Christmas and the coming of the Serpent-Crusher

snakeWhere in the Bible do we find the first promise of the gospel? Would you believe that it’s in the third chapter of the Bible’s first book, Genesis 3. Genesis 1 and 2 tell us that God created the universe and everything in it. God created human beings to live in his good world under his authority and rule. However in Genesis 3, Satan taking on the form of a snake, tempts Eve to doubt and disobey God. Eve eats of the fruit God had said not to and gives to Adam who was with her. Eating some fruit may not seem like a big deal, but it is: Adam and Eve want to decide for themselves what’s ultimately right and wrong; they want to be “god” unto themselves. Genesis 3 is the “dethroning” of God by humans and replacing him with ourselves (as if that were possible.)

The dethroning of God

This is the world’s great problem ever since. We are all tempted to play God. We see it in the movies, in our friends, and in ourselves. In next few months homosexual marriage will be legalised in England. Jesus said marriage is between one man and one woman. We say we will decide what’s right and wrong. Our country, like many others, kills hundreds of thousands of unborn children. God says do not murder. We say we will decide what’s right and wrong. Unmarried couples live together thinking that it will actually benefit their marriage. God says he will punish the sexually immoral. We say we will decide what’s right and wrong. Online porn addiction is a massive problem in the secular world and the church. God says keep the marriage bed pure. We say we will decide what’s right and wrong. We play God all the time and decide for ourselves what’s good and bad.

Why is the world so bad?

As a result, God pronounces judgment. Adam and Eve’s friendship with God is shattered. The relationship with each other is broken and strained. They are cast out of God’s presence where they will now die spiritually and physically. Sin and death enter our world. This is how our world is today. The Bible is the only book that makes sense of our world as it truly is. Why is there so much sin, brokenness, crime, natural disasters and disease? It is because human being have rebelled against their Creator and we, each one, have inherited that bias against God.

First gospel

Sounds like a hopeless situation, but even in God’s just judgment there is hope. God clothes Adam and Eve indicating his ongoing care for them. And he makes a great promise of deliverance. Note God’s words to the snake in Genesis 3:15,

I will put enmity between you and the woman,

and between your offspring and her offspring;

he shall bruise your head,

and you shall bruise his heel.”

This is known among scholars as the “proto-euangelion” (first gospel). God promises that the offspring of the women (i.e. a descendents of Eve) will bruise (batter, crush) Satan’s head, while he himself will be injured in the process as his heel will be bruised (battered, crushed). Of course this is looks forward to Jesus who through his death and resurrection destroys the power of sin, death and Satan (cf. Hebrews 2:14-15). Jesus is the one who will crush Satan’s head. Jesus’ heel is crushed; he is harmed in the process, but not fatally. Indeed we know Jesus did die, but then rose on the third day.

The search for the One

The rest of the Old Testament can be described as the search for the Serpent-Crusher, the destroyer of Satan. If you had not read the New Testament, you would wonder who this son of Eve could be. Could it be Cain? No, he murders his brother. Could it be Noah? No, he has a drunken party and passes out naked. Could it be Abraham? No, he lies about his wife. Could it be Moses? No, he disobeys God and strikes the rock. Could it be King David? No, he commits adultery and conspires to murder. The Old Testament ends without the serpent-crusher; the promise is unfulfilled.

Jesus the Destroyer

And then a few hundred years later an angel named Gabriel tells an engaged virgin she will have a son, and she is to name him Jesus for he will save his people from their sin. Jesus is born in humble circumstances. He grows up and is without sin; he does not rebel against God’s rightful rule. He lives the life we never could. As a grown man, God compels him into the wilderness where he is tempted by Satan for forty days. Jesus’ response is: Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. In the whole of human history this one man does not succumb to Satan’s temptations, does not sin, and does not rebel against God. Jesus is the descendant of Eve who would ultimately crush Satan and remove his power.

Christmas is not just about the birth of a cute baby, but about the coming into the world of the Crusher of Satan.