2nd Sunday in Advent LSB #’s 572:1-3 tune 451, In This Precious Baby Boy, 572:4-6 tune 451
Text – Genesis 4:1
Now Adam knew Eve his wife, & she conceived & bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.”
THIS IS MY SON: CAIN
When parents find out they’re expecting a child, many hopes & expectations come with that discovery. Parents begin to dream, “What will my child be like?” They wonder what he or she will accomplish. Every parent wants to be able to point out their child at any stage in life & proudly introduce them by saying “This is my son” or “This is my daughter.”
But every parent has to face inevitable disappointment as well. Our children will not live up to every expectation we have of them.
The dad who places a tiny basketball in his son’s crib may end up with a son who is not interested in basketball. The mom who prays nightly for her teenage daughter, trying to raise her right, may still end up getting a call that her daughter has gotten into trouble. Life with children does not go as we plan or hope.
This Advent series will look at three father-son relationships found in the OT. We’ll explore the hopes & expectations that the fathers had for their sons & will especially look at the disappointment each father faced as his son failed to meet expectations.
Ultimately, each sermon will end by looking at the perfect Father Son relationship: the one shared by our heavenly Father & His only begotten Son upon whom Yahweh smiled & said, “This is My Son, whom I love, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17)
Today, we look at perhaps the most disappointing son in the history of mankind – the firstborn son of Adam. His name is Cain. His parents had high hopes for him – evident not only by his name but also by what his mother says about him. In the translation we use, Eve says, “I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD.” However, scholars, including Martin Luther, have understood Eve to say, “I have gotten the man of the LORD.” Eve may have thought Cain was the promised Seed of Genesis 3:15. He would crush the serpent’s head & bring salvation from the sin of his parents.
The name Cain comes from the Hebrew word meaning “to possess” or “to acquire.” Martin Luther puts himself into Eve’s head & imagines her thinking like this:
“I remember what we have lost through sin. But now let our hope & speech be of nothing else except winning this back & keeping possession of it. For I have gotten the man of God who will obtain that lost glory for us again.”
Those are some high expectations! Contrast that to his brother, Abel, who gets no such welcome from his mother. His name means “vanity,” something that is worthless or cast aside. The names of these two brothers reveal the hopes & expectations of their parents. Adam & Eve were setting themselves up for major disappointment. Cain was no savior.
Perhaps the lofty expectations placed on him gave Cain the selfish pride that’s revealed later in the story. However, more than likely, his selfish pride was a result of the sin that was passed down to him from his parents.
Whatever the reason, in Hebrews 11 it’s made clear that Abel possessed true faith in God & received His favor while Cain’s offerings were rejected because his heart did not belong to God. Envy & anger filled Cain’s heart & mind, ready to devour him like an animal crouching & waiting to devour its victim.
Cain is warned by God to resist sin & to repent. Instead, when sin pounces, Cain gives in. Then he pounces upon his unsuspecting brother, taking his life & becoming the 1st murderer. Can you imagine the pain & disappointment of Adam & Eve when they find out what Cain has done? The son they thought would save their lives instead became a taker of life.
They had to come to grips with the terror of the curse of their original sin. They had passed it down to their offspring. And it continued to be passed down to their grandchildren, & great-grandchildren, through every generation up to & including those here today.
Romans 5:19 says, “By the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners.” All of us are sons of Adam. We have inherited the same inclination to sin that lurked in the heart of Cain. As Jesus makes clear in Matthew 5, each of us is as guilty of murder as Cain. Everyone who becomes angry with his or her brother is liable to the judgment of murder.
Anyone who insults his brother or says to anyone “You fool!” will face the same condemnation as Cain: exile from God. When it comes to keeping God’s commandments, each of us has been a huge disappointment. Our offerings to God have not always been made with hearts full of faith & joy but out of grudging compulsion.
We’ve harbored anger & envy in our heart toward others. We’ve imagined that we are not our brother’s keeper, not responsible for the well-being of others, more concerned with ourselves. As children of God, we have fallen well short of expectations.
This is why the writer of Psalm 146 instructs us: “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish.” (146:3-5 ESV)
Adam & Eve were wrong about Cain being the promised Seed, but God’s plan was still intact. The Savior would indeed be a son of Adam – true man – but also the Son of God. Into our world of hatred & murder was born the God of love & life. From the moment Jesus was a little child, the spiritual heirs of Cain sought to take His life. Because He lived His life as a perfect offering to God, others grew envious & angry toward Him. Eventually, they succeeded in spilling His blood. Two Lenten songs bring the story of Cain & the story of Jesus together.
“A murderer they save, the Prince of Life they slay,” from My Song Is Love Unknown. (LSB 430:5) For Cain, & all murderers since, you & me included, the Lord & giver of life is murdered so that we might receive eternal life. And, from Glory Be To Jesus (LSB 433:4):
“Abel’s blood for vengeance pleaded to the skies; but the blood of Jesus for our pardon cries.” God told Cain, “The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground.” (Genesis 4:10) The blood of Abel cried out for justice for himself, but Hebrews 12 says us that Jesus’ blood cries out not for Himself but on behalf of the whole world:
“You have come... to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, & to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” (Hebrews 12:22a, 24) Jesus became our murdered brother so He might keep us from everlasting death.
Jesus is the true Son of Adam whose blood & body are the perfect sacrifice accepted by God the Father to wash clean our murderous hearts. St. Paul spelled it out in Romans 5:
“For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man (Adam), much more will those who receive the abundance of grace & the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.” (5:17)
Because of Jesus, our perfect brother, your heavenly Father is not disappointed in you. All of His expectations have been met by His Son Jesus. Through your Baptism, He looks down upon you with approval & love, saying proudly: “This is My son or daughter, with whom I am well pleased.” In Jesus’ name. Amen.
In this precious baby Boy we are given peace & joy. By the Spirit hope is won – Mary bore the Father’s Son. Son of God & Son of Man: He fulfills the holy plan. Through this baby in the hay, God has given us the Way to inherit life above, rescued by His perfect love. In this Child, we all may be children of eternity. Amen.
 Martin Luther, Lectures on Genesis, vol. 1 of Luther's Works, ed. Jaroslav Pelikan (St. Louis: Concordia, 1958).
Pastor Dean R. Poellet