It remains the largest aircraft carrier battle in world history. June 19, 1944. The mighty United States Navy sails fifteen carriers loaded with 900-aircraft into the Philippine Sea. The intimidating Imperial Japanese Navy send out nine carriers and 500-warplanes. The future of sea and air power hangs in the balance. Victor claims control in the region.
The battle is completely lopsided.
The Imperial Japanese Navy races to ambush American forces. Yet, two American submarines and multiple radars detect the secret efforts. That’s why The Battle of the Philippine Sea is nicknamed ‘The Great Marianas Turkey Shoot.’ Japanese forces unleash over 500-aircraft at the ready and waiting American fleet. At one point, the Americans literally shoot down planes as they take off. The Japanese lose over 400 warplanes, while the Americans lose only thirty. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Philippine_Sea#Early_actions)
In no way did the Japanese even come close to matching American firepower, machinery, or strategy. Instead, they lose almost all of their aircraft, much of their naval fleet, and more importantly, influence in the region. The Americans cut off supply lines and heavy bombers could now reach mainland Japan. Completely overwhelmed. That best describes this battle.
That best describes the battle we confront today. Completely overwhelming! Satan’s ambush on Adam and Eve unleashed devastating results. The same battle he launched against them is the same battle that daily overwhelms us! We never stand a chance for victory— but Christ does. He makes that victory known. Christ Overwhelms Overwhelming Enemies! Sin condemned us to death, but Grace sets us free for life.
Do you really know what that is— life? Adam and Eve have life. They have life in Eden’s paradise. Hearts pump blood throughout the body. Lungs breathe in fresh, pure air. Brains command muscle movement. Eyes gaze at beautifully lush vegetation and marvelous fruits. Ears absorb chirping birds and babbling brooks. Yes, Adam and Eve function— they live— but that’s only part of life.
Adam and Eve have life with God. Every fiber of their being cherishes him! Absolutely content with all God provides. Totally dependent on God’s care. Entirely willing to approach God for anything at anytime. No barrier exists. No cringe-worthy, regrettable shame. Just this effortless openness.
That is real life. Rejoicing as a child under the King’s loving care. That life blows up with just one act.
God gave a crystal-clear command: ‘You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil’ (Genesis 2:17). That command may sound like God is too strict and needs to lighten up. Understand, that command allows Adam and Eve to demonstrate love in a very visible way. For example, your spouse tells you on your wedding day: ‘Love me!’ So you do. Not because you are a slave, but because your love prompts you to love. You hold your newborn child in your arms. Those baby blue eyes pierce deep into your own and command: ‘Love me.’ You do. Not because you must, but because your love for this child pulls you to love in ways never before imagined. Your God tells Adam and Eve: ‘Do not eat.’ They do not. Not because God drains fun from life, but because he loves them. His love fuels their love.
Breaking that command demonstrates love for self, not love for God. That defiant act we call ‘Sin.’ Literally, [the word] ‘sin’ means ‘miss the target (or, mark).’ A 12-point buck stands in front of you. You carefully aim your rifle at the heart, pull the trigger, and fire. Does it matter if you miss? Of course it does! The point of hunting is to hit the mark, to strike the bull’s-eye. Miss the mark and you fail! If it is a big deal to miss shooting your 12-pointer, then be sure, it is a big deal missing God’s target for complete obedience. Adam makes it quite known: ‘God, I do not need you!’
That defiant cry for independence brought consequences. [S]in entered the world through one man, and death through sin[.] Sin results in death. And what is death? How is it best defined? Death separates. Death separates people from life. Death separates husband from wife and wife from husband. Death separates grandma and grandpa from family. Death separates child from mom and dad and mom and dad from child. Death separates people from life. Even worse, death separates all people from life with God!
That terrible consequence engulfs world like a wildfire and is more unstoppable than the coronavirus. [I]n this way death came to all men, because all sinned[.] All people! No one stands exempt. You inherit the genetic makeup of your parents (the hair color, facial features, your body-shape). That’s not all. You also inherit their sinful heart. I did not teach my daughter to be stubborn. I did not teach my son not to share his toys. I did not teach my daughter to throw a fit when she does not get enough attention. I look at them and see a piece of me; I see my selfishness in them.
‘Sin’ passes down from generation to generation and with it, death. From the moment of birth the clock of life begins counting down. Every single person in the world reaches a day when the heart will stop, the lungs cease, and the brain dies We stand completely powerless to stop it!
‘Sin’ sits on us like a terrible overlord, only pointing at the inevitable grave of death. [D]eath reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam[.] Centuries before God wrote out his ‘Right’ and ‘Wrong’ on two tablets of stone, people sinned! Corrupt hearts protect self above all things! (For proof, just consider how everyone ever born died!) No matter how good we try to be, no matter what efforts we try to undo the wrong, we can never escape the deadly consequences of our sin. Sin condemned us to death.
We have lost the battle. We cannot reverse the terrible results. ‘Sin’ and ‘Death’ domineer life like two enormous bullies. Those enemies overwhelm us— but those enemies cannot overwhelm Christ.
God makes that explicitly known. At the Jordan River, God identifies Jesus as his appointed Warrior. The Father announces Jesus as his perfect Son. The Holy Spirit strengthens Jesus for battle. Immediately after his baptism, Jesus marches off to war to set us free for life. He marches out into the wilderness. There, Jesus confronts Satan head-on. Hungry and thirsty he absorbs temptation after temptation. Doubt God’s constant providing care? Question God’s presence in time of need? No, he will not. Jesus relies on God through every trouble. Take a Bible verse and challenge God to keep his promise? No, Jesus will not dare God with foolish choices. Blatantly replace God’s commands with personal preference? No, every fiber of Jesus’ being loves God too much to commit such evil. (Matthew 4:1-11)
For forty days and nights the devil tries to crack the armor of Jesus. He tries to penetrate a mind fortified by the Word. He tries to strike down a heart bound to God— but cannot. Satan is entirely outmatched; he never has a chance of winning. The sinless Son of God drives the devil away. Then, on the cross, he obliterates Satan’s power once and for all.
Satan could always point at our ‘sin’ and rightly say that we deserved death. Our enemy ‘Sin’ marked us as rebels. Yet, Jesus covers over every ‘missed mark’ with his innocent blood. Our enemy ‘Death’ demands consequences. Yet, Jesus marches out of death’s grave leaving its filthy, disgusting grip behind. Christ Overwhelms Overwhelming Enemies with his faultless life. He marches into war and never sins, never deserves death. He comes out victorious! Turning to you, he binds up all his work, ties it with a ribbon, and presents it as a gift.
Do you grasp what Christ has done? Jesus does not strike down sin, death, and the devil, and leave us to do our part. Our reading says: But the gift is not like the trespass The ‘trespass’— the crossing the forbidden line— meant us paying the penalty. Yet, the ‘gift’? The ‘gift’ is that Jesus paid our penalty. He frees us from an eternal debt!
Remember, a gift is something given without any conditions. Your past is not erased because you try hard to be a good person and live a good life. God does not give you a gold star for eating fish during Lent or for giving up caffeine and sugar. God does not put a checkmark into your spiritual record because you worship on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Thinking that you contribute in order to earn God’s favor means that you push away this gift. God makes it very clear: For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace [his undeserved love] and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!
Christ Overwhelms our Overwhelming Enemies. More than that, he shares that victory with us! Picture it: You are thirsty and ask for a glass of water. Jesus does better, he sets you under a raging waterfall. Jesus does not merely empty the heart of sin, but he drenches it overflowing with new life.
(1) Jesus strikes down death. Death died— meaning, death can never separate a believer from God (read Romans 8:38-39). Your believing husband walked from earth and stepped into heaven. Grandma, who worshipped Jesus her whole life still worships, but in person. A believer’s life cut short on earth runs eternal in heaven. Death cannot bully you to think otherwise. It has lost its grip. One day you, too, will close your eyes only to open them to the face of God (Job 19:25-27).
(2) Jesus stripped sin away. Listen to our closing verse: For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. Yes, you are not perfect. You carry regrets. Stupid, foolish decisions haunt you. Terrible words torpedoed relationships. Yes, you are not perfect— but God does not see sin, he sees righteous! That’s what the verse says: so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. At your baptism Jesus set his ‘right,’ obedient life on you (read Galatians 3:26-27; Titus 3:5). In the Lord’s Supper Jesus promises you: ‘You are forgiven. You are righteous!’ This is what you are now! ‘Right’ with God! One day you will see in its fullest reality because you will actually stand around the throne of God in heaven.
Friends, this is the purpose for Jesus coming. Satan’s ambush on Adam and Eve unleashed devastating results. The same battle he launched against them is the same battle that daily overwhelms us! Without Christ, Sin condemned us to death. We never stand a chance for victory. Grace sets us free for life. God makes that victory known so that we live confident. Death is defeated. Sin removed. Satan powerless. The most lopsided battle in world history—and the results belong to us! Christ Overwhelms Overwhelming Enemies!