April 13, 2017 – John Stonestreet What do the first man and Jesus Christ have in common? The writers of the New Testament tell an exciting story for you, and for the whole world.
Sally Lloyd-Jones’s “Jesus Storybook Bible” is a favorite in my house for a lot of reasons. But the best part may be the prologue. In it, Jones explains that although the Bible contains laws for moral living, it’s not mainly a book of rules. And although it tells of great men and women of God, it’s not a book of heroes, either. Rather, it’s a story about one Hero in particular.
As Jones puts it, every story in the Bible whispers this Hero’s name. And there’s no time of year when that is more clear than at Holy Week. Beginning with Palm Sunday, running through Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and finally, Easter Sunday, we have the benefit of seeing not only Jesus’ story unfold, but of seeing the culmination of the whole story of Scripture itself.
This was a benefit the disciples didn’t have. For Christ’s first followers, His words at the Last Supper, His arrest, His trial, and crucifixion were a bewildering defeat. It was only in retrospect, when Jesus opened the Scripture to them, first on the road to Emmaus and later in the upper room, that they understood, and even then, not fully!
Only after Christ’s ascension could a restored Peter stand before Jerusalem and proclaim the punch line of Holy Week: “Let all of the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God hath made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom ye crucified.”
The rest of the New Testament shows how the Holy Spirit continued to reveal Christ’s presence throughout all of Scripture. Paul, for example, sees Jesus in the Bible’s very first chapters, calling Him “the Last Adam,” and contrasts the two men as heads of the human race. One failed and brought death on all his descendants. The other was faithful, bringing life through His death and resurrection.
And if we take the time to read Scripture more carefully, we see how deeply the parallels run. The ways in which Jesus is similar to, and yet better than Adam, are astonishing:
The first Adam yielded to temptation in a garden. The Last Adam beat temptation in a garden. The first man, Adam, sought to become like God. The Last Adam was God who became a man. The first Adam was naked and received clothes. The Last Adam had clothes but was stripped. The first Adam tasted death from a tree. The Last Adam tasted death on a tree. The first Adam hid from the face of God, while the Last Adam begged God not to hide His face.
The first Adam blamed his bride, while the Last Adam took the blame for His bride. The first Adam earned thorns. The Last Adam wore thorns. The first Adam gained a wife when God opened man’s side, but the Last Adam gained a wife when man opened God’s side. The first Adam brought a curse. The Last Adam became a curse. While the first Adam fell by listening when the Serpent said “take and eat,” the Last Adam told His followers, “take and eat, this is my body.”
We celebrate this last event on Maundy Thursday—Jesus’ final meal with His disciples, and His new command that we “love one another.” In giving Christians this meal, He sealed His role as Adam’s replacement.
Do you remember how, when Mary Magdalene saw the risen Christ, she mistook Him for a gardener? Through His body and blood, the Last Adam restored what the forbidden fruit destroyed, inviting us back to a restored Garden-City in the New Heavens and Earth, where the tree of life grows around the throne of God, free for the taking. That’s what His story, our story, the story are all about.
On Good Friday it’s easy to rush through this dark reminder of our sin, and look forward to Easter. But please, stay a while. The only way to Easter Sunday is through this week, and the events and the words Jesus spoke before His death are worthy of our reflection.