The Mystery Revealed in Christ

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Reading the Word

Ephesians 3:1–13 (ESV)

1 For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— 2 assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. 4 When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. 6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

7 Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. 8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. 13 So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Throughout the Old Testament, there are promises of a future day when God would work his salvation for his people. There was the promise of a Savior who would come and a Messiah who would sit on the throne of David. However, no one really knew how these things would be fulfilled. They simply trusted God’s word.

Paul tells us that Jesus is the fulfillment of those promises. He is the mystery now revealed. We should not think of “mystery” as a riddle to be solved, but as something that was not yet revealed. In Jesus, God’s plan of saving his people comes into full view. The Son of God came into the world as a King, but a King who would die for his people to save them and give them eternal life. Paul tells us that God’s eternal purposes are now “realized in Christ Jesus our Lord” (v. 11). And we are now called to place our faith in Jesus as the fulfillment of those plans. Praise God for his perfect plan!

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That Scripture Might Be Fulfilled

Isaiah Quote

Reading the Word

John 19:31–37 (ESV)

31 Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away. 32 So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him. 33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. 35 He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe. 36 For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken.” 37 And again another Scripture says, “They will look on him whom they have pierced.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus was crucified on a Friday, which meant the Sabbath was at hand. That particular Sabbath was considered especially important (a “high day”) because it followed the Passover. In order not to defile the Sabbath, the people requested that the bodies of the crucified be taken down and buried. This request was in accord with Deuteronomy 21:22-23.

It was usual for Romans to leave bodies hanging and decaying for days, but they also tried to accommodate religious observances at times. In this case, they did not wish to offend the Jewish people so they decided to make sure the three would die quickly by breaking their legs. This would make it impossible to use the legs to push up and take a breath. Surprisingly, Jesus’ legs were not broken because he had already died. This fulfilled a prophecy found in Psalm 34:20 that said that none of his bones would be broken, which also applied to the Passover lambs during the Exodus (cf. Exodus 12:46).

Instead of breaking Jesus’ legs, a Roman soldier plunged a spear into his side to ensure he was truly dead. This too fulfilled a prophecy found in Zechariah 12:10.

It is an amazing thing to think about how many prophecies written hundreds of years prior that Jesus fulfilled. Many argue that he simply set out to fulfill them, but this does not account for the ones he had no ability to fulfill on his own. The events surrounding his birth and his death were completely out of his control to manufacture. Go back and re-read the Gospel accounts and make note of how many times that we are told that Jesus fulfilled an Old Testament prophecy. Go back and read those prophecies in the Old Testament. Then marvel at how Jesus fulfilled the Scriptures.

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They Understood None of These Things

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Reading the Word

Luke 18:31–34 (ESV)

31 And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. 32 For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. 33 And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” 34 But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.

Parallel Texts: Matthew 20:17-28; Mark 10:32-45

Understanding and Applying the Word

In these verses, Jesus predicted his death for the third time (cf. Luke 9:22 and Luke 9:43-45). In this third occurrence, Jesus also tells the disciples of his resurrection. However, they did not understand what he was telling them. It was hidden from them. It would not be until after the events of the crucifixion and the resurrection that the disciples would understand how Jesus had fulfilled the Old Testament Scriptures concerning the Messiah.

It can be easy for us to think poorly of the disciples, wondering why they seemed to miss it so often. Why did things seem to go right over their heads? It is easy for us who have the completed Scriptures and the ability to read the entire story to understand Jesus’ ministry. We understand that he entered the world and lived a sinless life so he could go to the cross as a sacrifice for sin. We understand that this had to happen if mankind was going to be saved. And we understand that the resurrection was essential if sin and death were to be defeated and if we were going to have hope.

The disciples did not have what we have today. They did not have the completed Bible. They were living in the middle of the events and they were trying to make sense of it all. It would take hindsight and Jesus explaining the events for them to understand (cf. Luke 24:13-35). Let us not take for granted the blessing we have in having the completed word of God available to us so easily, which teaches us about our Savior and the importance of all he said and did.

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Prepare the Way of the Lord

the voice in the desert

The Voice in the Desert (Public Domain)

Reading the Word

Matthew 3:1–6 (ESV)

1 In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 3 For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said,

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord;
make his paths straight.’ ”

4 Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, 6 and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

John 1:19–23 (ESV)

19 And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” 22 So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”

Parallel Texts: Mark 1:1-6; Luke 3:1-6 

Understanding and Applying the Word

The prophets Malachi and Isaiah had spoken of one who would appear before the Messiah to prepare his way (cf. Malachi 3:1; 4:5-6 and Isaiah 40:3). He would be one who would prepare the hearts of the people and he would come in the spirit of Elijah. The Gospel writers quote from Isaiah to tell us that John the Baptist was the fulfillment of the prophecy concerning this one who would prepare the way of the Lord. And the description of John’s clothing and food reminds us of Elijah in 2 Kings 1:8.

John the Baptist’s message was one of repentance. The Messiah was coming and the people needed to prepare for him. To “repent” means to turn from sin, which the Bible tells us is what separates us from our holy Creator. It is only through repentance and forgiveness that we find in Christ that we are able to come into a right relationship with the Lord. Let us prepare ourselves by turning from our sin and calling out to Jesus to forgive us so that we can stand before him, not as enemies, but as reconciled friends.

**Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. Please subscribe to this page so you can follow along each day. We are reading through the life of Christ as recorded in the four Gospel accounts in 2019.

Be Not Far from Me

Psalm 2211 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Psalm 22:9–18 (ESV)

9 Yet you are he who took me from the womb; you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts. 10 On you was I cast from my birth, and from my mother’s womb you have been my God. 11 Be not far from me, for trouble is near, and there is none to help. 12 Many bulls encompass me; strong bulls of Bashan surround me; 13 they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion. 14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; 15 my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death. 16 For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet— 17 I can count all my bones— they stare and gloat over me; 18 they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Here we find the words of one who trusts in God, even in the midst of death. The passage describes one who is being executed by his enemies. His bones are out of joint, his hands and feet have been pierced, his strength has run out, and he is dehydrated. All the while, his enemies stand around and gloat over his demise. Yet, he says that he was trained to trust in his God from the very beginning and calls on God to be with him even at this time.

In Matthew 27:46, Jesus quotes from this psalm and applies it to his situation on the cross. John 19:24 also tells us that they divided Jesus’ garments in fulfillment of verse 18. John 19:28 and Luke 23:35 further connect the crucifixion of Christ to the fulfillment of this psalm. Jesus not only died for the sins of mankind, but he serves as the prime example of what faith in God looks like. He went to the cross and suffered all while trusting in the Father. May we reflect on Christ’s death as we read this psalm and praise him for our salvation, but let us also learn from the display of faith that we see in our Savior as he calls out in trust.

**Shaped by the Word is a daily Bible reading devotional. Please use the links at the bottom to subscribe to this page. You can also share this post with your friends through social media using the buttons below. Thanks for reading!