The Greatest Mystery
Goal: That the hearers will understand more fully the mysteries of the Gospel of God is for all nations.
One of my most favorite things in life is a good mystery. Whether it is a movie or television show, I truly enjoy the mind twisting events which lead one to the truth about some murder mystery or better yet, a hidden treasure. There is an allure to a good mystery that keeps me riveted to the screen and the play of events which unfold before my eyes.
One of the greatest mysteries ever written is God’s Word. Within the pages of this book there lies a mystery which baffles the minds of people still today. We do not have the time to delve into all the mysteries contained within the covers of this book. So, we will stick to the epistle lesson for this Epiphany Sunday, the Word of God through Paul, God’s chosen apostle, who writes:
1 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles— 2 if indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace which was given to me for you; 3 that by revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief. 4 By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; (Eph. 3:1-5)
Paul begins this section with the phrase “For this reason”. Therefore, we need to go back and find out what the reason is. In chapter two of the same book, Paul reminds the church at Ephesus that they and we can add us as well, formerly walked according to the ways of the world, dead in trespasses and sin.
We too were once dead in sin and trespasses. We are by nature sinful and unclean. Even as Christians, we still battle with the ways of this world, we still struggle with temptation and the flesh. Often times, though the battle is too strong…or our flesh is just too weak, and we give into the temptations, we lunge head long into the ways of the world, with all its empty promises. Paul tells us in Romans chapter 7:14-15 “For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.”
Our sinful nature is with us for the rest of our lives. We cannot always do what we would like to do, like Paul illustrates here, rather through our struggles we do those very things we hate. Now we come to the real mystery of God. Paul continues in the previous chapter of Ephesians,
4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
God, even though we were dead in sin and trespasses sent His Son, Jesus Christ from His place in Heaven to be born a baby. God was born a small tiny child, who would live the live we are unable to live. Jesus would be tempted in every way while in this world but would not give in. Jesus Christ would even give His own live on the cross to pay for our sins…for your sins…for my sins. He died so that we might have life. That is a mystery. Why would God sacrifice His only Son for our sins? This is not logical. It is not reasonable. It is not fair. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us…made us alive together with Christ.” (Eph 2:4-5). God raised Jesus from the dead after three days so that we could have life in Him.
The real mystery is that this promise is not only for the Chosen People of Israel. This promise is for all the nations, for all Gentiles. This promise is for you here today, as well as for me. Paul goes on in our lesson for this morning:
“…when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ,…6 to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel, (Eph. 3:4b-6)”
Jesus has made us all here today fellow heirs. That is we all will inherit eternal life when we die, like when a child obtains the property and wealth of his/her parents when they die. But this is on a much grander scale. This is eternal life in heaven in the very presence of God Himself.
We are fellow members of one body. It is here in baptism when you are joined with the rest of this congregation at Light of Christ. But even more, you are crucified with Christ and raised to new life together with Him. Not only do you become a member of this congregation, Light of Christ, not only a fellow member of Immanuel Lutheran, but you are included in the entire family of God. Those in faith now, at this very moment across the entire world, those who have died in faith from all eternity, and those who will go on long after we are gone until the time when Jesus returns to bring all home to Him in paradise, both Jew and Gentile alike.
This is the promise…this is the mystery. We are fellow heirs, fellow members and “fellow-partakers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel”. The gospel of Jesus Christ is for all nations. It knows no ethnic or cultural bounds. This promise was made to Eve in the Garden after the fall, repeated to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, through Moses and the Prophets of ancient times. This gospel of Christ crucified for the sins of the world and raised to new life crushing sin, death, and the devil for is for you…it is for me.
I do like a good mystery. This Epiphany Sunday we celebrate a mystery, and this mystery cannot be solved through human reason or understanding but it can be grasped by faith. This faith is a gift to you, to me to all of God’s children by God himself, through the Holy Spirit you and I received at baptism. It is strengthened through the eating and drinking of His body and blood in the Lord ’s Supper. It is sharpened through fellowship with other believers in this congregation as we gather to hear the Word of God read and proclaimed every Sunday. This is all a mystery…the greatest mystery…with the greatest ending! Amen!