The Greatest Avenger

Fueled by fury, hatred, and hubris, the serpent strutted into the Garden and smiled. He knew the woman would soon wander near the forbidden tree, making his plan almost too easy. He arrived well before her to make sure everything was in order. He had been planning for too long to make a careless mistake now. He found the perfect branch, just at eye-level, from which he would approach the woman. He made sure nothing obscured the beautiful fruit, just at its peak ripeness. Then he waited. Let her come on her own, he told himself. She will, she always does. She’s already drawn to this tree. She’s just looking for a reason to eat from it. Finally, not long before twilight, he saw her ambling towards him and away from her husband. The serpent smiled as she approached; then, with honey in his voice, he asked the question he had written and rewritten a hundred times: “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?”

I’ve got her! he thought. Not wanting to be distracted, however, he swallowed his glee; then, with the precision of a surgeon, he continued. The conversation unfolded just as he had anticipated. The woman partook of the fruit, and gave it to her husband, who ate of his own accord! Jubilant, the serpent sneaked from view to watch what would come next. He wasn’t sure how it would happen—no one had ever died before. Would it be instantaneous? Would the Maker hurl them into the kingdom of darkness immediately? Would He thunder from His throne as He had when He expelled the serpent from His presence? Or would He wait until His daily walk with His precious creatures and then execute justice? It mattered little to the serpent. He knew well what the Maker had said to the man: “In the day that you eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you will surely die.” So, it was coming. He would just have to wait.

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As the murderer slithered from the Garden, he mulled over what he had just heard. The man and the woman were still alive! They hadn’t died after all! Despite his disappointment, he still knew nothing was the same. He observed the sharp thorns that had appeared on the roses’ stems and watched with glee as a lion attacked a young sheep. Nothing, however, was quite as melodious as the man and woman each trying to shed their blame as he, the serpent, one day would shed his skin. Yes, he had expected the judgment to come differently. But this was a better outcome than he could have imagined. He had still managed to murder the man and woman, for the Maker would be good to His word. But since the day of their physical death was yet future, the species would continue, and he could find new and tantalizing ways to kill. He would have to. The Maker had promised that the woman’s seed would crush his head. He must therefore extinguish the seed!  The serpent arrived at his lair and wasted no time in planning his next murder. Perhaps this time, he would use jealousy…

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 Murder. Deceit, temptation, and prevarication, yes. But it was murder that the serpent committed that day. Murder that must be avenged. It couldn’t be avenged by any man or woman, for they had been the victim. No, this Avenger of Blood must come from somewhere else, yet he also must be a close relative—totally human, yet not a victim of the murder. Who does that leave? Every man and every woman was murdered that fateful day in the Garden, with Adam and Eve as their representatives. The Avenger must come as a new representative—a new Adam and not a victim of the serpent’s treachery.

And so the Avenger came. Not with mask or mythic hammer. He came, inauspicious and meek, born during a busy season in a busy place to humble but caring human parents. Fully God, He laid aside the glory of His deity for a time and lived unnoticed and without sin for three decades before entering the public sphere. Even then, this Avenger, hardly seemed like one on a mission of vengeance. While never disobeying the Maker and becoming a victim of the murder Himself, He healed the sick, fed the hungry, taught the multitudes, told confusing stories, and regularly made the religious elite quite angry. Could this humble carpenter-turned-teacher avenge the serpent’s murder?

The serpent, not daring to overlook this potential Avenger, tried many methods of disposing of Him, from seeking to murder Him as an infant to tempting Him with power and glory as he had the woman. Not daunted by those failures, the serpent laid his most brilliant trap yet.

The Avenger had committed no sin, yet still was found guilty and sentenced to death. And not just any death (this was the real feather in the serpent’s cap)—He would hang on a cross, the method of execution reserved for the very worst of criminals. For murderers. The sky darkened and the earth shook as the Avenger closed His eyes in death. Even nature recognized that the serpent had dealt a crushing blow. He had done it. At last, he had extinguished the seed! The murder started long ago was finally complete!

The serpent gloated and cackled for three days, basking in the sweet glow of victory. However, just as his triumph was setting in and he was picturing himself on the throne, his heart leapt into his throat. Someone had entered his lair. He turned and saw Him–the Avenger, righteous fury burning in His eyes. Before the serpent could respond, the Avenger was upon him. With one deft blow, He crushed the skull of the serpent, finally avenging the murder committed in the Garden.

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Goel. We know this Hebrew word as “Kinsman Redeemer,” the familiar and beloved picture of a man marrying the widow of a close relative and providing her with an heir, as Boaz did with Ruth. But that’s not the only responsibility of a goel. He must also avenge the murder of his close relative.

“But if there is a man who hates his neighbor and lies in wait for him and rises up against him and strikes him so that he dies, and he flees to one of these cities, then the elders of his city shall send and take him from there and deliver him into the hand of the avenger of blood [Goel], that he may die. “You shall not pity him, but you shall purge the blood of the innocent from Israel, that it may go well with you.”

Deut. 19:11-13, emphasis added

“And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.”

Gen. 3:15

“You are of [your] father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own [nature,] for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

John 8:44, emphasis added

For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. … But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory.  “O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Cor. 15:22, 54-57

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