Back to Index

Listen to sermon by clicking here:

Who Did It--Snake, Adam or Eve?
February 12, 1978

St. Paul's United Methodist Church

GENESIS 3:1-13

Who did it—the snake, Adam or Eve? Someone did it. They ate the fruit, which was expressly forbidden. That was the order, and because they'd eaten the fruit, they were banished from the garden. Popularly we call the fruit, the apple. They were banished from the garden, separated from God, prohibited from entering the garden—demonstrating, symbolizing, signifying the fact that what then came into the world was the state of sin. The presence of evil, the reality of death, all came loose in the world—destructive forces. The biblical faith looks very realistically at the world, and recognizes there are destructive forces at work in us as persons and in us as a society. Because of the eating of the apple, the kind of world that we now live in is a world that is more prone to evil than good. We listen more readily to evil than to good, or to the conscience—the kind of world where it's easier to quarrel than to speak a good word, easier to quarrel than to keep the disagreement on the discussion level, where it's easier to fight than it is to make up, the kind of world where it's easier to make war than it is to make peace. 

That's the kind of world we live in, the kind of world where we all want the apple, and the biggest one. We all want the biggest piece of candy, the biggest piece of cake. Some of us ought to carry around a slide rule, so we can measure to make sure that no one's getting any bigger piece than we are getting. It's all right if I get a little bigger piece than the rest of you, but woe betide, If any of you get a bigger piece of candy than I get! Greed. That's true in corporations and in business. They want the biggest piece of the cake. It's true for nations who want the biggest slice. Greed. That's the kind of world we live in—the result of eating the apple. 

But it was more than just eating the apple. There were more things going on in the garden that day. There was rebellion. There's something about an order, there's something about an edict that brings out childish rebellion in us. The rebellious child in us responds when someone says you may do this, but you may not do that. You can eat anything you want here, but don't eat from that tree over there. You can go in any room you want except the one behind this door. You can marry anyone you want except so and so. You can be nice to anyone you want except so and so. There’s something in us that rebels when anybody gives an edict. And Adam and Eve rebelled. 

But there was more going on in the garden that day than rebellion. When the Lord came walking in the garden, the Lord couldn't find Adam. Adam was hiding. They played a little game of hide and seek. When the Lord found Adam, he said, “Adam, why have you been hiding?” And Adam said, “Because I am naked.” And the Lord said, “Who told you you were naked?” Shame was in the garden that day, shame over something beautiful for it is far easier to be ashamed of the beautiful than to try to beautify the ugly. It's easier to feel shame over something God created that is beautiful and good, and then glorify the dirty and the ugly and the greed 

But there was more at work In the garden that day than rebellion and shame. The Lord said to Adam, “Adam, did you eat that fruit?” And Adam said, “The woman you put here with me gave me the fruit.” So the Lord said to the woman, “What did you do that for?” The woman said, “Well, actually, it was the snake. The snake tricked me.” Sounds like home, doesn't it? Well, I didn't do it. I've been good. She made me do it. So and so got me into trouble. Or in marriages, it's her fault. Or at the job? Well, I'd be much more efficient, effective and happier in my job if weren't for so and so, if it weren’t for a rule, or if weren’t for the boss. Blame somebody else. Actually, the mistake in the anthem this morning was the director’s fault. Probably the snake made him do it. Blame someone else. Adam blamed the woman and then he very subtlety blamed God, because God gave the woman to him, and she blamed the snake. They refused to take responsibility for their own action. 

There is rebellion, there is shame, there is greed. And there is the refusal to accept responsibility for one's own decisions, the refusal to take the consequences of one's own decisions and try to blame them on someone else instead of living one's own life, making decisions, living with the actions and suffering the consequences. We just don't want to do that. And this beautiful story puts all those things together there in the garden, the things that bring evil, destruction, suffering and sorrow in the world. Who did it? A snake, or Adam, or Eve? What do you think? Brian, what do you think? You think the snake did it? Well, one vote for the snake. What do you think, ladies? Or, the masculine viewpoint? The lady snake did it? Oh, a new variation? 

Well, luckily, I get to give you my answer. My answer is all of the above and none of the above. Who did it? You did it. And I did it. Who is responsible for the sin, the evil, the destruction, the sorrow and suffering anguish in this world? Who is responsible? You are and I am. We are. That's the point of this story. As Marilyn pointed out, the word “Adam” is the Hebrew word that means humanity and Eve is a word that means human beings. This is the story of every man and every woman. Don't get hung up on trying to take this so literally that you miss the point of the story. Don't get hung up on thinking you have to believe that there really was a historical person named Adam and a historical person named Eve, and that the whole world evolved from them. We don't have to believe that. Let's not get hung up in literalism and then have to try to prove it scientifically and anthropologically. 

The Hebrews were great storytellers. They put their truths in the form of stories. When they looked out on the world and asked, “Why is the world the way it is?” The answer came back in this story of every man and every woman who makes choices based on greed, based on childish rebellion, who experience shame, who are greedy, and who then refuse to take responsibility for the choices and try to blame someone else. Every man and every woman does that. And that's you and me. 

But luckily, that's not the end of the story. For Jesus came. The apostle Paul calls Jesus the new Adam, the second Adam, the new man, the new every man. Jesus came into this world to do something about the human situation in which we find ourselves. Jesus taught a better way to live. Jesus demonstrated the love of God for all people. And when the inevitability of his death loomed before him, he courageously walked to Jerusalem to meet his death—a free person not blaming anyone else, taking the initiative, taking the responsibility of a free person, and courageously meeting his death. Paul wrote that in Jesus’ death, in his crucifixion, Jesus took upon himself the nature of all of us. The persons that we were have been crucified with Christ. The old self has been crucified with Christ and through the acceptance of his death, through trusting in his mercy and His grace, through opening of ourselves through prayer and through Holy Communion, which vividly, dramatically demonstrates the tremendous love that God has for us, we can come into new life and become new Adams and new Eves, and live more as how God intended us to live. 

Who did it? You did it and I did it. But Jesus has the last word!

© 1978 Douglas I. Norris