Best Kinds of Mysteries
By Anthony Casperson
Mysteries have been on my mind a lot recently. Detective movies, puzzle games, and a few other similar things have pointed many of my thoughts that direction. I even came up with (what I think is) an interesting idea for a mystery novel that’ll have to wait until I’ve at least finished writing another one or two other stories. (So, that could be years.)
Earlier this week, a new season of Unsolved Mysteries came to Netflix. And so, in my most recent semi-obsession, I watched the show. But partway through the season, I felt a strange disconnect from the other mysteries that have been running around my head.
While some might chalk it up to the fact that these mysteries are true stories rather than fabricated events plotted out by an author, there was something else causing this disconnect. And the question of why came to the forefront. I had my own mystery to solve.
The fun of a mystery is to see if you can solve it before the truth is revealed. Can you pick up on the clues before the primary investigator? Essentially, can you beat Sherlock? There’s a need to pay close attention and connect disparate ideas into a whole, not to mention telling the truth from the lies and misinterpretations. And then, when the truth is finally revealed, you can see how good your detective skills are.
When such tales are told poorly, you come to the end asking how you were ever supposed to solve that mess. If the clues aren’t clear enough or the facts shown to you don’t align with the supposed conclusion, you feel cheated. And you wonder if you’ve just wasted however long it took for you to get to the end.
When I considered these truths, I came to realize the reason for the disconnect between the show and every other mystery I’d been working through. They were unsolved. It’s kinda in the title of the show, so I should’ve figured that. But without having the mystery revealed, the most comfort I could feel was to suppose that I’d guessed correctly, without any real resolution.
The best kinds of mysteries are the ones that have a point of revelation.
And in truth, this is something that I should’ve realized far sooner for another reason. When in relation to theology, mystery always has the idea of something that has been revealed that was previously hidden. Mystery isn’t the hiding, but the revealing. God’s mysteries aren’t unsolved. They’re revealed in his amazing plan of salvation.
That might sound odd, since we often hear the statement that God’s ways are mysterious. But you’ll never find that phrase in the bible. It’s from a hymn by William Cowper. God might act in ways that seem alien to our fallen human minds, but his mysteries are always revealed.
As a means of biblical example, we can look at the most condensed usage of the word for mystery in the New Testament. Three times in a seven-verse spread, we see Paul use “mystery” in Ephesians 3:3, 4, and 9.
In these early verses of this chapter, Paul describes the place of Gentiles in God’s plan of salvation. The concept of non-Israelites having an inheritance from God without first submitting to the Law of Moses seemed like the most ridiculous thing before Jesus came enfleshed in humanity.
But this strange truth came to be revealed by the words of the apostles and prophets of the early first century. Paul says as much in Eph. 3:5. And bringing this truth to light was his work in God’s plan, the mystery hidden for ages past, but is now revealed. It’s a mystery so revealed that many today take the truth for granted.
The best kinds of mysteries are the ones that have a point of revelation. And the best mystery of all revealed God’s plan of salvation for all who would accept Jesus’ work on the cross.
God does work in mysterious ways. He reveals his plan all the time.