When I was in high school, the world was very different to me. My parents both worked, tried to raise us right. My brother was the greatest friend I could have, being my younger brother. I had sisters, and it was good time after good time. It was a good time to grow up.
I was sitting in my French class one afternoon in late November. The loudspeaker came on, the principal stating that the President of the United States, John Kennedy had been shot in Dallas. My world changed that day. My outlook on life and goodness and joy changed that day. I realized there was evil, and that evil could strike at any time. I realized that wrong was done in this world, and horror can strike your head and your heart when you least expect it. This was a strange phenomenon to me. Things were in a certain place and shock wasn’t always there.
I remember seeing the pictures of Lee Harvey Oswald. I thought of him as evil itself. I saw him in black and white in the paper and on the television. His unshaven face and that dirty, white tee-shirt. He had destroyed so much with that evil act.
Our Bible story tells us that evil reared its head in the early days of human history. The serpant tempted Eve and Adam fell. Cain and Abel were born, and Cain killed Abel. Murder is a terrible crime. It’s so final and terminating. It kills the body and someone dies. It steals life. Murder is a capital offense. It is a black spot on your record, if you did it. It is part of the whole backdrop of your life. If you die with the sin of capital murder on your soul, God help you. If you know, Lee Harvey Oswald was killed by Jack Ruby two days later. As long as life exists in these United States, the name Lee Harvey Oswald will be infamously linked to this capital murder of President Kennedy. He died unrepentant, shot in the stomach, bleeding to death almost instantly.
Let’s go back to the Bible story, because that’s where a lot of things started. It gives us a glimpse of the human condition, and right and wrong thinking and right and wrong living. Like my dad used to say: "There’s a right way of doing things, and there’s a wrong way."
Cain and Abel were the two sons of Adam and Eve. They were just living out their lives, as most people do. At this point, there is no detail on their families or children or anything like that. Just living the life in the Vida Loca.
Abel represents to us innocence. He represents Christ in so many ways. He was a shephard, he had flocks, he took his best, he offered it to God. Blood was spilled as he divided the lamb, taking the best, fatted portions and offering it to God. The blood was spilled, the perfect animal sacrifice took place. Act one ends.
Cain represents a lot of us. He has good intentions, but he takes a wrong turn. He represents evil in us. He represents wrong choices. He represents the working man: working with his hands, tilling the fields, looking for an increase, a yield. He brings the fruit of the ground as an imitation. Notice he didn’t follow his brother’s lead. After all, he was the older brother. He went out to the fields, grabbed some grapes, and some weeds, and whatever and brought them hastily to the sacrifice. We’re a lot like Cain. We think we can do good enough. We think we’re alright. We run through life oftentimes, slap-dash, good enough. Mistake after mistake, wrong choice after wrong choice. Stupid mistake, dumb error, good enough. God looked at Cain, and said not good enough.
This little scene is played out this way throughout the Bible. Partriarch after prophet, sinner after saint, the words of the book tell of of the mistakes and misdeeds of man. The wrong attitude, the wrong approach, the wrong way.
Why was Abel’s offering acceptable to God? What was it about that sacrifice? It was a prime sacrifice, it was a perfect sacrifice, it was a fatten portion. But it contained the blood of the lamb. It was the soul-cleansing blood that the great Almighty saw. Oh, saints, that’s what God saw in the sacrifice of Abel. He didn’t see the sin, the selfishness, the wrong-headed way we live. He saw the blood.
In your life and my life, we may get depressed and down by the condition of the world. We may become disturbed by our lack and weakness in the things we don’t do, or the things we do wrong. There’s no escape from that. As long as you’re alive, you’re going to mess things up. Just leave it alone, you touch it and you’ll mess it up. When I was very young, my dad and I used to build those balsa airplanes. Little things made from patterns, pinned onto a board, then glued together to make the tail or the wing. Very delicate work. Don’t touch it, you’ll wreck it! Let it dry before you pick it up! Life gets wrecked by people messing things up.
What’s the solution to our mess ups? God shows us in this story. Abel wasn’t perfect, but the blood was. We need the blood today. We need the cleansing, blood today. It washes away sin. It washes away our misdeeds, the evil, the wrong. If we believe in Christ, we must believe in the blood. The perfecr sacrifice, to wash us white as snow. "The vilest offender who truly believes, that moment from Jesus a pardon receives." So years and years later, after Cain and Abel, God sends us his Son, the perfect sacrifice, and the Lee Harvey Oswalds kill him. That blood makes me whole as a human being. That blood brings a smile to the face of God. It is perfect, atoning for my wrong. Your wrong. The evil, the sin, the pain and the hurt. The blood of the Lamb!