Summary: God’s grace is greater than death’s grip.
Another carnival season has come and gone. What a time it was for William Grace, Jr. He served as His Majesty Rex and presided over the revelry of Mardi Gras in 2002. But now Mr. Grace has hung up his crown. Wednesday, February 13th at 12:00 a.m. his reign as Rex ended. Now, his name has joined all the others as “past Mardi Gras kings.”
Today, St. Paul tells us about another king’s rule. Unlike His Majesty Rex of Mardi Gras, this particular king is ruthless and possesses unlimited power. This king is Death. Yet, Paul also gives us some comforting news. He tells us that this REX IS DETHRONED. The apostle points out how we came under the rule of this tyrant. He says 1) Adam’s Sin Made Us Subjects of Death. Then he recalls our deliverance from this awful rule; namely that 2) Christ’s Obedience Makes Us Heirs to Life.
1) Adam’s Sin Made Us Subjects of Death
To understand Adam’s sin, we simply turn to the Old Testament reading for today. Genesis 3 describes the utter folly of our first parents, as well as the complete deception of sin. Satan tempted Adam and Eve to disobey God’s loving commands. He tempted them with the promise of something better. Satan pictured the LORD God as an unloving being who was holding out on Adam and Eve. So Satan offered a solution: throw off God’s oppressive rule and be the masters of your own fate. Do this, and you’ll really be able to enjoy life.
This was a classic example of the old’ “bait and switch” routine – a person offers something wonderful, only to let you down in the end. People experience this every Mardi Gras. A float rider holds out a huge, shiny string of beads and indicates that he’s going to throw it to you. So you jump and shout, trying to secure that prize as your own. You’re sure that “throw” is going to be yours, but then, he tosses it to someone else. What a letdown!
Sin makes the same empty promises. Sin dangles the promise of freedom in front of us. “Don’t listen to God,” we’re told, “follow your own desires.” And so we do – we sin. Then comes the bait and switch. Sin rewards our foolishness all right, but it’s not with freedom or happiness. Sin rewards us with death.
The apostle Paul describes the extent of this foolishness. He states: “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men because all sinned – for before the law was given, sin was in the world.” Paul makes an interesting observation. We might think people are guilty in God’s eyes because they sin so much, or because their sin was so great. For example, we might think a murderer is a really bad person because murder is a really bad sin. Do you see how God operates though? One man’s sins – namely Adam’s – has corrupted all humankind. And it only took one sin to do this. He partook of a piece of fruit. That disqualified all of us from God’s grace.
This is what is known as Original Sin. It’s the state into which we all are born. We are born sinful, corrupt, and immoral. Even though we didn’t commit the exact sin Adam did, we’re still guilty. Sin attaches itself to our very essence. It’s like a parasite that clings to us. And it stems from Adam. We inherit this trait from him. Just like a child might inherit blue eyes from his mother, or brown hair from her father, so we all inherit the parasite of sin from Adam.
Paul reminds us that sin is here and it is real, whether God’s Law – the 10 Commandments – shows it to us or not. The other reality is that there’s another king in our lives. Paul explains, “Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was the pattern of the one to come.” Even before God gave his Law on Mt. Sinai, death reigned. Death ruled even after God gave his commandments. The 10 Commandments simply show us the truth – Death is Rex.
This king permeated his way into our lives. Death dominates. Think of how a Mardi Gras parade passes through a neighborhood. The parade is not just observed. It affects people. The spectators get involved and become part of the parade (that’s what makes them so neat.) The same can be said of Rex Death. A person cannot simply observe the parade of Death. It becomes a part of us. It worms its way into our lives. It dominates. We are laid low in the ashes of death, even while living. We don’t just observe it. We experience the pain of death first-hand.