I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked: and I hid myself.
It strikes me that as a people we are beginning to ask ourselves (deeply) what kind of freedom our common life enshrines. One of the many assumptions our culture relies upon is the idea that freedom is chiefly about “choice.” This assumption stands out to me as I pray with these readings from Genesis and Mark, and the Spirit asks us to consider the freedom we rightly celebrate as Christians, compared with the world’s many pseudo-freedoms. The freedom to choose God’s will in love, or the second-hand freedoms that will always leave us feeling, nevertheless, afraid.
It is telling to me that prior to our temptation we were perfectly free to choose from every tree of the garden—every blessing and delight of created existence, every pursuit of knowledge and relationship with our partner and our God—except, of course, one.
This tree, our desire to eat of it, and the choice to pursue or abstain from that desire tips the narrative of creation. Twice.
The first time, we find it alongside our first parents in the midst of that primordial garden where YHWH dwelled amid YHWH’s creation. Here, neither competing with, nor avoiding the other, YHWH and YHWH’s creatures dwell together in harmonious, reciprocal relationship. The very wholeness of the place is utterly compelling. We therefore cannot help but agree with the deep truths, which the serpent uses to wound the human heart, to foment in YHWH’s creature a desire out of proportion to its original purpose. It is true, after all, the tree isgood for food, and it is a delight to the eyes; for it is also a creature of YHWH’s loving design.
You will not die; you will be like God.
The serpent’s temptation aims at our heart’s very purpose: to know, love, and adore YHWH. Why would YHWH deny us this good thing? Is there something YHWH is not telling us? If meant for sustenance, why does YHWH withhold it? Surely, we deserve it.
By the time the fruit’s taste has effervesced, the temptation’s seed has already begun to bear fruit. Something new is felt in the garden. Fear. I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked.
My child, who told you that you were naked?Who told you your vulnerability was a liability? Who told you I am in competition with you?
Had they come to realize, all too terribly and all too late, that their desire, twisted by the serpent, had enslaved them? Did their newfound sense of “freedom” to choose anything and everything on their own terms leave them unable to love YHWH without ulterior motives? Could they ever again trust the One who might supposedly withhold any good thing?
But this tree appears again.
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Nothing accursed will be found there any more..
The author of Revelation beckons our eye forward to the consummation of all things in Christ, where we will again find ourselves neither competing with, nor avoiding YHWH, where YHWH and YHWH’s creatures will again dwell together in harmonious, reciprocal relationship.
The scene we encounter from Mark this morning is a foretaste of this consummation—a foretaste we will all, by YHWH’s grace, shortly share together. In those days when there was again a great crowd without anything to eat, [Jesus] called his disciples and said to them, “I have compassion for the crowd, because they have been with me for three days and have nothing to eat.” This crowd around Jesus has been lost in his presence for three days. Note that in the verses that follow today’s passage, the Pharisees demand of Jesus a sign from heaven. “If you, O Nazarene, are who you say you are, don’t hold out on us. Give us a sign.”
Mark invites us to lose ourselves in the word that comes to us from Jesus, to turn from the serpent’s path of self-concern, and to see YHWH at work, providing sustenance for all of YHWH’s creatures. Mark asks us, like the crowd, to consider what our freedom might really look like. Will we demand YHWH’s provision? Will we insist that YHWH make transparent to us every intention and design? Or, like the crowd, will we wait on YHWH’s good, wise provision? YHWH is not holding out on us. The very grace our first parents sought, without understanding the freedom for which they had been made, is offered still in the death and resurrection of Jesus:
A grace that heals the wounds of the serpent; that raises again our nature by our free choice to follow Jesus; which offers us here and now the nourishment YHWH knows we need. A grace that gives back our true freedom—freedom to fearlessly and selflessly love YHWH, to be the free, gloriously vulnerable creatures YHWH creates each of us to be.
Genesis 3:10 New Revised Standard Version
Cf. Genesis 3 and Revelation 22
Genesis 3:4b, 5
Genesis 3:10 New Revised Standard Version
Revelation 22:1-2 New Revised Standard Version
Mark 8:1-2 New Revised Standard Version
Para. Mark 8:11
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