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A Surprising Arrival


Surprises can be paralyzing . . . or at least for 1/20th of a second. That’s what Tania Luna, a researcher who studies how surprise affects the brain, says. She says surprises can freeze our attention and intensify our emotions.

The surprise effect was probably true for many who encountered Jesus. This month we will focus on the ways Jesus surprised those who had waited for a Messiah, and the way He still surprises us today. Although the Savior’s birth was predicted in the Old Testament, His arrival probably came as a surprise to Joseph and Mary. They had been taught that Israel’s Messiah would be born to a woman, but they most likely did not expect God would be the child’s father. Joseph’s initial reaction agrees with Luke’s assertion that Mary became pregnant apart from any human agency.

Joseph’s initial intent to divorce Mary is proof that the pregnancy occurred before the two of them came together as husband and wife. The child had been conceived by the Holy Spirit (v. 20; see also Luke 1:34–35). The doctrine of the virgin birth of Christ is foundational to the Christian faith because it is proof of Jesus’ unique nature. His divine nature enabled Him to be a sinless sacrifice, and His human nature qualified Him to be our compassionate High Priest.

This first and most fundamental surprise sets the stage for the rest of Jesus’ life and ministry. Paul expressed it in these words: “Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great: He appeared in the flesh, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory” (1 Tim. 3:16).

>> As we begin this study, ask God to open your eyes to the wonder of Christ’s words and deeds. Prepare yourself to be pleasantly surprised by our Savior, Jesus Christ. And, while we will focus on select passages, we encourage you to read through Matthew’s entire gospel.

BY Dr. John Koessler

Dr. John Koessler, who retired as professor emeritus from Moody Bible Institute, formerly served in the division of applied theology and church ministry. John and his wife Jane enjoy living in a lakeside town in Michigan. A prolific writer, John’s books include The Radical Pursuit of Rest (InterVarsity), The Surprising Grace of Disappointment (Moody), and True Discipleship (Moody). John is a contributing editor and columnist for Today in the Word.

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