Tychicus of Ephesus
A sermon based on Ephesians 3:2-12
Sunday, January 6, 2012 – Epiphany C
Tychicus, a servant of Paul, an apostle and servant of Christ Jesus,
To the saints in Kenai, the believers in Christ Jesus:
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Good morning. My name is Tychicus–Tychicus of Ephesus. I am from the Bible. Most people have never heard of me, and wouldn't guess my name in Bible trivia, and no one names their son Tychicus anymore, and that's okay. I'm not here to talk myself up, because, well, there's not really that much to talk about. I'm here for something more important, something far better, something that you and I share in common.
My name means "by chance." But the thing that I am here today to talk to you about didn't happen by chance at all. It happened as a part of God's loving plan for me—a plan of grace that he'd prepared before the beginning of time. A plan he's laid out for my spiritual Father and friend, the Apostle Paul, for me, through him, and now, for you too.
I am a Roman citizen of the province of Asia Minor. I'm from the City of Ephesus—on the west coast of that province, the capitol city, large, urban, old—more than 1,000 years old when I lived there—and very important. It was not only in a natural harbor that let many pass through our city from around the world, but it had the temple of Artemis (or Diana, as I and other Romans called her), a temple even bigger than that of Zeus in Rome—one of the seven wonders of the world.
And it was there in Ephesus that I was raised. There I learned my trade. And there I learned about "the gods." I learned about Zeus and his wife Leto, who gave birth to twins, Apollo and Artemis. While Apollo was the god of the sun, his sister, Artemis, was the moon goddess. And it was in Ephesus that her statue fell from the sky. I was taught the simple chant of worship, "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!" and I was taught that if I served the gods well, if I gave them my sacrifices, if I did enough, they would bless me and they would bless my labors.
So I did my best to serve them well. And thought I was doing okay… until I met Paul.
Paul came to Ephesus and turned the world there upside down. He came preaching about a God, but none of the gods I'd ever learned and I thought I knew them all by both Roman and Greek names. But this God was called "Jehovah," the God of the Jews. This God, said Paul, didn't live on Mt. Olympus, but in heaven and everywhere. This God wasn't born of another God or from the Titans of old, he always was, always is. This God, said Paul, was the only God. Zeus and Hermes, Apollo and Artemis, Athena and Hades were from the imaginations of men and nothing more.
At first, I was skeptical. His words were like a mystery to me. Why should I, a Roman citizen, believe in a Jewish God?! But I kept listening. He told us how he too had once believed wrong. He too believed that he could earn the favor of his God by learning the right chants and rituals, by serving his God and sacrificing to him. But he was wrong. His God appeared to him, he said, on the road to Damascus. And his God taught him the truth and revealed this mystery to him:
He reveled to Paul, who now revealed to me, that the true God knew all things. He knew my every thought, my every word, my every deed. Nothing was a mystery to him. And that thought made me shudder. "Woe to me if this is the true God!" I thought, For them I am surely damned! For the things I've thought are perverse. The things I've said horribly unkind. The things I've done... well, I thank the true God that they remain a mystery to you, if not to him."
Any maybe you can relate. I'm sure you too have thought that as long as you do your best, as long as you learn the right chants and rituals, as long as you serve your God well, and sacrifice enough for him, as long as you're pretty good, you'll be okay. Or maybe you've know that terror I felt, knowing you're not pretty good, but corrupt and vile and worthy of damnation …which isn't surprising if you have felt that way, because it's true: You are corrupt and vile in your sin, worthy of damnation, even if your sins are a mystery to all but God."
But Paul didn't stop there. He continued to preach: "Don't be afraid," he said, "I'm not perfect either. In fact, I'm less than the least of God's people. I once tried to imprison and even kill the followers of this true God, and often I would succeed. But God—the only true God—is a God of grace.
And he went on to explain the mystery that God had reveled to him. That the true God became man—flesh and blood, just like you and me. But it was not just the son of a god, like Hercules, but the Son of God, true God from God from all eternity took on flesh. And he lived among men. He proved his divinity by the miracles he did—miracles I'd heard about even so far away from Israel. He lived a perfect life, without a single sin. And he did it in the place of sinners. Finally, he was crucified outside of Jerusalem, only a few decades earlier—a Jewish man killed by Jewish men.
But what Paul revealed next was astounding. What was hidden to me, what I could never know on my own, what was and would remain a mystery… was revealed. Paul said that this Jewish man, true God in the flesh, was killed by Jewish men, his own priests and leaders, to save not only Jewish men, but all mankind from their sin. Because he was God even on that cross, his death could pay the penalty of every sin of every person who ever lived! And after he was killed he rose from his tomb, for as true God death could not hold him. And thus, he gave the proof that sin and death were conquered.
This living God then appeared to Paul and he gave him a mission, a truly amazing mission. He told Paul to preach this Good News, not just to the Jews, but to the Gentiles, Romans and Greeks, for Arabs and Egyptians, for Germans and for… Ephesians. For me. He said that through faith in Jesus, by putting my trust in him, my sins were forgiven. My guilt for the wrongs I'd ever thought or said or done was erased. I had a future in glory with this Jesus and with his Jehovah. No sacrifice was left, no service needed to be done. This was the mystery revealed!
And God's grace is still for every person around the globe for everywhere a Roman road ran or a Roman ship sailed, for the distant peoples across the desert, for the islands across the Great Sea, for Gentile as well as Jew, for me, as well as you. There is no sacrifice left for you to make, no service for you to perform. By God's grace, revealed to you by his Spirit, in the water, in the Word, in his body and blood, you too are forgiven. You too have a future in glory with Jesus. The unsearchable riches of God—the very glory of his heaven—paradise itself is yours! You too can rejoice in the mystery revealed!
I sat at the Apostles' feet at the lecture hall of Tyrannus and learned of true God every day for almost two years. And I saw the miracles of Paul that confirmed the message he spoke. Once Paul borrowed a handkerchief to wipe the sweat off his brow and when the owner took it home, his sick child picked it up and instantly became well! Another time, an apron Paul wore was used to drive out a demon. (cf. Acts 19:11)
And I saw people respond to that message of God's grace. I went to the bonfire in Ephesus where those who believed piled up their scrolls of sorcery and magic, and piling them higher than my head, they burned them all to show how they'd turned from the lies they once believed to the truth. 50,000 drachmas worth of scrolls were burned that day! That's 130 years worth of wages, or roughly $4M in your money today! (Acts 19:19)
And I couldn't help but respond to that message of grace! I wasn't content to just sit and listen, to learn and be fed. I wanted in on the action! Paul didn't just sit on this wonderful information or keep it to himself, but did as God commanded and made it his life's work to travel around the empire to tell others that this grace of God was for them too! And because of his ministry, my life changed forever! How could I just sit on this information and keep it to myself? How could I not become like the apostle and make it my life's mission to share that message too?!
I started seeing everything as an opportunity to thank God for revealing this wonderful mystery of his grace to me. When I went to work, I looked for openings to tell others. I started to give my money, as much as I could afford, to Paul and to the church that it might be used to share the message with others, trusting that God would provide for my needs no matter what I gave away. And when the opportunity arose, I joined Paul's team.
I was no Paul, I told him, and couldn't preach like he did. But I wanted to help. I wanted to be involved in this mission to the Gentiles. He told me that I had gifts I could use to help him and to serve Jesus. Everyone does! So I began my ministry. I would travel with Paul and often for Paul when he couldn't move.
After I riot in Ephesus, I accompanied Paul to Jerusalem to help carry the offering we sent there. (Acts 20:4) And I accompanied him to Rome after he was arrested there, and carried the letters he wrote from prison. I carried a letter back home to Ephesus (Ephesians 6:21) and another to Colosse (Colossians 4:7). And I carried personal correspondence from Paul to Titus and Timothy. This was my ministry to Paul and to God.
And you too have opportunities to serve him in thanks as well. You don't need to have a masters of divinity or even a high school diploma. You don't have to be a traveling preacher or grade school teacher to be a part of the mission. All you need is a willingness to serve Jesus with a heart of thanks for revealing the mystery of his grace to you. Perhaps you start by sharing your pastor's message with a friend or co-worker. And you don't even need to travel across the empire to do it. You can you the blessings our God has given you to share a sermon or service from your own homes. As the Romans roads and ships of my day helped spread the news back then, you new tools at your disposal to get the mystery revealed out to the world!
May you too be filled with zeal to share the mystery with others. May you dedicate your lives, not to worthless idols or false gods, not to the pursuit of pleasures and fortune, but to serving your God who gave his grace, even to you, and to share the mystery of God's grace with all who will hear.
Listen now, to the Word of God written by the Apostle Paul to my hometown, and carried there by me, Tychicus of Ephesus. The words of Ephesians 3:2-12, which speak of the mystery of God's grace, even to us…
2 Surely you have heard about the administration of God's grace that was given to me for you, 3 that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. 4 In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God's holy apostles and prophets. 6 This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.
7 I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God's grace given me through the working of his power. 8 Although I am less than the least of all God's people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. 10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11 according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. 12 In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.
This is the Word of God. In Jesus' name, dear friends, amen.