Everyone loves a mystery, right? It certainly is one of my favorite genres of books to read. Oh yes, being a pastor, I do read a lot of books about the Bible and theology, but I always like to have a good mystery to read before retiring each night.
There is something about mysteries. They hold your attention and you don’t want to put them down. The “who done its” like those written by Agatha Christie and P.D. James have been favorites for a long time. And, of course, I am a big fan of John Grisham and all his legal thrillers.
They can be a bit scary at times, but the thrill for me is that they are fast-paced and I am never sure what will happen next. It’s a mystery!
But mysteries can also take the form of weird things that happen in life. For instance, the other day I was going to reheat a cup of coffee in the microwave. I pushed the button for 30 seconds — and nothing. I checked the cord and, sure enough, it was plugged in. I opened the oven door and the light went on. There was electricity but the turntable was not revolving, and when I tasted the coffee, it was obvious that it wasn’t heating up.
My conclusion — it’s a mystery! I couldn’t figure it out and neither could my wife. Time to get a new microwave.
Then there are the big mysteries of life — things like birth and death and immortality. Questions come to us that seem unanswerable: Why was I born when I was and where I was? Why am I tall and my friend in Japan short? Why am I Caucasian and he is Asian? Why do some people live into their 90s and others die in their 40s? What happens when we die? There is a sense of mystery in all these things.
And then, I haven’t even mentioned what some say is the biggest mystery of all — God. Is there really a God, and what is he like? Going all the way back to Plato and Aristotle and throughout the centuries, people have attempted to explain the “mystery” of God with varying degrees of success.
Of course, the Bible, being a theological book, also has much to say about who God is. What I have found interesting is that the word “mystery” is often mentioned in the New Testament. The Greek word which is most often translated “mystery” is musterion. But, according to most New Testament scholars, that word is better translated “secret” or “sacred secret.”
And the best part of all this is that this mystery of God is not meant to stay a mystery. God’s intent is that this mystery or secret about God and who he is should come out. God wants the mystery to be revealed and known! Of the 28 appearances of the word “mystery” in the New Testament, all but two of them refer to the fact that the mystery has been made known! Even Jesus said, “It is given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 13:11)
How has the mystery of God been made known? Essentially, God makes himself known through the Gospel, the “good news” of God’s love for the world, his grace and forgiveness and the promise of eternal life. “The mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations is now disclosed to the saints.” (Colossians 1:26) By “saints” Paul means those who are “set apart” because they are believers of the good news. This good news is that God has made himself known in the life of Jesus Christ. And his life shows that God is loving, kind, forgiving.
Like the father in the story of the Prodigal Son, God patiently waits for us to return to him and graciously accepts us as his sons and daughters. (Luke 15:11-31) But, unfortunately, it is not believed by all. That is why Jesus often uses the phrase, “Whoever has ears to hear, let him hear.”
I would be the first to admit that life is sometimes difficult to figure out. It can feel like a mystery. But when it comes to God, the secret is out. God has revealed to us through the good news of the Gospel the things that often mystify us.
We may not understand completely because of the limitations of our minds. But that is where faith comes in. And faith, when it is based on God’s Word, can give us courage to face the unknown and a joy and a peace which never ends.
About the writer: The Rev. John Koedyker is pastor of congregational care at First Reformed Church of Grand Haven.