A good murder mystery novel can be hard to put down. Just when we think we have figured out who the killer is, another twist in the plot leaves us baffled. We follow the detective as he sorts through the clues and chases down leads. At the end, when the mystery is finally solved, we are shocked to learn that the killer is the last person we expected.
When we use the word “mystery” about a crime novel, we are always talking about a difficult situation that eventually has a resolution. We are describing something - like the identity of a murderer - that is unknown to us in the present, but which will eventually be made known to us in the future. Though we do not understand yet, the situation is made clearer to us as we learn more details.
However, when we use the word “mystery” to speak about God, we are talking about something entirely different. There is no understanding the mystery of God. There is no point in our lives when it all starts to makes sense to us. In fact, the mystery of God is so unfathomable that the more information we learn, the less it seems we understand. Our powers of reason and intelligence are just too limited to comprehend the vast greatness of Almighty God.
What makes God such a mystery to us?
First of all, God is not a part of the universe. We do not see Him or experience Him the way we see and experience each other, trees or the sky. God lies beyond what we can take in with our senses. In heaven where He dwells there is no space or time. He sees the past, the present and the future as if they were all happening at once. Because we are limited by time and space and by what we can see and touch, God is always beyond our power to fully comprehend Him.
Secondly, He is the creator of all that exists. The universe in all its wonders were created by God out of nothing. By the power of His word all things came to be. And nothing can exist unless God creates it. At the same time, He was not created but has existed for all eternity. The universe with all its vast wonders do not add anything to God’s greatness. God plus the world is not greater than God alone. His immense power and the glory of His being are too expansive for our minds to even begin to fathom.
Finally, God is a mystery because He is three Persons - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - in one God. The Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is not the Father, yet all are one God. Neither is greater than the other. They each have existed for all eternity. In the mystery of the Trinity, God in His nature is revealed to us to be a community of Persons pouring themselves out in love for one another throughout all time. We cannot begin to understand it. Instead we can only stand in awe of a God who dwells in impenetrable mystery.
The greatest mystery, perhaps, is that a God who is so great would love us so much. With all the wonders of the universe at His command, He knows us and cares for each one of us. Jesus tells us that our Heavenly Father has counted the hairs on our head. He knows us thoroughly and loves us deeply. He hears our prayers and is close at hand when we call.
Jesus explains how deep this love for us runs in today’s gospel. It is one of the most famous passages of the Bible from the Gospel of John. “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life.” The God who has existed forever, who created all things and who is All-Powerful was willing to die for us. He was willing to take on a body like ours and suffer a horrible death. We might scratch our heads trying to figure out how God created everything from nothing, how He can possibly know everyone or how He could be One God in Three Persons. But there is no greater mystery than the love shown to us in Jesus Christ our Lord.
We can never wrap our minds around the awesome greatness of our God. We can never fathom the breadth of His power or the depth of His love. But we can worship Him. We can lift up our hands and hearts in prayer to the One who created each of us out of pure love. We can sing the praises of a God who knows us more intimately than we can imagine. We can rejoice that He has loved us enough to reveal to us His grandeur and His plan for our salvation. And we can respond by handing our lives over to Him and serving Him in our brothers and sisters.
At this point in our journey of faith, we cannot see God. But it will not always be that way. The day will come when we will stand before Him and face Him in all His majesty and glory. It will both exhilarate and startle us. It will both surprise and delight us. And, God willing, we will spend eternity gazing upon His beauty and being led deeper and deeper into the mystery of His being. That is His plan for us who have believed in His Son, Jesus Christ. It is the mystery of salvation that He has planned out since the creation of the universe. What else can we do than stand in awe of our great God whose love knows no bounds?