A Follow-Up Thought from Sunday
By Pastor Mike
If you missed it, the sermon from this past Sunday was from Genesis 4, on the story of Cain and Abel. My emphasis in the message was on seeing ourselves in this story as Cain and not as Abel. This was to emphasize for all of us that, in ourselves, we are not the "righteous son," Jesus is. Often Christians will read the story of Cain and Abel and see Cain, with his gift of fruit, as the unbeliever trying to gain acceptance with God through his good works, and Abel as the believer, successfully gaining acceptance with God through blood sacrifice (he brings the fatty portions of some of his flock). And this is a helpful reading of the story - and finds some validation in Abel's appearance among the "great cloud of witnesses" in Hebrews 11. Our emphasis that morning, however, was taken more from Abel's appearance (and contrast) with Christ in Hebrews 12. Abel's blood "spoke" to God from the ground, revealing Cain's sin. Christ's blood "speaks a better word," that of mercy, of forgiven sin.
One of the weaknesses in my preaching style, which is a little improvisational, is that in my more "creative" moments I wind up saying something stupid. In an effort to connect with listeners, I momentarily modernized the story and called Abel a "cattle rancher." After church a brother in Christ approached me and expressed disappointment that I would not stick to the text and call Abel a shepherd. He was right. Not only does the text of Genesis 4 make clear that Abel was a shepherd, but this fact points us to Jesus who is both the Good Shepherd and Lamb of God. The sacrifice that won Abel's acceptance was the bloody sacrifice of a lamb. And Abel, as the righteous son, was a shepherd. Both facts point to Jesus. My sermon was poorer for the oversight, and my faith this week was enriched by the reminder. So go back to Genesis 4:1-16 today, reread the story of Cain and Abel. See yourself as Cain, the sinner whose sin has killed the righteous son but who receives a mark of mercy and does not experience the death his sin deserves. See yourself also as Abel, who finds acceptance with God through the sacrifice of a Lamb. And lastly, bask in Jesus as the greater Abel, the righteous Son whose blood speaks mercy over judgment, and whose death, like Abel's, does not mark the end of the story.