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Crown of thorns

Adam’s curse (Chris Marley)

In Eve’s Curse Part 1 and Part 2, I dealt with the various aspects pertinent to the image of the Bride of Christ, but the longest curse, found in Genesis 3:17-19, is reserved for Adam. It is also a constant curse without respite. Eve’s curse is presented in an intermittent fashion (though we have seen how it had chronic aspects), but Adam’s is “all the days of your life.” It is a judicial sentence of suffering and death that is so vast in its nature that it affects all things, not just Adam’s sons.

So why so severe a curse? Adam was the federal head of mankind. It was his responsibility to tend the garden, to lead his wife, and serve the Lord. He sinned not only in having “eaten of the tree,” but also “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife.” This is not to say Eve was intrinsically evil, or even intrinsically foolish, but that Adam was led by his wife into sin he knew was sin by God’s own command. He should have led his wife away from evil, not followed her into it. That was his responsibility.

In Adam’s curse, death enters the world. All of the earth suffers in the fall. In 1 Kings 2:2, David describes his imminent death as, “I am about to go the way of all the earth.” There is grief in all the world, not just man’s experience, but man would especially be called to suffer in life and in labor. He must toil and be frustrated in his tasks. Tim Keller writes extensively on this subject in Every Good Endeavor. God provides an example of how this broader principle will play out. Man must now sow, weed, reap, grind the grain, build a fire, and bake the bread. He must do all this by the sweat of his face before he can eat the bread. This will only end when death comes.

Much like Eve’s curse, the words stand through history for all humanity, regenerate and unregenerate alike. The Christian must labor with sweat against thorns and thistles (literally or metaphorically), eating by pain and the sweat of his face. The Christian must even die (excepting those alive on the last day). Yet the sting is taken away. He knows that this world he labors in will pass away, but the Kingdom of God where his heart is invested will endure. He has laid up his treasures in heaven. He knows that death and the grave comes for him in his time, but Death’s plagues, victory, and sting are taken away in Christ’s fulfillment of the law on his behalf.[1] All of these things, though, are written of in greater length and eloquence by other authors, so let us examine it uniquely in terms of the great bridegroom.

Adam submitted to his wife’s call and ate of the tree.[2] Christ did no such thing, but he does respond to the voice of his bride as she cries out in repentance and faith. This is perhaps the most important element in the Judges’ cycle.[3] Christ has “listened to the voice of (his) wife,” and it is because of his bride he is accursed. It is for her sake that he was afflicted and hung upon the tree.

Christ’s toil in this world was under Adam’s curse. His toil was grievous and frustrating. Though he did not labor as a farmer, planting and weeding, he did labor in a fallen world and felt its effects.[4] He wept over Jerusalem and their neglect of the call made unto them (Matt 23:37-39). A portion of this curse would find a poetic sorrow of fulfillment in Christ. Adam was told that the fallen earth would bring forth for him “thorns and thistles.” This is qots in Hebrew and akantha in the Greek Septuagint. When we follow akantha in the New Testament, a crucial yet familiar passage arises. Matthew 27:29, “and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews.’” This is how we find Christ in his procession to the cross, bearing the symbol of Adam’s curse as a crown, soon to take the fullness of the curse on himself for the salvation of his own.

Christ died. He took the fullness of our curse on himself, but he was not only a man of dust. As Mary’s son, as fully man, he was of dust. Yet he was the Son of God, fully God, and the man of heaven. Much of 1 Corinthians 15 has bearing on this, but we will limit ourselves to the profundity of verses 47-49.

“The First man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.”

Christ returned to dust as the final task of the curse he took upon himself, but he is risen, returned to heaven of which he is. We must by grace through faith in Christ be born again into the likeness of Christ if we are to find our end in more than dust and condemnation, an end of resurrection unto Glory.

Chris J. Marley is the Senior Pastor of Miller Valley Baptist Church in Prescott, Arizona.  He holds an M. Div. from Westminster Seminary California (2009).

[1] See Hosea 13:14, 1 Cor 15:55-56

[2] The irony here is not to be missed. Eve’s curse is to be in struggle against the husband’s authority when the neglect of these roles was catalytic to the fall.

[3] The cycle consisted of the fall into sin/idolatry, oppression/conquest by foreigners, cry to God, God raises up a Judge, and season of Peace.

[4] This may have been a factor in Christ’s frequent use of agricultural metaphors despite being raised by a carpenter.