In reading this … you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. (Ephesians 3:4-5)
Everyone loves a mystery. “Whodunits” have always been on the best-seller lists, and programs such as “Unsolved Mysteries” are television favorites. We like the challenge of trying to figure out the solution to the mystery. So when the Bible speaks of mysteries, our interest rises and our pulse quickens. What could it be, this mystery Paul spoke of in his epistle to the Ephesians?
We don’t have to stay in suspense, nor do we have to figure out the answer by adding and interpreting scattered and obscure clues. When the apostle Paul speaks of a mystery, he doesn’t mean quite the same thing as we do. We probably think of a mystery as something obscure and complicated, difficult to solve. But Paul meant something that was once hidden but is now revealed and made clear (“Mystery,” Dictionary of the Later New Testament, InterVarsity Press 1997).
For long ages, the plan of God for the redemption of his creation was not made clear. It was concealed in shadows, only dimly seen in symbols and fragments. Even the prophets who looked forward to its fulfillment saw only parts, without understanding how it would be fulfilled. Peter wrote of how they “searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing” (1 Peter 1:11).
Finally, when the proper time came, the darkness was penetrated by a great light, the shadows fled away and the reality was made clear. God’s great secret, his “mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations” (Colossians 1:26) was at last revealed. And what was this long-held secret? What was the great mystery of the ages? The mystery was, and is, Jesus Christ!
The mystery long concealed has at last been made manifest to humankind by God “in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:2-3).
Do we sometimes overlook how dramatic a revelation the coming of Jesus was? Perhaps we don’t realize how little even the prophets of the Old Testament period knew about how God’s plan for humankind would be fulfilled. They had clues to the mystery, but they did not know the full meaning of the clues, nor how the clues all fit together to give the answer. They were like characters in a mystery novel, who did not know how the story would come out in the end.
But we have the privilege of knowing that the plan of God is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. We are like someone who has read the mystery story to the end. We know the answer to the mystery, because it has been revealed to us. When we read back through the earlier chapters of the story, we can recognize the full meaning of the clues. The Old Testament people of God lived in twilight and shadows. We see can both New and Old Testament in the full light, the light of Jesus.
Since early times, Christians have recognized what a dramatic revelation the coming of Jesus Christ was. They have seen great significance in the events by which Jesus was revealed to the world. Many Christians dedicate a special season, during January and February, to remembering and learning from those events that reveal Jesus to the world as the fulfillment of the plan of God. They call that season Epiphany. The name comes from a Greek term, epiphaneia, which has a range of meanings including “appearing” or “shining forth.” The visit of the Magi (Matthew 2:1-12) is seen to have particularly significant symbolic meaning, as the first revealing of the mystery of Jesus to people beyond the bounds of the Jewish nation.
Two thousand years ago, the Mystery of God, hidden for long ages, was finally revealed to be Jesus Christ. In Jesus a light shone forth to drive away shadows and darkness. The Wise Men came to his light. Those in search of the true Wisdom still do today.
Author: Don Mears