Tucked away in a small mountain village in Mexico, off a dusty road flanked by pig farms, lived a young boy by the name of Edgar Hernandez.
That’s the name his mother and father gave him when he was born. More recently, he was given another name by a group of doctors who had taken a special interest in him.
They referred to Edgar as “Patient Zero.”
A few years ago, as the swine flu virus was spreading from continent to continent, the medical community raced to determine where the disease had originated, in the hope of stopping the pandemic.
Identifying Patient Zero could offer a shortcut to understanding how the disease progressed, which could mean a quicker discovery of a treatment for it.
Their search led them to the village of La Gloria, in the Mexican state of Veracruz.
There, they pinpointed the very first confirmed case of the disease – Patient Zero – aka, Edgar Hernandez.
In the Epistle to the Romans the Apostle Paul is explaining the cure for the oldest, most virulent, and most stubborn pandemic known to man. The pandemic of sin.
Paul says that, “sin came into the world through one man,
and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned.”
IPaul identifies Patient Zero for the disease of sin, and his name is Adam.
According to Paul, Adam is the key to understanding the pattern of progression of sin in all of us.
You know how the story goes. How God gives Adam and Eve a home in the Garden of Eden.
God tells them they can have anything in Eden, with one exception.
The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is off limits.
It’s literally Paradise. They have everything they could ever need.
But not, as it turns out, everything they could ever desire.
Along comes the crafty Serpent.
Who tempts them to break the one boundary God set for them.
The Serpent gets them to forget about everything God has provided them and tricks them into obsessing about the one thing God said was forbidden to them.
Then, he tricks them into doubting that God really has their best interests in mind.
The next thing you know they doubt whether God can be trusted.
The Serpent says, “Why wouldn’t God want you to eat from that Tree?
Maybe God’s worried that if you ate from it you would be as smart as God is.
I’ll bet if you DID eat the fruit of that tree you wouldn’t even need God and His rules.
You could judge for yourselves what is good and bad for you!”
Adam and Eve fall for it. And so has every one else who has given into temptation — which would be everyone who has ever lived.
Which led Paul to observe that it was through one man’s disobedience, that many were made sinners.
God warned Adam and Eve that the boundary God set for them was for their own good, and breaking that boundary would lead to death.
The death they died was a spiritual death.
The intimate relationship they had with God was broken.
That is the clinical definition of sin, according to the Bible. A state of separation from God.
By examining the anatomy of sin in one man — Adam — we can become more aware of the symptoms of sin in ourselves.
And just as with a disease of the body, once you diagnose how a sickness of the soul works, you are one step closer to understanding what the cure must be.
This morning we prayed a prayer of confession for whatever sins we have committed.
But something followed that confession.
Words of Assurance about God’s forgiveness and mercy.
Which gets to the point of what Paul wants us to understand.
Paul figured out that the prescription for humanity’s condition comes in the form of God’s grace;
God’s undeserved and un-earnable love which erases the alienation from God that we create and reconciles us to God.
And just as sin and death were introduced through one man –Adam, God’s grace also comes to us through one man – Jesus.
There is a kind of sacred symmetry to God’s response to sin, where every negative development of Adam’s disobedience is perfectly offset and nullified by the grace that came through Jesus’ obedience.
Paul says: “For just as by the one man’s DISOBEDIENCE the many were made sinners,
so by the one man’s OBEDIENCE the many will be made righteous.”
The one man’s disobedience, which is reflected in every other act of human disobedience, was Adam’s choice to disobey the boundaries God set for him in the Garden of Eden.
The one man’s obedience, that undoes the rupture in our relationship with God, was Christ’s choice to trust God’s boundaries. Even when it led to a cross.
For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification.
If, because of the one man’s trespass, death exercised dominion through that one,
much more surely, life will have dominion over all who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness through the one man, Jesus Christ.
Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all.
Jesus summed up what Paul says in one sentence, when while seated at the table of his Last Supper with his disciples, he offered them a cup of wine and said, “Drink this all of you, for this. is the cup of the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you and for many, for the forgiveness of sins.”
Like Adam, Jesus’ life affected the destiny of all humanity.
But while one man introduced the power of death into the world, the other man established the reign of life.
As all experienced separation from God through the action of one man, so has one man restored that relationship for all people.
Through Adam, we inherited sin and death. Through Christ, we have been given grace and life.
As we enter this season of Lent, may it be a journey that includes accepting our true condition as people in need of redemption.
Not to wallow in guilt and shame, but as a steppingstone to receiving the free gift of grace that unites us to God, and each other, in Jesus Christ.
© Raymond Medeiros 2017