In the era of the Great Depression, the dust bowl, and breadlines, it might seem fitting that the 1930s also produced a dark comedy cartoon that came to be known as The Addams Family. Created by illustrator Charles Addams for The New Yorker magazine, the single-frame comic gags took a satirical look at a ghoulishly eccentric American family. Eventually the strip was adapted into a television comedy series that portrayed the family as somewhere between normal and morbid, in a home rigged with trap doors, and assisted by a mysterious disembodied hand called “Thing.” The television series puts this close-knit, bizarre clan in a rundown Victorian mansion near a cemetery and a swamp at 0001 Cemetery Lane.
In thinking about the legacy of Charles Addams, I’ve wondered whether his haunted family, humorously enmeshed in the dark side of life, was an intentional takeoff on the storyline of the Bible.
The Adam of Eden also lived in an enchanted world somewhere between nature as we know it, good, evil, everlasting life, and 0001 Cemetery Lane. The family of Genesis lived in a world where a snake could talk and where the fruit of one tree could give you life, while the fruit of another could take it away.
The Bible’s family of Adam, however, rises far above the comedic, bizarre, morbid life of the Addams family. From the opening words of Genesis, we hear a story that is lofty, realistic, and hopeful in its portrayal of good and evil. Its use of the supernatural is not entertaining and arbitrary. The miracles of the Bible instead are carefully orchestrated in a way that eventually find their source and purpose in the God who lovingly and truthfully revealed Himself in Christ.
From Genesis to Jesus, a real-life drama moves from the created and fallen Adam of Eden to what the New Testament calls the last Adam—resurrected and declared to be the Creator, Savior, and Lord of a new creation. Even the Bible’s emphasis on human mortality is life-giving in purpose (Romans 5:14-15). As author Paul explains in his first letter to the Corinthians, “ ‘The first man Adam became a living being.’ The last Adam became a life-giving spirit” (Romans 15:45 NKJV).
By Paul’s comparison of Adam and Jesus, he brings into focus the redemptive contrast he has in mind when he writes, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive” (Romans 15:22 NKJV). With this sentence Paul captures one of the most wonderful and profound truths of life. In words that recall the Adam of Genesis, he describes the beginning of a new story and family that lives somewhere between mortality as we know it and the gift of everlasting life. So he writes in his letter to the Romans, “Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life” (Romans 5:18 NKJV).
Since Paul’s day, many have observed the similarities and contrasts that Paul alludes to when he refers to the first and last Adams. Both were born without a human father. Both were tested by the devil, one in a garden, the other in a wilderness. Both left the legacy of a tree. Both died for sin, one for his own, the other for the sins of others. Both acted in a way that affected every member of their extended family.
Together, the similarities and differences between Adam and Jesus form the most important story ever told. The life and immortality that the first Adam lost by one act of distrust, the last Adam restored by one act of suffering and death for the sins of the whole world.
The result is a life-changing story that puts our own experience in perspective. From the first Adam, we have inherited our physical, fallen nature and mortality. Through faith in the last Adam, our spiritual immortality is restored as we are born and adopted into the everlasting family of God.
In Christ, we learn to laugh with joy. Even though He lived His life in the shadow of a horrific sacrifice, He used the darkness and morbid suffering of His own death to become a real reason for us to believe in life and light and love and hope.
By the time His story is told, we see why His biographers describe Him as the Source of all that is both natural and supernatural. His touch on the face, hand, or shoulder of those living in despair brings them into the presence of the God of the nail-scarred hand.
Father in heaven, there’s so much we don’t yet understand. But slowly we’re beginning to see why it is so urgent for us to trust Your Son. Nowhere else can we find such an answer for our own wrongs and mortality. In relying on Him, we find our evil taken so seriously—yet so forgiven. Because of Him, we are overwhelmed by how much You have sacrificed to bring us into the truth, hope, and love of Your eternal life.