In Postman’s 1985, “Amusing Ourselves to Death,” he warned that mass media was causing a “vast descent into triviality.” In 1991, Sommerville wrote: “If we read philosophy, history, science, theology — regularly — we would be able to make much better sense of the day’s events. But we don’t. We’re too busy to manage anything but the News.” Hungry for variable rewards, we now, on average, “swipe or tap our phones 2,617 times a day. Everyone is distracted. All of the time” (Rosenstein).
We need God to give us focus. This column points you to him. But, it is not your typical skim-and-get-the-gist-of-it reading. Awkwardly for us, faith grows by engaging with the word of God. Braveheart, let’s dive in -- believing God can get past our habitual distance. Reader, will you slow down? God, will you connect with us?
Last month, I wrote: “At my brother’s burial, I read a faith-provoking passage: ‘The first Adam became a living being;’ the last Adam, a life-giving spirit” (1 Cor. 15:45).
Marvel at First Adam -- made a “living being” by God -- made in the image of God -- capable of passing on life -– skilled with words -- masterful in taking dominion – our representative. But, from such a grand height he fell -- with repercussions that resound in our hearts and in our world.
The announced (Gen 3:15 and many prophets) but otherwise completely unexpected repercussion was Last Adam -- God in the flesh -- “a life-giving spirit.” At uncountable cost, with adamant grace he came to rescue his people. By nature, we are heirs of the First Adam. Now, by faith, we may be heirs of Last Adam!
Ponder these contrasts.
A Hebrew name for First Adam is “Ish” -- “man.” From “Ish,” God made a bride. First Adam called her: “Ishah,” like “Ish” but clearly feminine (Gen 2:23)! To gain incomparable “Ishah,” God opened Ish’s side. Ishah cost Ish his rib -- taking his breath away. On the cross, a man’s spear opened God’s side. For Last Adam to gain his Bride, the Church, he gave his life.
In the garden
First Adam yielded to temptation in the garden of Eden. Last Adam, famished in the desert, beat temptation. Later, he beat it again in a darkened garden -- sweating blood.
Being like God
First Adam wanted to become God -- foolishly believing the serpent’s deception that he and Ishah would “be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen 3:5). Last Adam is God who became a man.
Take and eat
First Adam and Ishah fell by choosing to believe the serpent’s seductive suggestion. Dying, they died. Last Adam invited his followers to eat and drink truly of him: “This is my body which is for you. This cup is the new covenant in my blood” (1 Cor 11:24-25). Christian, and those who would believe, here, remembering you remember your new life through Jesus’ life and death.
The face of God
First Adam sinned. Profoundly ashamed and existentially alienated, he hid from God. On the cross, Last Adam, desperate for uninterrupted intimacy with his Father, “cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ (which means ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’)” (Mt 27:46).
The bride again
Already quickly advanced in sin, sarcastic and scandalous First Adam heaped blame upon his bride scolding God: “The woman you put here with me -- she gave me some fruit from the tree and I ate it” (Genesis 3:11,12). Last Adam pursued his Bride -- even in her unloveliness -- to take her blame.
First Adam brought a curse and death. Last Adam became a curse and brought life.
First Adam abandoned Eden’s joys to bring a curse accompanied by sorrow. Last Adam left heaven’s joys to become a man of sorrows and deeply acquainted with grief (Is. 53:3).
Pain in childbirth
The sin of First Adam and his wife brought involuntary suffering -- pain in childbirth -- and also, pain for them and their children as they suffered from great enemies -- internally, the “flesh” and externally, the “world” and the devil. Last Adam willingly chose death “to bring many sons to glory” (Heb. 2:10).
First Adam earned thorns. Counterintuitively, Last Adam chose death wearing a crown of thorns.
First Adam’s nature expressed itself in two self-focused ways: “My Life for Me” and “Your Life for Me.” So, he brought this curse -- “by the sweat of your brow you will eat your food” (Gen 3:19). Last Adam’s whole life was “My Life for You.” He sweat drops of blood in his passion for his people.
First Adam tasted death from a tree. That curse brought immediate spiritual and eventual physical death. Last Adam tasted death on a tree. Jesus tasted death to “destroy him who holds the power of death” and lay hold of us to rescue us (Heb 2:15,16).
Naked First Adam received clothes made from the skins of a sacrificial animal. Last Adam had clothes but was stripped naked. Only then, could he, the bloody sacrificial Lamb of God -- clothe his own Bride in unparalleled robes of righteousness.
As you stand on the threshold of your life and look back to the Garden of Eden from the perspective of the cross, what a contrast!
You may pass by Last Adam -- to your great detriment -- continuing to be represented by First Adam.
Instead, let’s revel in Last Adam -- the “life-giving spirit!” He comes to us on our worst day and makes it our best day.
In 1572, 1,500-plus years after Last Adam’s birth -- in England, 3,000-plus miles away from Last Adam’s nativity -- the Donnes named their son, “John” -- “Grace.” What a statement! And how John responded to God’s grace that had arrived -- at last -- in Jesus!
“As the sweat of the First Adam surrounds my face,
May the blood of the Second Adam my soul embrace” (John Donne, d. 1631).
God, make it so!