Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ! Amen. Many of the big cover ups in American history happened either before I was born or when I was too young to pay any attention. Yet many of you lived through them: Watergate, the Iran-Contra Affair, President Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky, and the Mai Lai Massacre, among others. When something criminal occurs, the perpetrators often try to cover it up, lest their deeds be exposed in sunlight. But all these incidents have proven that dead bodies still stink and don’t remain buried forever, especially when reporters start digging.
There is nothing new about cover ups. In fact, Adam and Eve tried to cover up the very first crime in all of human history—their eating of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. After Adam and Eve broke God’s commandment, the Bible tells us that their eyes “were opened, and they knew that they were naked” (Gen. 3:7a, ESV). That is, they felt ashamed and accused by their guilty consciences. And what was the very next thing they did? “They sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths” (v. 7b). In other words, they covered up their nakedness. They tried to cover up their crime.
This reminds me of my childhood, when my sisters and I hated eating peas—absolutely detested them. Our parents would make us sit at the dinner table until we had finished our plates, but they would often give up on us and go do something else themselves. So we tried just clearing off our plates into the trash can, but of course, they saw what we had done. So Melissa came up with a clever plan to hide the peas under the seat cushions. That way, they would go undetected, and we wouldn’t have to eat them. This plan worked well for a few weeks—until my mom removed the cushions while cleaning the dining room. We were found out when she uncovered a moldy mash of peas stuck on the underside of the cushions. Our cover up didn’t work.
Adam and Eve’s cover up didn’t work out either. When they heard the sound of God walking in the garden, they became afraid and hid themselves. Nothing like sus activity to tip the one in charge that you’ve done something wrong! Then when God confronted Adam outright for his sin, Adam used the common tactic of blaming others. “The woman whom you gave to be with me, SHE gave me the fruit, and I ate” (Gen. 3:12). Adam blamed Eve for giving him the apple, and he blamed God for giving him Eve. He refused to take responsibility for his actions. But the finger pointing didn’t end there. Eve blamed the serpent (“the devil made me do it!”). Yet when God turned to question the serpent, the serpent didn’t have a leg to stand on. Seriously, though, cover ups don’t work.
How do cover ups go for you? Do you keep a second set of books at work, hoping that the IRS doesn’t figure out you’re cheating on your small business taxes? Do you think that clearing your browser history is going to save you from people finding out about your addiction to pornography? How long can you hide your report card before your parents find out that you’re failing your classes? You might imagine that you have the perfect plan to escape detection. But you will likely be found out sooner or later. Then it will be worse for you than if you had just come clean in the first place.
Yet even if another person never finds out, your conscience accuses you, and God knows your guilt. Unless you confess your sin and receive God’s forgiveness, you stand condemned.
Today in Psalm 32, David bemoans the pain and discomfort he experienced in his body because of his guilt over sin. As long as he tried to cover up his wrongdoing, he suffered greatly. “For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long…; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer” (Ps. 32:3-4). Perhaps you have experienced something similar when you have done wrong: nausea, rapid heart rate, hyperventilating. You can feel guilt in your guts.
But David goes on to say that when he finally confessed his sin, he discovered the happiness of receiving God’s grace. “I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,’ and you forgave the iniquity of my sin” (Ps. 32:5). Rather than ruining his relationship with God, David found that confession restored his relationship through forgiveness. “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered” by God (Ps. 32:1). Instead of us hiding from God, God becomes our “hiding place” (v. 7).
Why, then, are we so reticent to confess our sins to God and other people? Why do act so afraid of being found out when we do wrong? Why do we try to cover up our crime and hide our shame? Are we worried about what the other person will say or do when they find out? Do we fret about whether our actions will damage the relationship? Too late! The damage is already done. Sin has already made a separation between you and the other person—and between you and God. Hiding this fact doesn’t change the terrible reality of the situation. The only thing that can bring healing is forgiveness, restoration, and reconciliation. As David sings, when we acknowledge our iniquity and do not try to cover our iniquity, God forgives the iniquity of our sin (Ps. 32:5). In the New Testament, St. John says the same thing in words that have become familiar to us: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9). We are faithless, but God remains ever faithful (cf. 2 Tim. 2:13).
Do you ever wonder what might have happened if Adam and Eve had straightaway confessed their sin to God instead of trying to cover it up by hiding and blaming others? I sure do. What if they had come clean instead of trying to cover it up? I know that speculating about Scripture can be dangerous, but I cannot help but wonder if God simply would have forgiven them. And why do I think that’s what would have happened? Because that’s what did happen, even when they refused to ‘fess up.
Tucked in between God’s curses upon the serpent and the woman is a wonderful Word of Good News—the protoevangelium, or “First Gospel,” in the entire Scriptures: Genesis 3:15. For there God speaks of the Savior for the very first time. Addressing the devil, God declares, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your offspring and her offspring…” (Gen. 3:15a). But then he adds this wonderful promise: “he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Gen. 3:15b). Someday God would send a Savior descended from Eve (“her offspring”), who would destroy the devil and his fallen kingdom. That male descendent would crush the head of the serpent. A head wound is a fatal wound. Satan would be undone. Victory would come for the people of the world! But not without a cost. God also said that the serpent (Satan) would bruise the heel of Eve’s offspring. He would harm him injuriously, but not finally. The hope of Messiah was born at the beginning of time.
Jesus Christ is the offspring of Eve about whom this Scripture speaks. He is the male descendant of Eve who brings salvation to humanity. And yes, the serpent bruised Jesus’ heel with nails. Jesus died on the cross, but he didn’t stay dead. The grave could not contain him, and on the third day, he stepped out of the tomb fully alive, thereby dealing a deathblow to the kingdom of darkness. Thus by the tree in the Garden, Satan overcame humanity, but by the tree of the Cross, Jesus overcame the devil. He crushed the head of the serpent. As John writes in the New Testament: “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (John 3:8). Jesus is the fulfillment of the first Gospel promise in Genesis 3:15. He is the only solution for sin.
Adam and Eve could not cover up their sin. No amount of fig leaves would ever be enough to hide their guilt and shame. So God covered their sin. “The LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them” (Gen. 3:21). Why did God clothe them? Not just because they were cold and naked, but because the Bible teaches that without the shedding of blood, there can be no forgiveness of sin (cf. Heb. 9:22). That’s not my rule. It’s God’s rule. That’s how he ordered the universe. Without bloodshed there can be no forgiveness. So God killed animals and used their hides to hide the sin of his children.
The animals slain to make garments for our first parents point forward to the later animal sacrifices God required of Israel: sheep, bulls, goats, and doves. Yet even those sacrifices had to be repeated over and over and over again. They were never complete. As we sing in the hymn:
Not all the blood of beasts
On Jewish altars slain
Could give the guilty conscience peace
Or wash away the stain.
But Christ, the heav’nly Lamb,
Takes all our sins away;
A sacrifice of noble name
And richer blood than they.
Jesus’ death on the cross was the final sacrifice for sin. He was “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), and his blood shed on the cross covers our sin. Now when God looks at you, he doesn’t see your sin, your nakedness, or your shame. He sees the blood of Christ. “Love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Pet. 4:8). And there was never any greater demonstration of love than that of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. His blood covers our sin in a way that fig leaves never could. No amount of cover up, hiding, or blaming could ever save us from our sin. But Jesus could. And he did. In the name of the Father and of T the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
 All Scripture references, unless otherwise indicated, are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.
 Christopher M. Idle, “Not All the Blood of Beasts,” in Lutheran Service Book (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2006), 431:1-2.