(Due to tech difficulties, no video this week)
SERMON TEXT BELOW
Pentecost 20 2022
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
Vicar Kaleb Yaeger\
Gen. 4:1-15, 2 Tim. 4:6-8, 16-18, Luke 18:9-17
Text and Audio: immanuelhamiltonchurch.com click “sermons”
Full Service Audio: bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship
The earth is soaked with blood, flowing from the man’s broken head out onto the ground. Black dirt becomes red mud. The body lies on the ground, limbs splayed; his head twisted at an odd angle. His dead eyes stare accusingly at his killer. Abel, the shepherd son of Adam will never again tend his flocks.
Cain is out of breath and soaked with sweat. He wipes his brow, leaving a crimson stain across his forehead. He looks down at his hands, which are red with his brother’s blood. He whips his head around, making certain there are no witnesses. His heart pounds. His hands shake. He checks again for witnesses. Seeing no-one, he finds a big, flat rock and begins to dig a shallow grave for his brother in the blood-soaked earth.
The first murder. A grim scene. Brother turned against brother. Blood spilled on the earth. Why? Why this crime? Why this murder? To understand, we must go back to the beginning.
Adam and Eve had two sons. The first they named Cain. Cain, as the firstborn son, soon was involved in his father’s business. Adam was taken out of the ground in order to work it, so it was right that Cain should work the ground. Cain’s role was to grow food for his family. He was to plant seeds in the ground so that he and his family could live.
The second son Adam and Eve named Abel, meaning breath. In time, they would know that name to be prophetic. Abel was a keeper of flocks and herds.
Eventually the time came for both sons of Adam to make offerings to the LORD. Cain offered from what he had reaped, but Abel offered the firstborn of his flock. Abel’s offering, because it was of the firstborn, because it was of the best, was accepted by God. God looked with favor upon Abel. Cain only offered some of his crops. He did not offer the firstfruits, he did not give God the best of what he had. So God did not look with favor upon Cain.
Cain sees that God favor’s Abel’s offering and not his. He is jealous. The Bible tells us that his face fell. Cain’s reaction to God’s rejection is anger. He is not repentant, he is angry. God confronts him for his anger. God warns Cain, saying:
“…sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.”
God sees the danger that Cain’s fallen face poses. He warns him, exhorting him to repent, to turn from his wicked ways and do what is right. How often we receive the same warning! Anger comes easily to us as children of Adam. We have inherited Adam’s sin. As we sang in our hymn of the day, in Adam we have all been one. One huge, rebellious man. Our anger is a symptom of that sin. Often, like Cain, we are angry with our own family members.
Anger is dangerous. Things done in anger are often things regretted. Things said in anger can hurt. Anger divides. Anger turns you against your family. When you are angry, beware! For sin is crouching at your door. Rule it, for its desire is against you.
Cain didn’t heed God’s warning. In the very next verse, Cain walks out with his brother into the field. The two of them are alone. Cain strikes. He beats his brother down. The sharp crack of rock against bone sounds over and over again. Cain’s hands shake as his brother’s blood soaks the earth. Black dirt becomes red mud. Cain stands over his brother’s body, sweating. With shaking hands, he digs a shallow grave for his brother.
Cain was a worker of the field. He did his father’s work. He brought life from the ground so that he and his family could eat, and live. But now, instead of seeds, he has planted his brother’s body in the earth. He has sown death. Adam was formed from the dust, and now Abel has been returned to dust. Abel, true to his name, lived as but a breath. Cain returned him to his father’s ground.
Sin was crouched at Cain’s door. Cain did not rule it. He let his anger rule him. He heard God’s warning, but refused to listen to it. As a result, he inflicted pain upon his family, death upon his brother, and guilt upon himself. This should sound familiar. Too often, anger overtakes us. Anger, which leads to a multitude of sins. God’s law is clear. We too hear it, and refuse to listen. In Adam, we have all been one. So too in Cain. We fled God’s law, and in losing him, we lost our brother too. Each singly sought and claimed his own, each man his brother slew.
Jesus tells us that to hate our brother is to murder him in our hearts. Anger and hatred are twin siblings. Anger is a powerful force. It motivates us to move, even against our own family, even against the very word of God. In Cain, we have all been one. Murderers. We neglect our vocations and twist them for petty vengeance. Like Cain, we have sown death. What shall we reap?
What shall Cain reap? He has finished burying his brother. Some time has passed, and he has cleansed his brother’s blood from his hands, though his heart remains guilty. He thinks he has gotten away with his crime, when the LORD speaks to him.
“Where is Abel your brother?”
Cain’s heart pounds. He hears the crack of rock against bone. Blood on the dirt. Crimson mud.
“I do not know; am I my brother's keeper?”
God confronts Cain. Like his father Adam, he deflects and denies. He lies to the LORD. Adam found that hiding from God was useless. Now Cain finds lying to the Almighty equally useless.
“What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood is crying to me from the ground.”
God knows of Cain’s crime. The voice of shepherd Abel’s blood tells God the story. His blood demands justice. It demands repayment. Blood has been shed. Blood is required. A murderer should give what he has taken. Cain deserves death. The first murderer should be the first man executed for his crimes.
“And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength.”
Like his father before him, Cain receives the curse of sin. But Cain’s curse is worse than his father’s. He has sown death into the ground, so he shall never again reap life from it. Still, this seems a punishment too small. Sin requires death. Blood requires blood. Cain’s life is in jeopardy. But God does not kill Cain. Instead, he says:
“You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.”
Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, you have driven me today away from the ground, and from your face I shall be hidden. I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.”
Cain, at least, recognizes what he deserves. He recognizes it, and desires to be free of sin’s punishment. But Cain does not repent. He says to God “This is too much! I will get the very thing I deserve, I will be killed, like I killed my brother. I cannot bear it!” We’d expect God to answer “Yes, O Cain, first murderer, you will get what you deserve, you have sown death and so you shall reap it!”
That would be the just answer. That would be the right thing to do. Blood requires blood. But God listens to Cain. He says:
“Not so! If anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And the Lord put a mark on Cain, lest any who found him should attack him.
The first murderer is marked so that he may not die at the hands of another. Blood has been shed. Blood is not required. Cain walks free. He is cursed to wander the earth, but vengeance will not be taken for the blood of Abel. Why? Where is the justice of God? Where is His righteousness? Why does He let this murderer go free?
God desires that Cain repent. God brought Cain forth from Adam and Eve. God formed Cain in his mother’s womb. God knew Cain. God loves Cain. He does not want to see him dragged to hell by the weight of his sins. God desires Cain’s repentance.
We do not know if Cain ever repented. Later in the chapter, we are given a brief genealogy of Cain, but we are never told his age at death. The first son of Adam mentioned in the genealogy of Adam to Noah is Seth, Adam and Eve’s third son. Abel is dead and Cain has disinherited himself.
Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.
Like his father before him, Cain flees from God. He takes the mercy of God and runs. Where is justice? Blood was still shed. Abel’s blood still soaks the soil of the field. It still cries out for justice, yet Cain still lives. Cain is marked, protected by God, but Abel is still dead. Blood for blood. Life for life.
Blood pours out onto the dirt. A son of Adam becomes a corpse. Crimson rivers flow from His head mixing with the earth, forming crimson mud. The shepherd’s dead eyes are vacant, staring into the sky. His jaw is slack. His body limp. He breathes no more. His blood cries out. It drips from his hands. It gushes from his side. It pours out of the wounds in his feet. Vengeance has been taken, for the Shepherd dies. His blood pours onto the ground at the foot of the cross.
His blood cries out from the ground: “It is finished!” Abel’s blood accused Cain and demanded vengeance. Justice demanded blood. A life was taken, so a life must be paid. And a life was paid. A Son of Adam paid it. Not Cain. Jesus. Son of Adam. Son of God.
Justice was done that day, on the cross. The righteous wrath of God was poured out on Jesus. Cain’s death was given to Christ. Your death was given to Christ. Jesus took the death that all the world deserved and was buried with it. Death was put into the ground. Jesus was planted, like a seed, in His tomb. But He stepped forth, three days later, leaving death behind. The death of Cain. The death of Adam. The death of all children of Adam who fell in Adam’s fall.
Sin crouches at your door. You do not rule it. You deserve death. Yet God has mercy. God has mercy on you. He marks you, like He marked Cain.
Cain’s mark was temporary. It protected him from the vengeance of others while he walked the earth. But God has given you a mark much better than Cain’s. He has marked you with the sign of the cross upon your forehead and upon your heart. He has put His name on you, the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. He has washed you in the font. He has sealed you as His own. Cain’s mark lasted for his earthly life. Your mark lasts forever.
The blood of the Shepherd cries out before God. It cries out that justice is done, that wrath need not be poured out on all mankind. Christ’s blood was poured out on the ground for you, for the forgiveness of sins. It was poured out on the cross, so that it may be poured into you. Here, on this altar, we are about to eat and drink the body and blood of Jesus. The blood of the shepherd. The death which brought forth life.
Cain was supposed to bring life from the ground, but he sowed it with death. Jesus, by dying in Cain’s place, finished his work. Christ planted the ground with His own blood. Rising, He gives you the fruit of His salvation to eat and to drink. Come, dear Christian, and take the cup of salvation, poured out for you, for the forgiveness of your sins.