The Agora
The Serpent and the Woman's Seed (Gen 3:15)

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The Gospels

Like the Old Testament, the New is also filled with allusions to the great foundation promise of Gen 3:15.

Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13

The wilderness temptation of Jesus, which followed immediately upon his baptism, is recorded in detail by both Matthew and Luke. Mark has only a short allusion to the temptation (Mar 1:12,13), adding, however, something which Matthew and Luke both omit, that he "was with the wild beasts". This minor point serves to stress that Jesus was reliving the temptation experience of his first parents, but with a big difference. Whereas they had been placed in a lovely garden of delights, where the animals were peaceably subject to their human masters (Gen 1:28), Jesus was placed in a fierce wilderness, among wild beasts (cp Psa 91:13) -- their attitudes toward man reshaped by the fall itself.

Matthew and Luke each record different sequences of the three temptations. It is suggested that Matthew's is the chronologically correct one because of the precise "then's" (Mat 4:5,10) and "again" (v 8). But in view of Luke 4:2, it is not unreasonable to suppose that each of the temptations were considered and suppressed by Jesus more than once during his 40-day wilderness sojourn. So Luke's different sequence should not necessarily be thought of as incorrect.

Luke, however, seems to have arranged the three temptations for reasons other than mere chronology. There is in his chosen sequence a clear echo of both Eve's temptation and the Apostle John's commentary on temptation:

Luke 4
Genesis 3:6
1 John 2:16
Jesus is tempted to...
"When the woman saw that the tree was..."
"All that is in the world..."
1. Turn stones into bread (vv 2-4)
1. "Good for food..."
1. "The lust of the flesh..."
2. Obtain the kingdoms of the world by worshiping the "devil" (vv 5-8)
2. "Pleasant to the eyes..."
2. "The lust of the eyes..."
3. Cast himself down from the Temple pinnacle (vv 9-12)
3. "To be desired to make one wise..."
3. "The pride of life..."

The three scenes express all the possible sources of temptation; as John wrote, these three are "all that is in the world". There may be many subtle variations of worldly temptation, but they differ little from these main categories.

The first temptation played upon the lusts -- the natural hungers -- of human nature; the second temptation, upon the natural desire for power; and the third, the just-as-natural desire to be thought well of, to be worshipped and honored.

These three temptations epitomize the three shortcomings of natural man, those three things in which human nature desires to glory -- wealth, might, and wisdom (Jer 9:23)! The three classes of leadership in Israel easily fitted into these categories (their twentieth-century "brethren" fit just as well into the same categories!):

  1. The chief priests, Sadducees, and Herodians were the wealthy of the nation. They were content to subordinate every principle to the acquisition and maintenance of wealth. They wanted "bread" and lots of it!
  2. The Zealots wanted the kingdom, or at any rate a kingdom -- to throw off the grievous yoke of the Romans, and have power for themselves.
  3. And the proud Pharisees, outwardly "righteous", had succumbed to the most subtle of the temptations -- they loved to be seen and admired of men as "wise" and "righteous".
All these temptations Jesus faced in turn. Whereas each had played its part in luring Eve into sin (Gen 3:6), each was expressly considered and repudiated by the Lord. In that wherein she had failed, her "seed" (Gen 3:15) succeeded. She brought sin into the world; it coils, serpent-like, in the bosom of each of us, and its sting brings death. But her descendant Jesus, unlike Eve, did not grasp at equality with God (cp Gen 3:5 with Phi 2:6). Instead, he humbled himself and became obedient even unto death, knowing that -- if he overcame where she had fallen -- God would highly exalt him, at the proper time (Phi 2:9).

Matthew 3:7; 12:34; 23:33

The carnal mind, or thinking of the flesh, was generated in our first parents by the serpent's untruthful reasoning. Therefore, those who are unenlightened by God's truth are the "serpent" in the flesh -- a generation, or offspring, of vipers. Such language is used once in Scripture by John the Baptist (Mat 3:7), and twice more by Jesus, against the established leaders of Israel.

Their minds were contrary to the will of God. Like the first serpent, who was their "father", they attempted to entrap their victim (in this case Jesus) by subtlety (Mat 26:4). Their sophistry, however, availed them nothing. He saw through their subterfuges and condemned them for what they were:

"Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of Gehenna?" (Mat 23:33).
Luke 10:19

Sending forth the seventy to preach, Jesus told them:

"Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions."
This promise can be understood either literally (cp Mark 16:18) or figuratively -- the serpent being symbolic, and "Satan" (Luke 10:18) being indicative, of Capernaum (v 15) and other proud cities that rejected the gospel. Perhaps both ideas have their place. No matter which, of course, the words of Jesus are obviously based upon Gen 3:15. The "seed of the woman" has power to crush underfoot the serpent, and he has committed that power also to his servants. Symbolically, in their own lives now, his followers must "tread upon" the "serpent" in their own natures. And in the future, they will be empowered from on high to tread underfoot, without harm to themselves, both literal serpents and the political and religious institutions of which the serpent was the symbol. The promise to the seventy in Luke 10:19 was the earnest, or pledge, of all this.

John 8:44

"Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own; for he is a liar, and the father of it."
Jesus employed personification here in defining the spiritual pedigree of the "Jews" (v 22). In the beginning, the serpent spoke the first lie, "Ye shall not surely die" (Gen 3:4). This lie, believed and acted upon by Eve, brought sin and consequently death into the world. Thus the serpent became the father of liars in the same sense that Jubal became "the father of all such as handle the harp and organ" (Gen 4:21).

According to Jesus, men can have only one of two fathers: They can be the seed of Abraham (John 8:33) -- but only if they do the works of Abraham (v 39) -- fleshly descent is not enough. Or they can be the seed of the serpent (vv 41,44), if they do his works -- that is, lying, subtlety, murder. In seeking to kill the true "seed of Abraham" (v 40), these Jews were admitting that they belonged in the other family.

So it is with us. Merely having a "name to live", and coming into the Abrahamic covenant nominally, is not enough. We must do the works of Abraham before we can claim to be his spiritual seed, and thus sons of God and heirs of God's precious promise given through Abraham. If we profess to follow Christ, while betraying him and denying him with our actions, then we have demonstrated that the Diabolism, the "serpent", is our true father, and we will never be "free".

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