The arrival of free choice and the secret of life can only make sense in Christ.
Right from the start, the vision of the author of Genesis is inclusive. Humanity is believed to be one in its origin, its blessedness, its brokenness and in the universal rule of death. The whole of humanity is embraced in this vision. The intimacy between humanity and God is effectively described: “God breathed into his nostrils a breath of life” No image could better illustrate the closeness of our life to God. The very life-giving air we breathe is ‘breathed’ first by God. The whole imagery of our beginnings interweaves the life of humanity with its foundation in God. God plants a garden like a good gardener for the sustenance of humanity. Then unfolds, in mythological story, the mystery of the dawning of human consciousness – the arrival of free choice, the vaulting ambition, the desire to know all and find the secret of life. And finally, in the first moments of consciousness, the sudden realisation of self as other and the other as other – “they realised they were naked.” The emergence from childhood and innocence into the world we have known from the beginning.
We may latch onto and linger on the peripheral details of the story, mistaking them for substance but the truths contained in the details should possess us. God and all humanity are linked in a dialogue of the closest intimacy; the dialogue is intended to be not for humanity’s death but for life. Sin, death and the closing of the dialogue are not what God wants. Humanity seeks life not death. These are the great truths wrapped around by and delivered through the medium of this foundational story.
Paul brings the story up to date. The un-avoidable facts of sin and death come from the beginnings of the race, from Adam, via the history of the Law until they meet the insurmountable Rock and release which is Jesus the Christ. Humanity stands as one in a solidarity of sin. Thus, it has always been for everyone since the dawn of time. Until with Paul we arrive at Christ. More certain than humanity’s sin is the free gift of righteousness which brings life – and this comes through Christ. The great life-bearing conversation breathed into humanity is now made Man. A new Adam opens the life-giving dialogue once more.
Dialogue has been transformed into a Divine-Human unity in Christ. All humanity is now caught up into that intimacy – which had been lost at the dawn of human consciousness. We are re-knit into divinity. Paul tells how God’s will to love all humanity has broken through what was impossible without the fusing of the two partners in dialogue. Humanity reaches perfection in Christ and (can we say?) God reveals Himself most perfectly as God in becoming human. Can we say: ‘God cannot be God without the human’, without us?
Here are cosmic forces and conflicts under cover of the story of Jesus’ 40-day temptation in the desert. The widest canvas used by Matthew to underline the early belief in God’s choice to love humanity, not by force majeure but by way of encounter which leaves us free to respond. Not by miracles, shows of strength or sheer might, but by the appeal to what the old story has revealed: “man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” The lessons have been long in the learning, but they rest in wisdom unalterable now – they say humanity does not test God, it must worship and serve God alone. Is it any wonder that the “angels appeared and looked after him”? Then the devil left him. The battle to prove the love of God has been engaged. The lessons of loving dialogue have been used and found to be effective.