Maybe its because of the investigative nature of humans, we like to peer into other people’s lives, like the need to look at a squished bug on the bottom of your shoe ... or maybe it’s because we cannot pass a car accident without slowing down and starring ... or maybe it’s the insatiable desire to know why?
Or maybe it’s because we just love the idea of mystery, but the 1990s TV show "Unsolved Mysteries" was just revived and put back on the air for it’s 15th season.
No matter how you feel about mystery, I believe we stand in a place of tension surrounded by the mysteries of God, knowing some, but not as near as much as we would like to about our creator.
My proposal to you today is this: rather than try to solve all the mysteries of life and God, we embrace mystery and acknowledge He is God and we are not.
The last 200-300 years, Christianity has by in large tried to explain every mystery about God. We claim to have the answers to nearly every question life gives us, but I have to ask, is this really what the scriptures and the spirit offers us? Or are some things left up to the mystery of God and mysteries of faith?
The books of Acts Chapter: 12, offers us unresolved tensions here, or maybe unsolved mystery is what we are experiencing.
In Acts:12, James — a disciple of the Lord — is imprisoned by Herod Agrippa and killed.
The statement about his death literally takes up one single verse or 11 words — seems kind of rough for someone who walked as one of the 12 disciples with Jesus for three years ... however, a few verses later, Peter is also imprisoned and about to be killed too.
But for Peter, an angel comes, strikes Peter, and wakes him up. Then the prison gates open by themselves and he escapes death!
Here is this massive tension then: if I were John’s father, I would be highly upset that Luke (the writer of the books of Acts) records the death of my son in a few verses and seconds later read the contrast of Peter getting an angelic jail break! What happens? Did the church forget to pray for John like they did Peter? Did they miss the text message on the prayer chain? Was there an interruption in the cell phone service?
We know, however, from church tradition, James was not snuffed out without a bang.
Tradition tells us James was executed together with his jailer by Agrippa because James led the Jailer to Jesus hours before his death.
What is interesting about the contrast between Peter and John is Luke doesn’t try to explain the mystery, he seems completely comfortable and almost expectant of it.
So we are faced with the mystery. These events challenge our faith and I think that’s ok.
I think Luke is asking us to embrace that tension because the fullness of God’s reign is not yet complete. Heaven has not landed on earth yet. Luke wants us to wrestle with these tensions. We all have a narrative of wrestling with God. A few months ago our church prayed for someone who was healed of cancer, but when I prayed 9 years ago for my mom to be healed of cancer, she died.
I think Luke’s contrast of James death and Peter’s deliverance, teaches us God has the ability to do what he wants to when he wants to — to accomplish his own divine purposes.
If you just take the time to look through the scriptures you will see the same wrestling with God over and over again.
I always like to use this illustration when we are talking about a world and people in process. If I were to walk into my house, throw a few raw pieces of chicken in a pan and start cooking, but instead of cooking the chicken until finished I abruptly removed it from the hot pan and started eating — it would likely make me sick.
This is a picture of what it is like when we expect perfection from a world and people who are still in process. They’re not fully cooked!
Jesus never promised a perfect world in this life, but he promised he would make all things new at the end — when he’s done cooking. So, until then, we will have to wrestle with some unsolved mysteries in life and I think that is ok. What do you think?
Scott Bowman is the pastor of New Harvest Assembly of God. He can be reached at email@example.com.