By Hank Slikker
Special to The PREVIEW
Ever find yourself in a bad place? No, I don’t mean your job. I mean a really bad place: a situation not of your own doing, a place from which you probably won’t return.
Like being a ticketed passenger on the maiden voyage of the Titanic — the unsinkable Titanic, as they called it. You might recall some of the persons climbing the ramp that day: the first-class passengers; the ship’s designer, Thomas Andrews; the eight-man band; and the captain, Edward John Smith.
Two thousand or so second- and third-class passengers followed. Once aboard, all prepared to celebrate. Of the safety of the ship, Smith said, “I could not conceive of any vital disaster happening to this vessel …” Not a few days later, he swallowed his words.
Or maybe you needed to travel to New York sooner than the five days it took by boat. So, along with 96 others, you boarded the Hindenburg for the 43-hour flight out of Frankfurt, Germany.
The giant balloon represented the safest way to cross the Atlantic by air and had already made 62 crossings to Rio and New York. Unfortunately, the 63rd would be its last. Upon arrival, the Hindenburg burst into flames attempting to land in bad weather. It burned up in just 37 seconds.
And, maybe for fun, you boarded a duckboat in Missouri a few months ago carrying 29 passengers. Not a few minutes later, it flipped over in a surprise thunderstorm. Seventeen of the passengers drowned, including nine members of one family. Their mistake when they boarded the boat was to listen to the captain. He told them, “Don’t worry about grabbing the life jackets, you won’t need them.”
Recalling these tragedies, they brought to mind a spiritual parallel, a parallel of the fate of the human race. Long ago, it too was a passenger on doomed vessels, the parents of the race.
You may be familiar with the story. Adam and Eve bore within them all who would be born. They lived in paradise, a lush garden home God made just for them, but under one condition: they could not eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If they ate the forbidden knowledge, they would die.
In his masterpiece, “Paradise Lost,” John Milton retells the story. One day Eve suggested that she and Adam work separately so that they could get more done. She would work the rose garden while Adam would tend vines in their home grove. He didn’t like her idea. He said he had a bad dream that night and felt they should stick together.
But Eve won out and on her way to tend the roses, she encountered the enemy of souls, the Prince of Deceit, disguised as a talking serpent. She marveled that a beast could speak and asked him how he could. The serpent told her the forbidden fruit gave him this ability, that it was the nectar of the gods, and that she would be like God if she ate, knowing what he knows.
Eve paused. But, with smooth argument, the prince convinced her that God withheld good from her because he doesn’t want any equals.
Of the serpent’s deadly persuasion Milton writes, “Into her heart too easie entrance won” (Book IX, line 734). So, with lunchtime approaching, the fragrant fruit stirred her appetite and she took the fruit and ate.
Not knowing she had eaten death (Book IX, line 792) she hurried home with a bough of fruit. With much enthusiasm she told Adam of her encounter with the prince/serpent, and that she had eaten the forbidden fruit. In her newfound knowledge, she encouraged him to join her.
Shocked, he stood speechless, knowing the stranger had beguiled her. An uncontrollable shudder raced through his veins, knowing he too would have to eat. For the choice to lose Eve was too great for him and, without deceit, he decided he would rather die with her than live without her. Milton writes, “And mee with thee hath ruind, for with thee Certain my resolution is to Die” (Book IX, lines 906-907).
So, Adam ate the fruit. As he did, its poison nectar slowly worked its way into the chamber that housed the human race. The nectar drenched the race in death. Once born, the poisoned souls would never see Eden, but would die like their parents.
Thankfully, God has a very big heart. He’s kind and compassionate and “is not willing that any [soul] should perish” (2 Peter 3:9). He’s the Good Samaritan. He saw a drowning world and would rescue it. To save it, He decided he would send a second Adam, his own son, to undo what the first Adam did, since his son alone had the currency to pay for Adam’s crime. As St. John writes, “For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, That whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
By Hank Slikker