Now the Festival of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was approaching, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus, for they were afraid of the people. Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. They were delighted and agreed to give him money. He consented, and watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present. Luke 22: 1-6
Judas was one of Jesus’ chosen disciples; Jesus specifically picked him to be part of his ministry. Let that fact sink in. What we know about him is meager. Please read John 12-13 and Matthew 26. On their way to Jerusalem for the Passover Feast, Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, anoints Jesus’s feet with pure nard, an expensive perfume, and wipes them dry with her hair. Mary knows that this Son of Man, Jesus, is in fact the Son of God, Christ. She had witnessed the resurrection of her beloved brother, Lazarus, three days after his death. When she honors Jesus with this extravagant gift, Judas objects and we are given a glimpse into a darkness that resides inside his soul:
But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it. John 12: 4-6
As Passover approached, Judas sold his information concerning the whereabouts of Jesus to the Pharisees who in turn will give this information to the Roman authorities and Judas’ infamous purpose in God’s story is complete. After Jesus’ last supper, after he leads his disciples to Gethsemane to pray:
While He was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, suddenly arrived. A large mob, with swords and clubs, was with him from the chief priests and elders of the people. His betrayer had given them a sign: “The One I kiss, He’s the One; arrest Him!” So he went right up to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed Him. Matthew 26: 47-49…
And they bound him and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate the governor. Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself. But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since it is blood money.” Matthew 27: 2-6
So very deceitfully, Judas seals his betrayal with a kiss. When Satan enters Judas, Judas does not rebuke him. This chosen companion, Judas, has every chance to be redeemed and to redeem himself. Listen to the double nature of that statement. We are offered redemption through Christ but we also must choose to accept redemption.
One year, my high school bible study had already covered Adam, Eve, Satan, and the apple in the beginning story of God’s creation. The evening that we started our study of Cain and Abel, I said to the students , “So you remember how this whole story began, right? Remember, we have talked about where God came from?” There was a silence and a discomfort as they tried to remember where we had decided that God came from. Then I said, “Don’t worry, we have no idea where God came from.” And, we have no idea where sin, evil, and darkness came from either. But it is real and very present.
The holy family of God is nothing but and nothing less than pure love. The Trinity desired children. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit poured out their love into the darkness that was the chaos beyond them. The heavens and its angels, the earth and its man and woman were created and brought forth in absolute love and awe. The first holy births.
Because of their choices, Adam and Eve had been exiled from the garden of Eden which was their true home. The angels intended purpose now began in earnest, to communicate between God, the Father, and his beloved fallen creation. The holy Trinity’s plan is now put to the test. The Holy Spirit was hovering over the face of the earth like a dove. Outside of the gate of the Garden of Eden, after the fall and the curse, Adam made love to his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, “With the help of the Lord I have brought forth a man.” Genesis 4:1. Man and woman’s first birth, first child, made in God’s image, and, as Eve acknowledges, with his help. Can you imagine their absolute awe and astonishment? The first exquisite perfect infant. Earth’s first parents, first baby, and first family.
As the holy family‘s first children, Adam and Eve, were conceived, created, and born into purity. But the child conceived by Adam and Eve was not. Cain, the first humanly conceived child, came into the world with our inheritance: a dual nature, the image of God residing alongside the desire of sin. This is who Cain was and we still are.
Later Eve gave birth to Cain’s brother Abel: the kingdom of the earth’s first siblings. We all know the story that follows, the heartbreak and devastation of those first brothers. Both brothers prepare and deliver a sacrifice to God. Abel’s sacrifice, the choice portions of a firstborn, are pleasing to God but the grain sacrifice offered by Cain is not.
The Bible is so “economical” in its wording and its detail. What is not discussed is the relationship that this first family outside of the gate had with the person of God. Eve understood that God helped her in the creation and delivery of these beautiful babies. The two brothers, as they grew into adulthood, apparently had a relationship with “the Lord” because they felt some need or requirement to offer him something of value. But we don’t know why Cain’s offering was not favored. I don’t think that God’s displeasure with Cain’s offering is about the thing he offers as much as with Cain’s heart and attitude in his offering. Now, listen to how deep this relationship between earth’s first born son and God goes:
The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” Genesis 4:6-7
This first child, this young man, bearing God’s image, also knew the difference between good and evil because his parents knew the difference. They had eaten from the Tree of Knowledge. They knew what sin was. This conversation between “the Lord” and Cain is so interesting. Recently, I had my high school bible study act out this conversation between “the Lord” and Cain. Where are they physically to each other? Often as Christians, we know this story so well that we tend to hear it without really listening to the details. One of the youths in the group, said, “Well, I guess I’ve always thought that God was talking to Cain from up high, like a booming voice from the heavens.” So I suggested that we try to listen to the story as if we had never heard it and we reread the story straight from the chapter in Genesis again. Please read Genesis 4.
To me, I think this sounds so much as if this conversation, this advice is given face to face - like a wise Father to a young, impetuous son. It sounds like “the Lord” is standing in front of Cain, maybe even with his hands on Cain’s shoulders, with His, “the Lord’s,” face only inches away from his beloved young son’s face. The Father of the holy family speaking in love and compassion to a wayward child.
It sounds like the Holy Trinity of God is so closely physically and emotionally connected to this first young family residing on a broken earth. The Hebrew word for “sin” is derived from a primitive verb root that means to forfeit, to lack, to lead astray, to condemn, to miss, to offend and to lose.The Lord is warning this young man of what he stands to lose, to miss, and to forfeit if he does not master this thing that is crouching at his door. The Lord is trying to persuade Cain not to be lead astray; sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.
We all remember what horrible thing happens next. Cain attacks and kills his younger brother, Abel, in the field. And again, such a personal, heartbroken conversation between “the Lord” and the earth’s first wayward petulant son:
Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” “I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.” Genesis 4:10-12
The first human blood spilled onto and into the broken cursed kingdom of the earth. The first human death and the first murder. Cain’s self-made curse is even fiercer than that of his father, Adam. Of course, he had already lost access to the Garden of Eden through his parents’ sin, but now even the earth is cursed to him because of the spilling of his brothers blood into it. Remember, Cain was a farmer; now even his livelihood has been forfeited from him because of his sin.
Cain and Abel were not the only family members that are affected by Cain’s inability to master the sin that was brought into the new creation by way of the fallen angel, Satan. Remember the curses that Adam and Eve have incurred? Eve will be in pain for the rest of her life with the loss of her two children. Her pain began with the conception of those two beautiful sons and will continue until she draws her last breath. She will seek comfort from her husband and he will not be able to satisfy her needs. And listen to Cain’s response. Try to hear it for the first time:
Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is more than I can bear. Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” Genesis 4:13-14
How wretched. Cain never takes responsibility for his actions; he did not rule over the sin that was crouching at his door, as his Father God warned him. But listen to the despair in his words: “I cannot bear this, I will be away from you, from your presence.” Such abject agony; Cain suffers the ultimate penalty - separation from his true Father, his earthly family and his home. Cain became a sojourner as he wandered the earth.
Many who read this chapter in the Bible oversimplify Cain. Yes, he is proud, immature, envious, and heartless. But I think Cain is very complicated, just as every one of us is very complicated. My heart aches for him as it does for Judas, a beloved, chosen friend of the living Christ, who sacrificed his blood in a heartbroken suicide.
Satan’s fall from the heavens to the earth broke God’s exquisite kingdom into two. The serpent, and Eve and Adam, completed the corruption of the earth. Cain’s failure to master sin set the entire creation into a downward spiral of chaos and perversion that was and is impossible for us to overcome.
The 29:11 Story
Remember the two red beads on every 29:11 Story that represent Satan and the apple on the Old Testament downfall, and the corresponding Old Red Dragon in the middle of the Second Coming on the upside of the Stories? There are six more red beads on each Story that represent very important people and events that throughout the Bible were tempted and succumbed to sin. God’s Story is full of sin and corruption. In chronological order, the red beads are: Cain, the Tower of Babel, and King David’s sin against Bathsheba in the Old Testament. The New Testament features Judas, church-age sin, and Babylon.
All of the twelve disciples are featured on every 29:11 Story. Judas is there, but his bead is of course red, like his master, Satan. This red bead of Judas follows the bead that represents both The Last Supper and the Crucifixion. But, on its other side, you will find an angel at the empty tomb.
Following the cherubim crystal bead that guards the Garden of Eden, Cain is red, like Satan and his counterpart, Judas. He has been consumed by that sin that God, the Father, warned him of. The next bead on the Story is of course Abel. The fall of humanity now is swift and certain.
William was our first born child. I had been told when I was a college student that I would probably not be able to get pregnant. I was devastated. When I fell in love with my husband, I was very concerned that I would not be able to bear him children. So when William was born, I thought that he was the most beautiful perfect thing that ever happened in the world. The thought that we had made him, created him was beyond my understanding. I was simply awed.
My husband and I had such lovely dreams for our son. We searched his face to determine who he looked like. We delighted in the person he was to become. We imagined what he would grow up to be. We imagined him falling in love, having our grandchildren. All parents dream of their children’s potential. Cancer is a disease of a broken and ruined world. Adam and Eve delighted in dreams of Cain’s future, and of Abel’s as well. Jealousy, family dysfunction and murder are likewise diseases of a broken world.
Like Eve, I will bear the pain of childbirth for the rest of my earthly life. I believe that the curse that Eve incurred begins with the conception of a child and lasts until every mother’s death. And my husband, also brokenhearted from the death of his son, will suffer Adam’s curse until his death because he will never be able to satisfy my needs. Please hear me when I say that this curse does not end at a child’s untimely death, but at the parent’s death. In the best of circumstances, children are a joy and a heartache. When a child dies before his or her time, parenthood is full of despair. My family is part of a dreadful “fraternity “ that is made up of so many other families who have lost children and siblings. Cancer, car accidents, suicide,...the list of brokenness in our world is seemingly endless.
Cain destroyed his parent’s dream for his future through irredeemable sin and was a tragic loss in the story of humanity. Abel’s blood was spilled in a futile sacrifice. My son lost his future and our dreams for him through another form of brokenness, cancer, but his death has been redeemed because of a better blood sacrifice, that of Christ, the Son of God, incarnate as Jesus, the Son of Man.