Summary: 19th in a series from Epehsians. Our life is more fulfilling when we realize it is a mystery that god reveals day by day.
A mystery-lover took his place in the theater for opening night, but his seat was way back in the theater, far from the stage. So the man called an usher over and whispered, ’’I just love a good mystery, and I have been anxiously anticipating the opening of this play. However, in order to carefully follow the clues and fully enjoy the play, I have to watch a mystery close up. Look how far away I am! If you can get me a better seat, I’ll give you a handsome tip.’’
The usher nodded and said he would be back shortly. Looking forward to a large tip, the usher spoke with his co-workers in the box office, hoping to find some closer tickets. With just three minutes left until curtain, he found an unused ticket at the Will Call window and snatched it up. Returning to the man in the back of the theater, he whispered, ’’Follow me.’’ The usher led the man down to the second row, and proudly pointed out the empty seat right in the middle. ’’Thanks so much,’’ says the theatergoer, ’’This seat is perfect.’’ He then handed the usher a quarter.
The usher looked down at the quarter, leaned over and whispered, ’’The butler did it in the parlor with the candlestick.’’
Most of us love a good mystery, especially when the revelation of the mystery comes at the appropriate time. There is a sense in which our walk with God is a mystery, and fortunately for us, God reveals that mystery to us at just the right time. That’s the point that Paul makes as he continues writing his letter to the church at Ephesus. Let’s read out loud together our passage for this morning:
In reading this, then, 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. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.
Ephesians 3:4-6 (NIV)
Last week, we discovered that when Paul uses the word “mystery”, it means something quite different than the way we might use it. In addition to the 7 times he uses the word in his letter to the Ephesians, Paul uses the term 8 other times in his other letters. And in each case, the word “mystery” describes something that God has revealed in the past that He is now choosing to review more fully.
The specific mystery that Paul is writing about here is the fact that the Jews and Gentiles have been brought together in the church through Jesus Christ. It is a mystery since it was a concept that was revealed in part in the past, but it had not been fully made known to men in past generations.
As we saw briefly last week, Paul and his fellow Jews were not completely in the dark about the idea that God desired to bring Jews and Gentiles together. We can trace that concept all the way back to God’s call of Abraham in Genesis 12:
The LORD had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."
Genesis 12:1-3 (NIV)
It was always God’s plan to bless all the peoples of the earth, including the Gentiles through the offspring of Abraham – the Jews. But until Jesus came to the earth, died on a cross and arose from the grave, there as no way that any human could have fully understood how God was going to accomplish that. Before Jesus, Paul and his fellow Jews did believe that the Gentiles could receive the promise of God – but only by becoming Jews and observing all the Jewish laws, including circumcision.
It was always God’s plan to bring the Jews and Gentiles together, not by requiring one group to convert to the other, but by creating a an entirely new body called the church in which both groups would be indentified not by the old labels of Jew and Gentile, but by the name of the One who would make it possible for them to become one – Christ.
We’ve already seen in chapter 2 that Jesus broke down all the walls that divided the Jews and the Gentiles, but Paul emphasizes once again in this passage just how completely Jesus has removed those barriers. In Jesus the Jews and Gentiles are equal partners and have equal access to God because of what Jesus has done for them.