There was a black slave named Jack who chopped wood every day for his master. It was a hard task. His hands would bleed. His entire body would also be painful. Ever since he was a child, he did just that.
One very exhausting day, he thought of his dire situation. Whose fault was it that he ended up a slave? Who’s the one he should blame for his awful life? Was it his parents or his grandparents? Well, they were all born slaves also. Finally, he realized whose fault it was. It was Adam. Because Old Adam ate the forbidden fruit, Jack became a slave. He got so angry that, as he chopped wood, he hit it with so much force.
His master asked him what his problem is. When he told his master, he answered, “If it’s Adam’s fault, then you should not suffer for it. From now, you will no longer chop wood. Enjoy my house, the food and the drink. There’s only one condition. Don’t open the box on top of the dining table.”
After gorging himself with a sumptuous meal, he saw the box. It was just an ordinary looking box. He shook it. But it was light and it seems to be empty. He got so curious that he opened it. He saw a letter. It reads: “Dear Jack. See? Don’t you ever blame Adam again! If you were in his place, you would do the same thing. Go chop some wood!”
Aren’t we like Jack also? We thought we are victims. That it was all Adam’s fault. But the Bible says otherwise. Today, as we start the Lenten season, we remember the death and resurrection of our Lord. It is my prayer that we will appreciate the Lord’s passion more as we take a fresh look at the implication of Adam’s curse and the need for the cure. Let us open our Bibles in Romans 5:12, 15-19.
First, we NEED the cure because of the curse. Note what verse 12 says: “Sin came into the world through one man, and his sin brought death with it. As a result, death has spread to the whole human race because everyone has sinned.” Yes, sin came through Adam. But it also says, “everyone has sinned.” The tense of the word “sinned” in the Greek indicates, “that at one point in time all men sinned. That, of course, was the time that Adam first sinned.” In short, we all sinned in Adam’s sin. Adam did not sin as a person. He sinned as our representative. If our president signs a ten billion dollar debt, it’s not her personal but it’s our national debt. Her signature is our signature. So also, that one act of Adam in the eyes of God is everybody’s act.
We need to admit that there is a problem before we can look for a solution. As sinners, we are all cursed. And we are not victims of Adam’s fall. We are not his collateral damage. That doesn’t mean we can’t do any good at all. In fact, sad to say, there are unbelievers who are more righteous or better than believers are. The fact that we are cursed as sinners “does not mean that human beings are all as bad as they could be.” That means that on our own we can’t be acceptable to God and we can’t do anything pleasing before Him. Note what Isaiah 64:6 says: “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” What did he compare to filthy rags? “…all our righteous acts”. He was not talking about bad deeds but good works. That’s the reason why good works cannot save us.
So we need to find a cure. But it has to be the right cure. It is sad that there are Filipino penitents who would go through crucifixion this Good Friday. Some would say it’s their “panata” or their vow because God answered their prayers to heal a sick relative. But some would say it is for the sin of the whole world. But that’s wrong! Why would our Lord Jesus come down here on earth in the first place if we can find the cure ourselves? If we can actually save ourselves, why would Jesus bother to die for us? Jesus is the only cure. “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” We cannot add, subtract, or replace God’s cure for our curse, Christ’s death on the cross for our sins.
We also need to remember that the cure is MUCH GREATER than the curse. Verse 15 says this: “But the gift is not like the trespass.” God’s Word Translation goes like this: “There is no comparison between God’s gift and Adam’s failure.” The Contemporary English Version says, “the gift that God was kind enough to give was very different from Adam’s sin.” Why? Verse 15 continues: “For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!” Note the words “how much more”. The curse is nothing compared to the cure.
Once when I was sick, my doctor prescribed an antibiotic. Now you have to take it regularly. You should not miss a capsule. But I forgot to take it. So my doctor had to give me a stronger antibiotic. He said that, if I take the old antibiotic, it would not do me any good. For the virus had become resistant to that antibiotic. It has become antibiotic-resistant. So, I had to take a stronger and more expensive medicine. In a spiritual sense, our sins are not “cross-resistant.” The curse is actually no match to the cure. Someone wrote that, though our sins may be as big as the largest ship, God’s grace is as big as the ocean.
When I was in the media, I spent a week in Culion, Palawan. In fact, it was a holy week. Yes, that’s part of Palawan. But I don’t think you would like to go there. Culion was a leper colony. That’s where we quarantine or exile people afflicted with leprosy or Hansen’s disease in the past.
When I was there, I saw an arch that marks the boundary in the island. It reminds people of the demarcation line between those who have leprosy and those who have no leprosy. It warned people from both sides not to cross over the boundary. I also learned that whenever a woman with leprosy would give birth, the doctors would immediately separate the child from the mother. They would not allow her to touch her baby. Then, in the nursery, she can just view her baby from a distance. When a person gets leprosy, he gets it for life. Most, if not all, did not get out of Culion alive. The exile was for life.
Now, due to medical breakthroughs, we no longer exile people with leprosy to Culion. Ever since doctors came up with the MDT or multi-drug therapy, we see people healed from the disease. Once the person takes MDT, he is no longer contagious.
But the problem with leprosy is that it disfigures the person. Because he can feel no pain, when a person with leprosy wounds for example his hand, it tends to be infected. Thus, they lose a finger or two or even the entire hand. Even if the MDT cures them from leprosy, they cannot grow back their lost fingers or hand again. The cure here did not reverse the curse.
But when it comes to our sinful state, the cure REVERSED the curse. In Christ, we can be spiritually whole. Verse 16 says, “Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification.” The curse brought condemnation. But the cure brought justification. The curse declares we are “Guilty!” The cure declares us “Not guilty!”
Before, prisoners in the National Prison while away their time putting tattoos on each other. Most of them become what we call “walking comics.” They have tattoos all over their bodies. Before, we can interview prisoners and show their faces on national TV. But the prison director decided to ban tattoos and to restrict interviews with prisoners. If ever he allows an interview, he requires the media to cover the face of the prisoner. He does not want them marked for life as convicts. He wants to make it easy for them to rejoin society. However, even without the tattoos and even without TV exposure, once a prisoner is released he bears the stigma of being an ex-convict. He finds it hard to land a job because of his criminal records.
Now, forgiveness is different from justification. Yes, God forgave us. We can thank God that He does not bring it up again. Hebrews 8:12 says, “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” But He did more than that. He justified us. That means He erased our records. In God’s eyes, we are not ex-convicts or ex-sinners. He declared us righteous. Thomas Constable wrote, “Jesus Christ did not just cancel the effects of Adam’s sin, but he provided more than Adam lost or even possessed, namely the righteousness of God!”
Note also what verse 18 says: “Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men.” Underline the phrase “that brings us life”. The curse handed down to us the death sentence. The cure handed down our freedom and gave our life back. The curse imprisoned us. The cure freed us.
Verse 17 says, “Death ruled like a king because Adam had sinned. But that cannot compare with what Jesus Christ has done. God has been so kind to us, and he has accepted us because of Jesus. And so we will live and rule like kings.” Through Adam sinned, death ruled. But, through Jesus’ death, life ruled. Jesus “died to destroy the devil, who had power over death. But he also died to rescue all of us who live each day in fear of dying.” I like how The Message goes: “By embracing death, taking it into himself, he destroyed the Devil’s hold on death and freed all who cower through life, scared to death of death.” Because of Christ, you no longer need to fear death. The curse brought death. The cure brought life.
But, more than declaring us holy, Christ makes us holy. Verse 19 says, “For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.” The curse makes us sinners. The cure makes us righteous. Philippians 1:6 assures us, “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” God declared us holy and He makes us holy. He gave us a fresh, new start and He is with us making us holy every step of the way.
There was a sad thing I saw when I was in Culion, Palawan. Yes, the multi-drug therapy or MDT cures people of leprosy. In fact a foundation made sure that people in Culion received the MDT. So, everyday they make the patients line up and gave it to them. But I noticed that after the patients placed the MDT in their mouths, the doctors would ask them to open their mouths to check if they really swallowed the medicine. Why? They found out that the patients would spit it out once they got out of the clinic.
They want to remain infected with leprosy. The people in Culion loves to solicit money from people here and abroad. They were mendicants. Donations pour in from all over the world. In fact, the Postmaster General told me that though Culion is a small island, the amount of mail they receive is like that of a big municipality. The money will stop once they became clean from leprosy. There were even reports that parents would contaminate their children with the disease to keep the financial support flowing. Because of money, they want to remain lepers for life.
It’s the same way when it comes to the spiritual cure. People refuse to accept the Lord Jesus as Savior. They do not want to give up their sins. They do not want to change their lifestyle. They do not want to surrender their lives. They hold on the curse. They refuse the cure. If only they knew that we need the cure because of the curse, that the cure is much greater than the curse and the cure reversed the curse.
Let us pray…