by grace in the divine life, represented in God’s eyes the whole of mankind. Adam’s fall was the fall of mankind. Detached from its original supernatural goal, mankind then, like some planet detached from its sun, revolved only in crazy gyration round itself…

[M]ankind must not be regarded as a mass of homogeneous beings successively emerging and passing away, nor merely as a sum of men bound together by unity of generation, as being descendants of one original parent, but as one single man. So closely are men assimilated to one another in their natural being, in body and in mind, so profoundly are they interlocked in thinking, willing, feeling, and acting, so solitary is their life, their virtue and their sin, that they are considered in the divine plan of redemption only as a whole, only as a unity, only as one man. This one man is not the individual man, but the whole man, the totality of the innumerable expressions of that humanity which is reproduced in countless individuals.

In other words, mankind as one unit was torn — or rather tore himself — away from this divine elevation granted by God. And as a result, each individual as a part of the whole, is said to be born in sin, apart from God’s covenant friendship, and in need of salvation and restoration.

While this might seem unfair, what we must affirm is that mankind is one. We are a kind, a species, a creation, born together through progeny. And as the one goes, so goes the whole. This is the meaning behind original sin. We inherit our parents’ state — and thus we are in solidarity with them.

And consequently, this is the purpose behind the incarnation: In the incarnation, Christ was not simply visiting mankind. Rather, Christ was uniting fallen humanity and God back together again. This is the deepest meaning of Christ as the God-man. In himself, as the God-man, Jesus was becoming a new humanity; a new Adam in whom God and mankind were once again at-one (hence, the meaning of atonement: “at-one-ment”).

And so, in the incarnation, Jesus united this broken humanity to back God. Karl Adams explains,

The whole man came once more into being, permanently united with God, and so effectively united that for mankind as a whole the grace of redemption can no more be lost, although the individual man can withdraw himself from this whole. Therefore Christ, as the God-man, is the new humanity, the new beginning, the whole man in the full meaning of the phrase.

Whence it follows clearly that the Church was already, in the mystery of the Incarnation, established as an organic community. The “many,” the sum total of all who are redeemed in Christ, are in their inner relationship to one another, in their interrelation and correlation, in their organic communion, objectively and finally the Body of Christ, for this Body is redeemed humanity, the “reconciled world”.

In other words, the church is a new mankind in Christ. Why? Because Christ took upon himself this fallen humanity, died in its place — thus taking the covenant curses — and raised it back to glory (view this post for more info on atonement/resurrection). And so, in Christ, we are dead to sin, and raised to a new state of being — back to divine sonship.  

Adam’s Test: Sacrificial Love

eden garden

Nearly every theologian agrees that Adam’s first state in the garden was never meant to be his final. Adam (though he was created in innocence) was created in a state of testing. He was created in a state of probation. It was a state that was meant to be confirmed through obedience.

How do we know this? Well, we can see this from the fact that God placed Adam in the garden with the choice of obedience or disobedience. In other words, Adam could have obeyed God, or rejected God. And, should Adam obey, he would be confirmed in eternal life. Should he disobey, God told him he would “surely die” (Gn 2:17).

What this indicates is Adam’s actions were meant to confirm him in a state of life or death. In a state of condemnation or eternal reward. This tells us that God was testing Adam. That he was putting him on trial, as it were. And that his final state rode on the outcome of this test.

Now, most of us know that God’s testing of Adam involved him permitting Satan to enter the garden and threaten the safety of him and his wife. We cannot overstate the threat that Satan posed to the couple. We cannot overstate the deadly desires that Satan had for this small family.

One might question, why all this testing? Why the probation? Why the threatening presence of Satan? What exactly was God’s purpose in it all?

Scott Hahn, in his excellent A Father Who Keeps His Promises, proposes a grand purpose for this testing. Hahn suggests that God tested Adam’s safety and security to see just how far his obedience would go. In other words, God confronted Adam with a trial, to see if he would love and obey his Father, even at the threat of violence and death.

Hahn says,

The Father who called Adam to life first confronted him with death as a test of sacrificial obedience, a trial by ordeal. If Adam had given consent to death in this situation, by cooperating with God’s indwelling grace, he would have realized and perfected faith, hope and love. The earthly gift of grace would have been transformed into heavenly glory. (pg 74)

In other words, Hahn proposes that God allowed Adam to be left vulnerable in the face of the devil, in order to see how he might react. Would he love God even if it meant that he martyr himself (hypothetically)? Would he trust in God’s strength? Would he protect his bride even if it mean confronting the face of evil? Would Adam, ultimately, give of himself in love for his bride to the Father?

Of course, we know that Adam did none of this. In fact, as the serpent entered the garden, he approached Eve and not Adam; and rather than stepping in and confronting the serpent, Adam stood by doing nothing. Adam was entirely passive, choosing comfort rather than martyrdom; choosing the wide road to destruction rather than the narrow to life.

And so what Adam failed was a test of sacrificial love and obedience. He failed to love God even unto death. He failed to risk his comfort, even his life, for his beloved. Ultimately, we see that Adam’s “fall from grace” was not outright rebellion, but cowardice and passivity.

Hahn, commenting on Adam’s sin, says:

Ultimately, we should chalk up Adam’s sin to a failure of nerve. By not deciding he really decided; since once Eve ate the forbidden fruit, Adam had already failed, even before eating it himself. He should have never allowed things to go that far. If he had intervened from the outset, the entire exchange could have been prevented… (pg 71-72)

And so, Adam failed by refusing to risk his neck and fight the serpent in sacrificial love. Adam failed by loving his own comfort rather than loving God above all else. Adam failed by protecting himself rather than protecting his bride.

God had tested Adam by calling him to imitate Divine self-giving love; the same love communicated in the Trinity. And rather than confirming his love for God, and ascending into glory, he chose to love himself. And for that, humanity fell into a state of sin and cursedness.

Now, what is interesting here, is that what Adam feared in disobedience (death and pain), he reaped as a result of disobedience (death and pain). We see this in God’s curse of Adam and his progeny. God sentenced Adam to spiritual and physical death; to toil and pain. And so, in attempting to protect himself, Adam lost his life. And not just his own, but the life of his descendants was lost as well. All humans born, are born devoid of righteousness, in sin, apart from God; all because Adam chose to love and protect himself.

With this testing in mind, Scott Hahn explains God’s purpose in the curse of humanity: He says,

Willingness to give ourselves out of love, even if it entails suffering, is what makes us fruitful. When we refuse to love to this extent, we sterilize ourselves. Our Father still wants us to be fruitful; that is why he imposed the curse of suffering, in order to keep alive our potential to become supernaturally fruitful. (pg 74)

What is so fascinating about this text by Hahn, is that he is saying that God imposed on us what would not willingly do ourselves. Since Adam would not willingly die, God cursed us with death. But he did not do this to avenge himself: as Hahn says, he did this that we might become fruitful. God imposed death on us, that we might learn to what extent love goes. Hahn says, God cursed us with death to “to teach us love”.

Ultimately, of course, this test comes to fulness in Christ. Hahn ends his chapter on Adam by saying,

This (the background of Adam’s failure and the curse) gives us the key for unlocking the redemptive power of Christ’s suffering and death. As the new Adam, Jesus was tested in the garden, where “his sweat became like great drops of blood” (Lk 22:44). Jesus then had a “crown of thorns” placed on his head (Mt 27:29), before he was taken to the “tree” (Gal 3:13), where was stripped naked (Mt 27:31). Then he fell into the deep sleep of death, so that from his side would come forth the New Eve. Christ dealt with sin; he took it out at its source… Christ undid Adam’s deed by doing what he should have done (pg 75)

So we see Christ as the new Adam, who in love, went to the point of death. He confirmed his obedience in love, even to the point of death, that we, his church, might come from his rib as his protected bride. And ultimately, as ones redeemed by a death of love, we are now called to suffer “even to the point of death” (Rev 2:10) for the world.

In Christ, then, God’s curse is teaching us how to love as Adam failed to do!