Summary: We live under two trees. The first tree was one by which Satan conquered us. But the second tree was one by which Jesus conquered Satan for us. And because of that we live.
Satan is patient, stoking the power of evil that he believes is stronger than God. He devises a scheme and becomes one with a snake. And there he waits. He will wait as long it takes to entrap and ensnare. And so he waits. He waits for Eve to walk past the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
Satan hopes that he can undo the goodness that God created in this world. He heard God tell Adam that if people eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they will die. That’s what Satan wants; he wants life to waste away and death to become strong. And so he waits. And his patience pays off. Under the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, he beguiles Eve, and he casts us onto the highway of hell.
But our Lord doesn’t want us to live in the ruins of sin. Our Lord didn’t want us to die. He warned Adam and Eve not to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. But Eve, and in turn, Adam were deceived. That’s why in this Lenten season, God reminds us that He has provided a second tree, the Tree of the Cross, the tree Jesus used to restore what Satan had brought to ruin.
So which tree do you live under? Is it the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil or the Tree of the Cross, the tree of death or the tree of life? In truth, it is both: we Christians live under both trees.
The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is evil disguised as good, full of tempting, forbidden fruit hanging from its branches. But don’t be deceived. What the devil did to Eve and to Jesus, he also does to you. He attacked them when they were most vulnerable, at their weakest. Satan still does that today. He tempts you when you’re at your weakest, when you’re down, and when you’re doubting God.
Satan tells you what he told Eve: that God’s commandments are His way of controlling your life and keeping you down. Can you hear Satan’s voice echoing inside your head? “Did God actually say you can’t put anything else before Him? Did God actually say you have to love you neighbor as much as you love yourself? Is God such a killjoy that He won’t let you bend the rules--even a little-- when He knows so much is at stake?”
Yes, we’re still under the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. For Satan still tempts us. And we still fall bedazzled by the devil’s lies.
And when we get caught, we still do what Adam and Eve did. “Have you eaten from the tree that I command you not to eat from?” God asked. “The woman you gave me--she gave me the fruit,” Adam responded. In other words, “It’s your fault God. If you hadn’t put that woman here, everything would be fine.” “It’s not my fault,” Eve protests. “The serpent tricked me.” That’s our way, isn’t it? Blame someone else; blame someone else for your problems and woes.
And so we try to pass the blame. Students copy answers and cheat in school, and they blame it on the pressure for better grades. Business owners cut corners, and they blame it on the economy and the need to make a profit.
Depending on where we are, we can all say we gave in to temptation for whatever reason. I was running with the wrong crowd. I have a boss who is too demanding. My parents abused me. But even if all that’s true, that doesn’t excuse our sin.
Do you realize what you’re saying to God? You’re telling Him, “It’s your fault. These people you put here in this world with me, they tempted me, and I sinned.” Well, of course, they tempted us. They’re sinners. Do we expect fallen sinners to encourage us to do what is right and listen to our Lord? This is what life is like under the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
We can’t keep from being tempted. But as Christians, we don’t have to give in to temptation. We are in communion with Christ’s divine nature--the Christ who resisted temptation, the Christ who defied Satan, the Christ who becomes one with His own just as surely as Satan became one with the snake. With Christ within us, we can withstand the withering assault of Satan. We can say no to temptation.
And when we fall into temptation, we don’t have to lie and say, “It’s his fault,” “It’s her fault,” or even “It’s your fault, God.” Instead, we can speak the truth to the One who is Truth: “God, I am a poor, miserable sinner. I have sinned against You in thought, word, and deed.” That’s what God wanted from Adam and Eve. That’s what He wants from us. God wants repentance: sorrow for our sin, a yearning to change our sinful lives, and trust in our Lord Jesus.