In chapter 10 Keller looked at the story of the annunciation by the angel Gabriel to Mary that she would give birth to the Messiah. Keller spent time looking at this because in many ways she responds how we ought to. When she receives this message, she has not yet met Christ. Neither have we, the New Testament believers, met the physical person of Christ. The angel then gives her a gospel message which includes details of who Jesus is and what he is coming to do.
Keller then moves to evaluate what was revealed about Christ by the angel. First, he is the Son of the Most High. In ancient languages it was common to bear the title of son if you resembled or believed strongly in that person. Keller points out an instance where people claim to be sons of God but because they lied like the devil they were actually sons of the devil. But the angel meant much more than just that Jesus would resemble or believe strongly in God. This is evident by the following statement which said, “he will reign over the house of Jacob forever.” Christ’s kingship will not go away as a result of his death. Instead, it will remain forever. He is also to be called “the Son of God.” By bearing this title he will not only bear resemblance to God but he will also have the divine nature of God.
Keller moves then to point out that his name will be Jesus, which means, “God who saves.” Keller explains how this is unique because in every other religion the founder or prophet comes to teach you how to obtain your own salvation. Yet, the gospel message proclaims that Christ will come to make your salvation obtainable. Keller says that Christianity is unlike any other religion for this very reason. We live in a world where both religious and secular people consider all religions to be, at their core, the same. The annunciation pushes back on this idea. It calls us to acknowledge that Jesus is the only way for our salvation and it demands a response. We must fight this idea that all religions are basically the same.
Moving from the message of the angel, Keller points out four insightful things about Mary's response to the angel’s message. First, Mary used the power of her own reasoning. When approached by the angel, Mary did not see this as normal or receive it at first glance. Instead, she thought about it and tried to use her own reasoning to figure out why this was happening. She wanted to know if it was even true. Keller points out that sometimes we forget that the people in the scriptures were real people who had real doubts when they saw an angel. Mary had to use her power of reasoning to actually think about what was happening and if it was true.
Secondly Keller wants us to see that Mary expresses her doubts openly. Now, Keller does go on to point out that Mary's reasoning for expressing her doubts is so that she would get answers. Her heart was not to discredit what was happening. Instead, she knew that you would need to have sex to conceive a child, thus she needed the answer on how this child was going to be brought about. She used her honest questions to seek answers in a humble way with a humble heart.
Thirdly, Mary does not surrender completely, just yet. She takes some time. Of course, we know that she eventually will come to full surrender. But she knows that this road that she's about to endure is going to be very difficult. There could be backlash from many people. Surely her husband to would be very frustrated to learn that she was pregnant but not by him. But Mary did surrender, and it took courage for her to do so.
Fourthly, Mary lived in community. Once she had received this vision from the angel, she went to Elizabeth. Elizabeth then spoke to her through the power of the Holy Spirit encouraging her. It is through her community that she was able to be encouraged by the power of Holy Spirit. We too ought to live in the same community. Being intertwined with men and women of the faith so that we would be encouraged by the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
(!) Something Helpful
“Honest doubts, then, are open to belief. If you are really asking for information and good arguments, you might get some.”
(Keller, p. 199)
Believers tend to not ask as many questions as we should. This comes because of many people who are either not equipped for the answers or the people who feel like you should just have faith. We should find some encouragement in how we are taught to learn all through our lives. This is through questions! In any classroom the teacher should be available to the student for questions. Why is this? It is because questions allow us to better understand what we do not understand. However, Keller does remind the reader that questions are good if the heart of the person is humble. For the questions should not be based on seeking to disprove. If this would be the intention, then the person would be unable to be satisfied with the answer. It is helpful to ask questions in hopes of seeking true answers.
(?) Something to Think About
If you are like me, then the comparison of the annunciation of Christ to Mary being similar to the New Testament believer would be a new concept. Keller did a wonderful job of relating the experience and response of Mary to that which we face constantly. As you read this chapter, I pray that you would take into consideration the four ways that Keller pointed out Mary responded. Because in many ways the way that Mary responded has some very insightful application to our own lives. Think about the faith that Mary had to have to believe in the message of the angel. Put yourself in her shoes and think about how you would really react to this message. Be humble and honest in your personal assessment.
(.) Something to Do
This week I would like to challenge you to model those things which Keller points out about Mary. When reading these observations, you may very well see that they are geared towards new believers or even the first response to the gospel. However, I would like to call you to think about how these responses would affect you in your spiritual walk right now.
1. God speaks to us through the reading of His Holy Scriptures. Do you use your power of reasoning to engage with the text? Or, do you just read the text to check off a box.
2. Do you express your doubts to those who you trust for biblical counsel? Is your heart humble when you ask such questions or are you seeking answers for wrong motives?
3. Have you fully surrendered to the Lord yet?
4. Are you living in community in the ways the Scripture calls you to? Do you delight in fellowshipping with the people of God?
Questions to Ask Your Cell Group
● How has this chapter affected you and your personal walk with the Lord?
● In what ways have you been called to change your mindset?
● How can your cell group partners pray for you to respond in ways that are similar to Mary?
Identify some people in your life that you can go to with questions with trust they will give you biblical counsel. Share them with the group.