Surprised by Jesus

By Mark D. Roberts

May 26, 2020

Following Jesus Today

Scripture – Luke 1:30-34 (NRSV)

The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”

Click here to read all of Luke 1:26-38.


Jesus is full of surprises. Even before he was born, his entrance into the world surprised his mother, Mary. And that was just the beginning. Jesus continues to surprise us today, even and especially those of us who follow him. Just when we think we have Jesus all figured out, he surprises us with unexpected wisdom, vision, compassion, power, and grace. Are you open to being surprised by Jesus today?


A number of years ago, I wrote a manuscript that I hoped would become a book about Jesus. I intended to call the book Surprised by Jesus. My main point was that Jesus continually surprises us, even when we think we know him well. A publisher loved my thesis and my title, so I got to work writing Surprised by Jesus. After I turned in the complete manuscript, however, the publisher got back to me with a mixed report. “We love what you’ve written,” he said, “but our editorial board isn’t sold on the name Surprised by Jesus. We need to work on other options.” And so we did, experimenting with a variety of possibilities. Finally, the board gave their thumbs up to Jesus Revealed. So, I went through my manuscript, minimizing the surprise theme. Months later, Jesus Revealed: Know Him Better to Love Him Better was published. (You can still purchase a copy from Amazon, if you’re interested.)

A book cover showing an icon of Jesus with the words "Jesus Revealed" across itThough I’m fine with Jesus Revealed, I still like Surprised by Jesus. Why? Because from the very beginning, Jesus was surprising. And he kept on surprising people throughout his life, right to the very end . . . and beyond.

Jesus was surprising people even before he was born. Take the case of his mother, Mary. While she is minding her own business, engaged to a man named Joseph, she is surprised by the visit of an angel. When he says, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you,” Luke says that Mary was “perplexed” (1:29). No doubt she was also surprised. The angel proceeded to tell her that she would soon become pregnant, even though she was a virgin. Now that’s a surprise! Moreover, the child she would bear would be “great” and “called the Son of the Most High” and would reign from “the throne of his ancestor David” forever (Luke 1:32-33). Mary would conceive by the Holy Spirit so that her child would be called “Son of God” (Luke 1:35). Talk about surprises!

Of course, this was just the beginning. Jesus continued to surprise Mary, and his earthly father Joseph, and those with whom he grew up, and those who followed him, and those who opposed him. He surprised those who thought they had him figured out and those who couldn’t make sense of him. Though people responded to Jesus in vastly different ways during his lifetime, almost everyone would have agreed that he was surprising.

In tomorrow’s Life for Leaders devotion I want to think with you about Mary’s response to the surprises of the angel’s message. Today, I want to pause for a moment and encourage you to reflect upon the surprise(s) of Jesus in your life. Let the following questions guide your reflections.


Take some time to read slowly the story of Mary’s encounter with the angel (Luke 1:26-38). Imagine what this encounter might have been like for Mary. What was she thinking? How was she feeling?

Can you think of a time (or several times) when you were surprised by Jesus? What was this like for you?

How open are you to the surprises Jesus has in store for you?


With your small group or with a friend, talk about ways Jesus has surprised you. Listen to the experience of others. See what you learn about ways Jesus surprises today.


Lord Jesus, you were surprising from the beginning. Your way of entering the world was certainly a surprise to your mother. Being pregnant was probably the last thing she was expecting in that season of her life. And giving birth to the Son of God was surely not on her agenda.

Lord, you continue to surprise us today. Even those of us who seek to follow you faithfully are surprised by what we see in the Gospels, by what we hear you say and see you do. We’re also surprised by the way your grace is active in our lives today. You are always doing the unexpected.

Help me, Lord, to be open to your surprises. May I trust that your ways are always the best, even when I find them shocking or unsettling. Amen.

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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: God at Work (Luke 1, 2 and 4)

Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders,...

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