The Trial of Two Races
and The Joy Set Before Him
The First Man Tried
God loved man. He created him in His own image, breathed life into him, placed him in a garden and there sought his companionship. What joy would then have filled God’s heart if man would love Him in return.
But could God ever know returned love unless man from his own will chose Him in the face of an alternative?
Man had to be tested. And so he was.
“The Lord God commanded the man, saying, … of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (Gen 2:16-17)
Eve was deceived. Without a real understanding she ate the fruit (1 Tim 2:14). But Adam, oh Adam. Adam wasn’t deceived. In full knowldege he chose the alternative, self and woman, over God! Without a moment’s hesitation, Adam disregarded his Creator and ate the forbidden fruit. How clearly he revealed his heart. He didn’t love his Maker at all.
How heavy God’s heart must have been that day. He came to the garden to walk with man and had instead to ask that dreadful question, “Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?”
“… and I did eat,” answered Adam (Gen 3:11-12).
The First Man Sentenced
God’s promise for disobedience was death: full separation from God and all His blessings. Adam and Eve feared God’s judgment and so knowing they were guilty, they had hidden among the trees, separating themselves from God.
But oh, the mercy of God. His heart still sought after man in the purest of love. He still desired man’s companionship and to get it He knew what He would do. Man certainly deserved to die but God spared Adam and Eve that day. They didn’t die physically. God spared them, accepting the death of an animal in their place.
Though God did spare their lives that day, there would be consequences. God banished man from their garden paradise and cursed the ground of the earth so it no longer produced only “good fruit.” Thorns and thistles were now produced, requiring hard work to grow food and survive.
Adam was himself a product of the ground, of course, so that when the ground was cursed to bring forth “bad fruit,” so too was Adam. “…Return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken…” (Gen 3:19). And thus was born man’s sin nature.
Among other things, Adam was created to “be fruitful and multiply.” And he did, Cain being the first of endless examples of Adam’s “bad fruit.” A corrupt tree always yields corrupt fruit. And every descendant of Adam, as he returns to the ground in death, bears the marks of the curse pronounced by God that day (Rom 5:12).
Enduring great loss and in apparent defeat, God had pronounced His righteous verdict against man. What a sorrowful day for God. … But all along He could see afar off – to the joy set before Him.
God’s Verdict Appealed
Throughout the ages, Adam’s race of man has feverishly sought to overturn God’s righteous verdict against him. Every defensive strategy has been attempted. Adam knew the judgment for sin was death. And deep within the heart of every man today, that same judgment is known and feared. As Adam hid himself among the trees seeking to avoid that judgment, mankind continues doing the same each and every day.
Many convince themselves there is no Judge at all. They hide behind the trees of evolution and “natural laws,” appealing on the grounds that there is no God and therefore no judgment to fear.
Others hide behind the trees of “love,” rejecting God in His justice, believing the Almighty Judge will not carry out the promised sentence against man. They appeal on the grounds that, “A God of love would never put anyone in hell.”
Still others, perhaps worst of all, hide behind the trees of religion. They understand they have sinned but are satisfied with their own “fig-leaf” coverings. They appeal on the grounds of self-righteousness.
But alas, there is no appeal that can hold up in God’s court of justice. There is a God. He will judge the sinner in justice and righteousness. And there is none righteous. The case is closed.
But there is still another strategy mankind once attempted in order to break God’s rule over him and so overturn the hopeless verdict against him –
the cross …
The Second Man Tried
God loved the second Man, His own Son, the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor 15:47). He is the express image of God’s person, sent to earth to give life where there was none.
As the first man had to be tested, so too had the second Man to be tested. And so He was.
“Arise, let us go hence,” spoke the Lord as He led His disciples from the upper room. He took them to a familiar spot, a garden called Gethsemane. There, He had enjoyed their companionship many times before.
What memories must have stirred within the Lord Jesus that night in the garden with his desciples – Did He think at all about that dreadful day so long before when Adam had sinned, the day when the object of God’s love had chosen another, and had become completely corrupt! How He longed to heal His Love, mankind.
But, the cross.
He fell on His face, and prayed, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me…” For centuries He had endured, awaiting this moment when He would bring restoration and healing to the object of His love.
But, … the cross.
“And being in an agony He prayed more earnestly: and His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” In anguished contemplation, He determined to obey: “…Nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done.” That day, in the garden of Gethsemane, a man chose God in the face of every alternative. Even Satan had tempted Him earlier, offering Him the kingdoms of the Earth with all its glory and power. But He refused the crown without the cross. He had determined to endure all. And now, there was yet one thing more to be endured…
… the cross.
The band of men came carrying torches and lanterns. The blessed Lord asked those men as the light from their torches flickered in His face,
“Whom seek ye?”,
“Jesus of Nazareth,” they responded.
“I am,” He said. And they fell to the ground.
“Whom seek ye?” He asked again.
“Jesus of Nazareth.”
“I have told you that I am…” (John 18:3-8)
So long ago God Himself had sought man. “Where art thou?” He called as Adam cowered in fear among the trees of the garden. Now He came in His own person as the “second Man,” Jesus Christ the Lord, “to seek and to save that which is lost” (Luke 19:10).
This day man was seeking God. But it wasn’t in repentance and sorrow over ages of disobedience. It was to mercilessly destroy Him. The Lord Jesus knew it, and still He refused to call the legions of angels poised to destroy them and deliver Him. “…The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?” (John 18:11).
At His trial He would be proven innocent, yet still He would suffer unjustly and be tortured at the hands of man. But what wonderful love! The Lord Jesus willingly chose God despite all the alternatives. “That the world may know that I love the Father…” (John 14:31).
The Second Man Sentenced
How perfectly the race of man, despite all his efforts to overturn God’s verdict against him, has in every way proven the righteousness of that verdict and sentence. He is perfectly corrupt fruit from a perfectly corrupt root.
“The Lord looked down from heaven…, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are altogether become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one” (Psalm 14:2-3).
Consider the collective heart of Adam’s race toward his Maker in those events leading to the cross. It is there that man revealed the abyss of his heart’s poverty and wickedness in a way before known only to God. But now even man can see it when he looks.
They arrested The Lord Jesus. As a common criminal, they led Him away from Gethsemane, chained Him in humiliation, and set Him to stand trial at Gabbatha (John 19:13). Sinners counted Him the lowest scum of society, a criminal who deserved execution. They would stop at nothing short of the cross.
“Such contradiction of sinners!” (Heb 12:3).
“Here,” says mankind to God, “You covered us with skins in the garden of Eden? We will strip off your clothes, humiliate you, and whip you until you have no skin.” “Pilate therefore took Jesus and scourged Him” (John 19:1).
“You cursed the earth with thorns? We will crown you then with those thorns.” “And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on His head…” (John 19:2).
Man’s rage continued unabated, “Before all the host of heaven, you presented us in Adam, saying, ‘Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil…’ and banished us from Eden. Now, the tables are turned! You have become a man just like us!”
Governor Pilate brought Him forth, and presented Him for all to see. Triumphantly mankind through Pilate exclaimed, “Behold the man!” (John 19:5). This God who once judged man is Himself now judged by man. Man will be God’s judge!
Man bubbled in excitement to finally be rid of his Maker. With great satisfaction the crowd of men cried out in loathsome contempt for the One who was once his judge.
“You cursed us with work and death for eating fruit from a tree? Now you carry this cross to your own death and hang upon a tree.” “And He bearing His cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, Golgotha” (John 19:17).
“You banished us from the paradise of Eden? We now banish you from our world!” And there at Golgotha, the place of the skull, “they crucified Him…”
As the Lord hung on that cross in apparent defeat, man enraged can be seen wagging his head with clenched teeth, a raised arm, and a quaking fist at heaven. “We will not have this man to reign over us” (Luke 19:14).
In fury man sentenced God’s anointed to death on a tree and carried out their injustice. “Why do the heathen rage…? The rulers take council together, against the Lord and against His anointed saying, ‘let us break their bands asunder’…” (Psalm 2:1-3).
The cross revealed for all time the darkness of man’s heart and the vacuum of his wisdom. Man desires to be separated from God. Man is wholly corrupt and he hates God. He fully revealed his loveless and wicked heart. For there at the cross, he fully rejected his Maker.
But really, the cross is poetic justice against man. With the “Lord of glory” spiked to it, the cross stood impaling Golgotha, the place of the skull – the figure of an empty human head, almost giving reply to man’s ferocious deed.
At the cross…
… The greatest of man’s wisdom is revealed as utter foolishness: it was unable to accept or understand that Jesus was in truth, God. They crucified the Lord of Glory.
… The truest of man’s religion is exposed as perfectly powerless to change a heart: it hated its Maker, Christ Jesus, and banished Him from their world.
… The mightiest of man’s civil and political power is proven weak beyond expression: In fear of losing that power it knowingly crucified an innocent Man, Jesus Christ the Lord.
“For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent” (1 Cor 1:19). As man tried God, man was again proven …
“In the place where He was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid” (John 19:41). In a garden, man laid the body of Jesus, dead, in a grave. And as God had sealed the garden of Eden from man to keep him out, so man sealed the garden tomb to hold Jesus in (Mat 27:66). But from that tomb in that garden, God raised the Lord Jesus alive and set Him to be the everlasting Judge (Acts 17:31) over man and forever to be seated at His own right hand in glory (Heb 1:3).
Man tried by his own efforts to overturn God’s verdict against him. But he only proved the righteousness of that verdict by revealing his wicked heart in the face of God’s Son. But God had always known of man’s folly and what he would do.
At the cross, man pronounced a verdict against God’s Son, and God overturned that verdict, raising the Lord Jesus up from the dead. Death is indeed separation from God and man deserved it now more than ever he had before. He had crucified the Lord of Glory, withholding all mercy to the One who pleased God in all things (John 8:29).
But God chose to be merciful once again. Despite what man is, God still desired fellowship with him. And now He could have it. By the cross of Christ, all who answer His call and seek His mercy are healed of their corruption and made righteous. God promises to spare them eternally and to welcome them into His presence to be with Him as His companion forever. He accepts the death of His own Son in their place (1 Pet 2:24).
Unlike Eden, from this garden of victory came “good fruit,” an obedient righteous man, Jesus Christ the Lord: “the firstfruits” (1 Cor 15:23).
Now, all who believe will follow Him with changed hearts: hearts turned to “kiss the Son” (Psalm 2:12), bringing pleasure to God’s own heart. He’s conforming them to the image of His Son, Who pleased Him in all things. He produces in them the very life of the second Man, the “good” fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and self control (Gal 5:22). They are a new race in Christ, “the last Adam” (1 Cor 15:45).
Now, God and man can be in true union with each other. Man had died in a garden. And now because of the resurrection out of a garden tomb man in faith can have eternal life.
The Joy Set Before Him
God loved man. He created him in His own image and placed him in a garden. But God could never have known returned love unless man was tested. And so he was.
The first man, Adam, sinned without hesitation in the greenest of environments despite the prospect before him of an eternal, easy life in the immediate presence of God. The last Adam, Jesus Christ, obeyed God fully despite forty days of hunger in a desert wilderness with the prospect before Him of death on the cross and separation from God. He obeyed despite having “no place to lay His head” (Mat 8:20). He obeyed despite hatred, betrayal and rejection. “He was obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Phil 2:8).
This obedient Man, the last Adam, now heads a new race, a spiritual race, composed of men and women who love God because He first loved them and “sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10,19).
Now through the divine love of God and the obedience of His Son, this new race will enter eternally into His garden to live forever as His beloved companion. What love between this new race of man and His Maker and Redeemer!
“My beloved is gone down into His garden, to the beds of spices, to feed in the gardens, and to gather lilies. I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine …” (Song of Sol. 6:2-3).
All because of the obedience of that Man, there is glory prepared for man in God’s eternal garden and joy set before Him! “… the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations ….
… And they shall see His face …” (Rev 22:2-4)
Behold the Man! The Lord Jesus Christ!