The Tale of Two Men

Photo by Syd Wachs on Unsplash

I want to tell you a story.

It’s a story you’ve heard before, although maybe not told quite this way.

It’s the story that undergirds the entirety of human history and the whole of your life.

It’s the story of two men.

The first man is Adam of Eden.

Adam was the first man, created by God to care for a garden he had planted in the heart of creation. But this was no ordinary garden.

This was a temple.

Because God would walk with Adam and his wife there. He would commune with them and they would serve him. It was a beautiful Creator-creature relationship.

In order to maintain this relationship, Adam had a few rules to follow. He had to tend the garden, working with the plants and caring for the animals. This was, after all, the temple of God and it needed to be stewarded well. He was to protect the sanctity of the garden from any outside intruders. And he and his wife were to have children who would have children until, eventually, the whole temple-garden was filled with worshippers who would commune with God there.

There was just one thing Adam wasn’t supposed to do.

There was a fruit tree in the middle of the garden. It wasn’t the only fruit tree there; many other trees and plants provided food for Adam and his wife to enjoy. But this particular tree was off limits. They could tend it, care for it, steward it. But they couldn’t eat the fruit. Maybe one day they would be ready for the knowledge that fruit would impart to them. But not yet.

So Adam and his wife went about their work. And for a little while they kept away from the fruit and they continued to commune with God in the temple-garden. Until the temptation was too much.

A serpent, the very kind of intruder Adam had been charged to keep out of the temple-garden, convinced him that eating some of that forbidden fruit wouldn’t be so bad.

In fact, the fruit would give him even more than communion with God as creature. Now he would be like God and able to commune with his creator on equal terms.

So Adam rebelled against the boundary God had put in place. He ate the fruit. And everything changed.

For a moment, Adam thought he had gained what the serpent had promised. His eyes were opened and he was able to see things like never before.

But that sight came at a cost. He was infected. Diseased. Diagnosed with a plague called Sin and Death.

Adam and his wife were now unclean. They couldn’t remain in the temple-garden; now they were the defilers Adam had been charged to beware of.
God removed them from the temple. And everywhere they went, they saw that their infection wasn’t contained by their own bodies. The ground itself was infected. Everywhere they went, the disease followed.

Adam and his wife, now named Eve, had children. And with each birth they rejoiced at new life. But their rejoicing was now accompanied by pain. They realized that every child they bore was infected with the same disease that cursed them.

From generation to generation, the Curse of Adam’s Sin was found in every living person. The people — let’s call them Adam People — couldn’t find a cure for the infection. God had given them ways to stave off the uncleanliness for periods of time. They had a law to follow now and sacrifices which would atone for sin. But the infection of Adam’s original sin remained.

Many years passed and most had assumed there would never be a cure. But then, in Holy City of Jerusalem, rumors of a powerful rabbi starting to circulate. He was a rabbi from a nowhere town called Nazareth and a no-one family that some claimed had ties to King David. Not that it mattered to a people under Roman occupation.

This is the second man in our story. Jesus of Nazareth.

The rumors about Jesus were strange. Some said that he was the reincarnation of Elijah or that strange hermit John the Baptizer. But that was too far-fetched to be true.

This Jesus was working miracles in many of the towns around Jerusalem. That was exciting, but it wasn’t unheard of. Miracle workers had appeared from time to time in the history of Israel.

But there was something different about this one. He didn’t seem like the rest of the Adam People. When he touched something, he didn’t communicate death; he brought forth life! When he would touch a leper, he didn’t become unclean. No, instead the leper was made clean! Some even said that this Jesus of Nazareth had been able to bring a little girl back from the dead and raise a man out of his tomb.

Jesus had gathered quite the following, including twelve close friends who were his rabbinic disciples. Even they were amazed at the things he was doing. Whatever he touched turned from death to life.

Then Jesus said something to his closest friends that everyone thought was crazy.

Jesus planned to touch death itself. He was going to touch sin and death, the very infection that these Adam People had suffered with since the beginning of time, and bring forth life.

It was impossible. His friends told him as much. Even one of his closest friends, Peter, tried to talk him out of it. And when the authorities came for him, Peter tried to fight them off. But Jesus was determined. He was going to touch death and win.

Jesus was killed on a Roman cross like many other threats to the state. This messiah figure would bring no rebellion if he was dead, they thought.

His followers laid him in a tomb and then they all went home. They awoke the next morning and it was the darkest day they could remember. Jesus had said he could touch death and defeat it with life. But he had failed.

Or so they thought.

The next morning, rumbling broke the silence. Light pierced through the darkness. And Jesus Christ, the Second Man of our story, rose from the grave. He had touched death and now he stood in front of them all — alive! The unthinkable had happened!

The Adam People stood in awe. They couldn’t believe that Jesus had accomplished what he had set out to do. Jesus had willingly gone into death itself, faced the infection head on, and emerged victorious. Finally there was hope for a cure!

And the story was about to get even better…

To be continued

Marcos Ortega

Marcos Ortega (MDiv, Westminster Theological Seminary) is an Assistant Pastor at Goodwill Church (Evangelical Presbyterian Church) and lives in the Hudson River Valley in New York with his wife and two daughters.

2 thoughts on “The Tale of Two Men

  • February 28, 2018 at 4:36 pm

    I’m having trouble finding a source in the scriptures for the Adam being told to “protect the garden from outside intruders.” Can you explain your source and/or rationale? Thanks.

    • February 28, 2018 at 6:12 pm

      Hi Tim, thanks for commenting.

      I was taught this line of interpretation by the professors at Westminster Theoloigical Seminary, namely Dr. Lane Tipton. I believe he was taught this by Meredith Kline (and I believe I remember reading something similar in his Kingdom Prologue).

      The rationale lies in an interpretation of Genesis 2:15 “…to work it and keep it.” To keep the garden is not only to care for it but also to protect it, the same way we “keep” our children or “keep” a prized possession. We not only treat them carefully but we protect them from outside threats.

      This interpretation is strengthened by Genesis 3:15 when the Offspring of Adam is to crush the head of the serpent, implying that this was what Adam should have done in the first place.

      I know this could be explained in much greater depth, but hopefully this gives you a bit of an insight. My language may not have been precise, but this is where I was coming from.

      Feel free to follow up with more questions! Thanks!


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