At that same time Jesus was filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit, and he said, “O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike. Yes, Father, it pleased you to do it this way.
“My Father has entrusted everything to me. No one truly knows the Son except the Father, and no one truly knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
Then when they were alone, he turned to the disciples and said, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you have seen. I tell you, many prophets and kings longed to see what you see, but they didn’t see it. And they longed to hear what you hear, but they didn’t hear it.” —Luke 10:21-24 (NLT)
The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is an amazing achievement in science, engineering, and the human quest to unwrap the mysteries of the world we live in. On the engineering side, this gigantic telescope was lifted far into space on a rocket—not such an uncommon thing these days—and once it reached its position in space, it unwrapped and unfolded itself over a period of many weeks, precisely and flawlessly, all without the assistance of human hands.
Now that it is operational, its design allows it to return clear images from deeper into space than we’ve ever seen before, which means, because the universe is so inconceivably vast, that JWST is literally looking back in time to events that happened in the earliest days of the creation of our universe.
Already it has found something unexpected. If the interpretation of recent images is correct, JWST has spotted galaxies that are many times larger and more mature than the current understanding of the Big Bang Theory would allow. These particular galaxies, and perhaps many others not yet spotted, seem to have jumped into being ahead of schedule. It’s a surprise, a mystery, a puzzle to be solved.
There are many, many mysteries in life, aren’t there? From the biggest questions, like, how did the stars in the sky come into existence, to the smallest questions, like, why does my wife love me, we simply don’t know as much as we think we do. We certainly don’t know as much as there is to know.
It’s good that there are still mysteries. Mystery keeps us humble. We think of ourselves as “wise and clever,” as Jesus said, but just when we think we have a good handle on things, a wrench gets thrown into the works and our certainties crumble.
The world just went through one of the most terrible mysterious events of my lifetime, COVID-19. Was it a natural viral mutation or a bioweapon? How was it transmitted and what would slow its rampant spread? Did hand sanitizing work? Social distancing? Vaccines? Masks? Quarantines? Many millions of deaths later, these things are still being debated. What we know for certain about COVID is that it showed us how little we really know about infectious diseases and their treatments, among other things. And, it showed us how quickly modern society can be crippled, even in this age when we have such (apparently unfounded) confidence that we’re firmly in control of our lives.
Jesus says something interesting in this short and mysterious passage. First, he says that we cannot know God unless God chooses to reveal himself to us, and that God has chosen to reveal himself through his son, Jesus. That means that spiritual enlightenment is a dead end unless we begin seeking understanding by looking hard at the life and words and person of Jesus Christ.
Accept that or don’t, but it’s the unambiguous and rather bold claim of Jesus, the man who is so often credited uncritically as a somewhat interesting great moral teacher.
After saying that, he directly addresses his disciples and tells them that they are witnesses to a mystery that many prophets and holy people through history have longed to see for themselves. They did not see these things because God hid them, until that moment.
And what did God hide that he has now revealed? The mysterious plan of God, what Jesus calls the kingdom of God. He had hidden his plan to make a way for all of humanity to live with him, to know him, just as the first two people did in the garden at creation.
The mystery that has been revealed is that Jesus Christ is the way to be reconciled with God, to know God, and to enter into a life-saving relationship with God.
Here’s how the Apostle Paul put it in his letter to the church at Colossae:
God wanted everyone, not just Jews, to know this rich and glorious secret inside and out, regardless of their background, regardless of their religious standing. The mystery in a nutshell is just this: Christ is in you, therefore you can look forward to sharing in God’s glory. It’s that simple. That is the substance of our Message. —Colossians 1:27 (The Message)