Romans 16:25-27 “Mysteries Revealed”
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. Amen.
Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, 26 but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from faith—27 to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.
Have you ever played the board game “Guess Who”? It’s a highly analytical game of skill that takes cunning and tactics to outwit your opponent. Think chess at a whole new and higher level. Basically, if anything could be called basic about the game, you get a whole list of people with different appearances. Your opponent has selected one of them and you have to figure out who that character is. All you can use is wise and probing questions. I made a quick sample for us to try out. Now please. Try to follow along, because this is an intense game. Who could it be? Well, let’s to eliminate some of the people. “Is it a man?” If your opponent says, “yes” then you can say goodbye to Susan, Maria, and the rest of the women. Next you might wonder if he has a mustache, but not so fast. Let’s be smart about this: what if he has a beard but no mustache? Instead let’s ask “does heave facial hair?” No? Well, that takes care of Bill, Alfred, and the rest of those guys. Is everyone keeping up with me so far? How about a hat? Does he have a hat? He does? Well, that means we’ve narrowed it down to just Eric, Bernard, or George! But which one? We could ask all sorts of things to figure out which one it is. But I have a feeling. One of these guys has a suspicious look to him. And I know just how to find out. Is he smiling? He is? Perfect. Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve done it. We used high level deduction and reason to find out that it is Eric. Well done. But now, if only there was a way to figure out who the Messiah is. If only God would reveal some information to us that could clearly point us to the Savior of the world.
Now of course God has revealed himself to us. There are about 50 Old Testament prophecies about the promised Messiah. And I’m not talking about vague pictures: “Is he wearing a hat?” No, no: very specific details that give us a clear picture of who Jesus would be. Now some Jewish rabbis say that there are 500 prophecies about the Messiah, but when you study them you realize right away that the vast majority of those so called prophecies have nothing to do with messianic references. We might like the idea of having 500, but trust me, the ones that God actually gives to us are plenty. God spoke through Isaiah that about the virgin birth of Jesus (Isaiah 7:14). In Micah we find out the location of his birth (Micah 5:2). John the Baptist? Yep. God told us about him through Isaiah (40:3-5) and Malachi (3:1, 4:5). But God wouldn’t be so precise as to give us a family tree would he? Sure does. In many places. And very accurately (Genesis 12:3, Genesis 26:4, Genesis 49:8-12, Isaiah 11:1, Isaiah 9:7, Jeremiah 23:5). God also tells us what the work of the Messiah is going to be like. Malachi (3:1), Isaiah (61:1-3; 35:5-6), Psalms (78:2). And, sadly, God promised that this Savior, this Messiah, this rescuer of all people, would be rejected. Even rejected by the very people who were waiting for him (Isaiah 53:1-3). The suffering he would face? Yep, God made sure to let us know that was going to happen as well. In Psalm 22:16-18 God says: “Dogs surround me, a pack of villains encircles me; they pierce my hands and my feet. 17 All my bones are on display; people stare and gloat over me. 18 They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.” By the way, do you know how that Psalm begins? "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Psalm 22:1) Does that sound familiar?
God wanted to make very sure that there is no question about who the Messiah was going to be. God wanted to make sure that no one would misunderstand or mistake him. That there is only one person who has ever or will ever live that matches all of those descriptions. And these verses we just talked about? A small handful of all those that are about the Messiah. The description is perfect; the resemblance is exact!
And yet the world rejects this Messiah. It started off way back in Jesus’ time. His own people rejected him, just as we saw that God promised they would. Because Jesus wasn’t the type of Savior they wanted. So they threw him away, just as was promised. But the same is true today. People continue to reject and turn away from God. They reject his Word. The refuse to listen. They turn away from the Messiah.
But aren’t their times that we are tempted? Tempted to question his love. When everything seems to be going wrong, when all of the problems of life pile on top of us, when we get constantly badgered by others about why we believe. And as we sit, overwhelmed by the world, overwhelmed by worry, overwhelmed by questions that we want answers to, it’s easy to wonder if God can really help. Because God so often leaves us with more questions than answers.
But, that’s why God reveals his mystery to us. The reason Jesus came was to bring us the truth. To reveal to us that he loves us, despite the fact that the world has rejected him. Despite our own sins and failures, God loves us. God tells us that he wants us to be saved, to know his work, to know his love for us that rescues us from all of our sins. He wants us to know that his suffering and death, just as it was promised, was for us. “Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:4-5) Surely he took up the pain of our sins and suffered in our place. Yes he was punished, and stricken, and afflicted by God. For us. Yes: pierced by nails and spear. To pay the price of our transgressions. Crushed and punished. That ugly and awful pain has brought us beautiful peace to you.
This isn’t a secret anymore. It’s not a mystery. God has revealed it to us. The same God who said to David: “He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he will by my son. Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.” (2 Samuel 7:13-14, 16) And he promised to Mary through his angel “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” (Luke 1:30-33) This is the Messiah promised and revealed throughout the Old Testament.
The same Messiah whose coming we preparing for throughout this Advent season. And as we prepare remember of God’s love for you. Know that he keeps all of his promises and fulfills every prophecy. We know him because he has clearly revealed himself. He is Jesus the Christ. The Son of God who wants you to know the answer to the mystery of his deep and endless love for you. Because he chose you. From the very beginning God chose you: elected you from eternity to be with him forever.
What does God’s love look like? Like a young child born in Bethlehem. A young boy sitting in the temple and debating Scripture with the leading scholars…who stunned them with his knowledge and understanding. He looks like a man teaching large crowds, healing the sick and feeding thousands. He looks like a man who walks across the water to save his disciples from their fear. Love looks like a man weeping in the garden knowing of the agony he is about to face, and yet going willingly, like a sheep to the slaughter. A sacrifice. The perfect sacrifice. One man, one God who kept all of his promises and fulfilled every prophecy and carried the worlds sin to the cross. Love looks like Jesus Christ in whom all mysteries are revealed. Amen.
May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it. Amen.