Monday, December 20, 2010

Review: The Real Mary by Scot McKnight

How do you talk about Jesus' mama? That's a good question to ask. If we are honest, most of us talk more about what we don't believe about Mary than about what we do. You can count on a guy like Scot McKnight to call us (evangelicals) out on that one (I mean that in a good way). And that's exactly what he does in this book.

I know that I haven't thought too much about Mary in the past. I know that Catholics make a lot of her (I just went to Montreal this summer and saw the light show at Notre Dame which proves that point). And I also know that God chose her to be the bearer of the Messiah. So what?

McKnight helps us to make sense of Mary. In her song (known as the Magnificat) she says that "from now on people will call me blessed." McKnight goes through the various stories of Mary so that Evangelicals can call the mother of our Lord (God?) blessed.

Mary longed for God to come to his people and establish his kingdom, his new society of justice and peace. Like most people Mary probably thought that the Messiah would march into Jerusalem, kill the Romans and establish his throne. God visited Mary and told her that she would give birth to God's anointed one. Mary submitted to the will of God even though she knew people would consider her an adulteress. But Mary rejoiced because God was going to subvert those on the throne and make her own son King. Promises upon promises. But Mary would discover that things weren't going to be quite as straightforward as she thought. God would indeed bring his new society where his will is done. But this would happen through the suffering of her own son. Mary continued to learn what kind of Messiah her son was to be throughout his life. Jesus placed a priority on loving God which challenged the honor-your-parent commandment; it showed Mary that she would have to submit to her own son as Lord and that Jesus was establishing a new family with himself as the focus.

McKnight also helpfully discusses what Catholics believe about Mary. He tries to avoid caricatures but is still critical at times. In the last chapter McKnight helps us figure out what to do with Mary. One of his suggestions is that we hold an "honor Mary" day where we return to the stories of Mary and glean fresh insight. Mary is a great example of what it means to follow Jesus in the real world.

This book is an excellent Christmas read and, best of all, the gospel shines through in nearly every chapter. Highly recommended!