2nd Sunday after Epiphany
In the name of Jesus, the true Light of the world. Isn’t it hard to be in the dark about something? To not know something? To wonder what’s going to happen? For example, I usually enjoy watching mystery movies or shows. Slowly throughout the movie you learn bits and pieces of the plot and things come together…but then there are some mysteries that at the very end of the show those fateful words come across the screen “to be continued…” WHAT!! I just spent an hour of my life watching this and I don’t even know how it’s going to end!! I have to wait a whole week for the next episode!! Don’t you just hate being in the dark about things?
A mystery is fine and good as long as you know that in the end you’ll have it figured out. Our text for this morning talks about a “mystery” as well. But this “mystery” is a little bit different than how we normally think of mysteries. This “mystery” is a truth that “for ages past was kept hidden in God.” The Greek word mysterion “mystery” means something exists but you can’t figure it out on your own. It is something that needs to be revealed for you to know what it is. With that in mind, listen now to Ephesians chapter 3 verses 2 through 12…(read text).
So what is this mystery God tells us about?
Imagine being a Gentile believer at the time right before Jesus was born. The Holy Spirit worked faith in the promised Savior into your heart through the Word. But still, how might you feel reading the OT? To be part of God’s family you had to follow all of the laws written in the OT and you’d pretty much have to become a Jew yourself. And reading the OT you’d feel a little left out wouldn’t you? True, you could read how God promises to bless all nations- as we see in our first reading from Isaiah- but exactly how or to what extent is unknown, it’s a mystery. Then to top it off, the pages of the Old Testament revolve primarily around one little nation of Israel- a nation you don’t belong to nor are descended from. And this is the nation that the only true God communicates with, fights for, and sends prophets to. Imagine being one of the Gentile wise men who saw Jesus’ star from the east. Might they have been tempted to feel rejected, inferior, or insignificant? Possibly.
But God set a special star in the sky to lead these magi to Bethlehem; to lead them to the Savior Jesus; to lead them to the mystery made known. And God revealed this mystery to them: even though they weren’t part of the nation of Israel, this King born in Bethlehem was just as much their King too.
You and I, also, aren’t part of the nation of Israel. But God has revealed this mystery to us through the Gospel: Jesus has forgiven the sins of the world – no exception, no boundaries. That means your sins and my sins are forgiven. Period.
Now that’s a mystery! It’s a mystery when we consider how much we deserve this good news. How much do we deserve it? By nature all of us were dead in trespasses and sins, we were children of wrath, strangers and outcasts of Israel, we were strangers to the promise, we had no hope and were without God in this world. What we really deserve is eternity in hell. Ouch! That is what we were but, what mysterious grace of God! What grace that He revealed to us, lost sinners, that the King born in Bethlehem accomplished our salvation completely and freely! That’s something to thank God for!
And so with joy and thanksgiving these Gentile magi came from the east. They left behind their homes – were their homes places of ease and comfort? Perhaps! – and set out on a long and possibly dangerous journey to worship the newborn King of the Jews. Imagine the trial of faith they must have experienced when they got to Jerusalem and nobody knew anything about a newborn King, much less was anyone searching for this King. Then to top it all off no one else left their home to go with the wise men to Bethlehem to worship the King. So many would much rather do their own thing than discover the mystery of God’s grace and love. Yet, in the face of everything that seemed contrary to what they believed the magi trusted God’s Word, treasured the mystery made known.
Would we have followed the magi? Would we have left all to worship Jesus, the newborn King? In our lives we often choose the temporal blessings over the spiritual and eternal, don’t we? Earth is but a dot in comparison to heaven and earthly life is but a breath compared with eternity. Yet, it’s shameful how much we would rather search everything else- internet, books, tv- than search the mystery of God’s love in the Word. We treat the mystery as garbage when we cling to those same pet sins and drive ourselves away from God. We despise this mystery when we would rather leave friends, family, and coworkers in the comfort of their sin and unbelief than share the truth of God’s Word with them. How greatly we have failed to treasure the mystery of God’s love. How we’ve failed to follow the wise men to the cradle of Christ and treasure Him above all else!
And yet God treasured YOU so much that He sent His Son into the world to be YOUR Savior. God has continued to bring the treasure of salvation to YOU! You are saved completely apart from anything you did or did not do, but only because of Jesus. You are a child of God, not through obedience to laws, not through your nationality, not through your decision, but rather through the gift of God’s grace. Yes, it’s a mystery. Each one of us can say with Paul, “I am the least of all of God’s people.” And all of this would continue to be a mystery if God hadn’t revealed it to us. But God has revealed the mystery, the mystery of the unsearchable riches of Christ to YOU.
And what do we enjoy through this gift of God’s grace, this mystery made known? “This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.” What’s yours? You are a member of God’s family. You are united with all believers of all time. You are a member in the body of Christ. You’re an heir; an heir who will inherit something. Right now you have the down payment; the sure engagement ring of what’s yours in the future. You are an heir of an eternity with Jesus; you will have a resurrected and glorified body, there will be no more sorrows, no more battles with the devil, complete victory over sin and death is yours. You’re not left in the dark. You know the ending. In Christ Jesus the mystery is revealed to you: the inheritance of heaven is YOURS!