As a mother of five young children, it’s not unusual for complete strangers to ask about my family. The question I hear most often at the grocery store or the playground is, “Are they all yours?” The most awkward I hear is, “Do you not believe in birth control?” But the most surprising came one spring afternoon when my children and some of their entrepreneurial friends set up a lemonade stand in front of our house. Someone stopped their car to ask me the name of our school. I took that as a compliment. They could’ve asked, “What is the name of your circus?”
One of the sweetest questions I often hear is, “Who does he/she look like?” It’s an obvious question when we see a child. We look to see whom they resemble. Children inherit physical features from their parents, but parents also pass on things like habits and genetic medical history. We look to the older generation to see things we want to imitate or avoid as we get older. This is natural. Watching our parents gives us a foreshadowing of what life may be like down the road.
God also raised up men in history whose lives help us better understand Jesus: human figures given to foreshadow his life and help us to understand his work more clearly.
Innocence and life, though present everywhere in Genesis 1–2, were suddenly replaced by guilt and death in Genesis 3 as Adam and Eve moved beyond the good boundaries he’d been given. Not realizing they already resembled God because they’d been created in his image (and were still sinless), they jumped at the serpent’s temptation. Instead of ruling over the serpent, the serpent ruled over them. This wasn’t simply a blunder or a misstep; it was an act of cosmic treason, as God’s creatures sought to seize God’s authority instead of living under it. And in doing so, they fundamentally undermined what it means to be human.
Adam as the first man on earth served as the representative of the whole human race. In choosing disobedience and rebellion, he broke the perfect communion that existed between God and man; and, as a representative figure, he did so on behalf of all mankind.
Because the first man failed at his task to truly be human, the Bible speaks of the need for a “Last Adam” or “Second Man” (1 Cor. 15:45–57). Jesus is that Second Man, that Last Adam. Their similarities are many: they both had miraculous beginnings, being specially created by God himself. Both were created innocent, perfect, and without original sin, the only two humans ever born outside the bondage to sin. Both served as representatives of humanity. Both rulers were given dominion over creation. And, in both, a deep sleep produced a beautiful bride. Both Adam and Jesus were tested, but one disobeyed, while the other obeyed. Adam’s disobedience brought death and curse on all of humanity. Jesus’s obedience brought life and righteousness for all who believe. One obeyed the serpent; the other crushed his head.
Adam’s disobedience brought death and curse on all of humanity. Jesus’s obedience brought life and righteousness for all who believe. One obeyed the serpent; the other crushed his head.
In order for Jesus to represent a new humanity that would no longer be under the reign of Adam, his life had to be set apart in a different way. He came into the world as a baby, but he was different from the rest of Adam’s offspring. This fact was obvious even from his conception. This is why it was necessary he was born of a virgin. The human race needed a redeemer, but we could not produce this representative ourselves. Our Redeemer had to come from outside to rescue us, and the virgin birth proves he was like us but not from us.
The Promised One entered the world to reboot humanity. We needed a new beginning, not just a reawakening or a better example for living. The human condition post-fall is so dire that a supernatural eruption into the plight of man was necessary. Unlike all the sons of Adam, Jesus was born different; he was born innocent. Adam was not his father. He stands on his own.
Paul writes at times as if the only people on earth who matter are Adam and Jesus. They represent everyone else who has lived, and they do so in stark contrast to one another. Each person on earth will be loyal to one side or the other, and we will “bear the image” of the representative we follow. In the language of the iGeneration, we will be either #TeamAdam or #TeamJesus and our side determines whose image we bear and where we will spend eternity.
I’m a member of a local church with people from nearly 30 different nations. We’re a diverse group of people in most every way. Our native languages are different. Our skin and hair colors vary. Our clothing styles are different. We’re maids, construction workers, teachers, and CEOs of companies. Some of us are highly educated, and some of us never finished high school. On the surface, we have little in common. But we’re all united under the headship of Christ. We’re a small representation of the universal body of Christ, this new race of people called into Christ’s kingdom by grace.
If you’re in Christ, you’re part of something bigger than yourself. You’re part of God’s chosen and beloved people. Your destiny is tied up with that of your head, the Lord Jesus Christ.
If you’re in Christ, you’re part of something bigger than yourself. You’re part of God’s chosen and beloved people. Your destiny is tied up with that of your head, the Lord Jesus Christ. Your significance is found in him. This group identity is more defining of you than your ethnic background, country of origin, or career. God is weaving a beautifully diverse tapestry of people from all tribes, tongues, and nations, and if you’re in Christ, you’re part of that exquisite fabric.
I used to be chief of staff for a U.S. senator, and my importance to many people was directly connected to the power I had access to. I participated in meetings with high-ranking officials and was invited to elite events. I even attended meetings at the White House, occasionally with the president of the United States. After I left my job to be a stay-at-home mom, I didn’t get any more invitations from the White House. I traded in my suits for buttoning on a baby carrier. Not only did my wardrobe change dramatically, my job (and my status) also changed.
In Christ, we’ve reached a status far more elite than we can even imagine. It’s more prestigious than anything this world offers. It will not be unveiled to the world until the last day, but for now we’re safely hidden away in Christ. Under Christ, we’re part of a whole new race of people with unimaginable access and privileges—access and privilege that can never be taken away.