Saturday of Trinity 18: The Paradoxes of the Gospel’s Mysteries

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If David then calls Him ‘Lord,’ how is He his Son?” And no one was able to answer Him a word, nor from that day on did anyone dare question Him anymore.

How is the Messiah, the one whom the Lord calls to sit down at His right hand, also David’s son? The only answer that makes sense is, “He’s both. He’s David’s son and David’s Lord.” But that’s a paradox. Or rather, it’s a mystery. There’s a reason the Pharisees were unable to answer Jesus with a word. They have not been given to know the mystery. Why? Because as the New Testament tells us in several areas, the mystery of Jesus Christ has been “kept secret since the world began,” but is only being revealed with the coming of Christ and the ministry of the apostles.

There are several mysteries the New Testament talks about. These include the mystery of the Gentiles inclusion in God’s fellowship, the mystery of the resurrection, and the mystery of the incarnation and Trinity. As to this latter mystery, St. Paul refers to the “mystery” of godliness, among which is that God is manifest in flesh. He also talks of the “mystery of God, both of the Father and of the Christ.” The Trinity and Incarnation are mysteries revealed in the fullness of time.

Those two latter mysteries explain why the Pharisees did not answer Jesus a word. When Jesus taught the mystery of “God manifest in the flesh” of the Messiah, that is, the mystery of the Christ, the Pharisees were dealing with something beyond their purview.

The fact that Jesus, His Person and work, are founded from the foundation of the world and then revealed in the fullness of time, proves a point we have been making, that Jesus is not Plan B. All creation, and all salvation history, is acted out according to mysteries established at the beginning of time. It’s much like a seed, which despite its insignificance hides within its bowels the manifestation of mighty plants or animals. Jesus is a seed planted int the DNA of creation and made manifest in the fullness of time.

Yes, that suggests that when the Lord added the possibility of falling into evil – knowing full well man would do so – this was part of His greater plan. Jesus, again, wasn’t His backup plan. His coming into the flesh to save mankind; His dying on the cross for sins, rising again over death, and ascending into heaven was all part of the foundational plan.

We see that very clearly in such passages as this:

“But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”

The crucifixion was planned before the ages, just as Revelation describes “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”

But why? What in God’s wisdom needed to be kept so secret until the “fullness of time” when man would be ready to receive the mysteries of (a) the Trinity, (b) the incarnation, and (c) the fellowship of Jew and Gentile in God?

Who knows. That’s why it’s a mystery. Many things await knowledge for a later day. However, what this does do is cause our way of thinking to adjust to God’s time frame and God’s plan. We tend to be systematic about God – what are Gods’ attributes and what accords with His nature? The “mystery – revelation” mode of God’s relating to us undermines this approach.

This is related to the mystery of faith, that is, the mystery that there is something essential about man’s full development calling for the rise of faith in salvation history. As we’ve meditated several months ago, why faith? Why has the Lord in His wisdom introduced this dispensation of faith, rather than visual proofs of His work?

Again, who knows, but the more conform our understanding to the essential need for faith, for mysteries, and for hidden things revealed, the more we conform to Christ’s mind, which isn’t always systematic the way we might like it. So yes, we receive Holy Communion as a testament, emblem, and manifestation of His flesh and blood. Why? Who knows! And yes, we understand baptism as the doorway into faith. Why? Why water? Why always water? Who knows!

Yet, that is how the mystery panned out, and faith receives those gifts. Faith embraces paradoxes. Faith confesses mysteries, like the Trinity, and like the Incarnation.

The Pharisees couldn’t answer a word. The mystery Jesus was revealing to them was beyond them. But we of faith can most certainly answer. We say “Amen,” even as we confess the creeds which articulate the mysteries.

Are there paradoxes yet today we hold which will not be fully clear until Christ’s Second Coming? I think there may be. Why do we see the goodness of the Lord among many evils? Why do we embrace the Lord’s presence in much suffering? How can we be sinner and saint at the same time, and why has this been writ into our DNA from the foundation of time?

If we had Jesus’ exegetical prowess, how many people could we silence by our insightful use of God’s Word, displaying the paradoxes? How many passages would silence us? The paradoxical passages are there, and instead of trying to untie Gordian knots through our systematic theologizing, perhaps there are times it’s best to await the full revelation of the truth.

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