Book Review on Tim Keller’s “The Obedient Master”

“The Only Love That Can’t Let You Down” Reviewed by David P. Craig

TOM Keller

Here we have a beautiful essay by Tim Keller on the practical ramifications of the active and passive obedience of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane before He went to the cross. The passive obedience of Christ explores how Jesus took the penalty that we deserved for our sin. Dr. Keller masterfully articulates how Jesus suffered privately in the Garden before His public suffering on the cross. Jesus willingly endured the cup of God’s wrath poured out on Him – He died the death we should have died. Jesus received the penalty for our disobedience to the Law of God. Since Jesus paid our debt, we are totally free from all condemnation for our sins (Romans 8:1).

Keller also explores Christ’s active obedience. Jesus lived the life we should have lived. He perfectly obeyed the Law’s requirements and thus fulfilled the righteous requirements demanded by God in the Old Testament. Keller writes, “Jesus not only died the death we should have died in order to take the law’s curse for us, he also lived the great life of love and fidelity we should have lived in order to earn God’s blessing for us…And because Jesus not only fulfilled the law of God passively but actively–in our place, as our substitute–it means not only that he got the penalty we deserved, we get the reward from God that he deserved.”

In this essay we see the practical ramifications of Christ’s suffering in the Garden: (1) Jesus’ is a model of integrity – He does the right thing when no one is looking; just as He does the right thing publicly when He goes to the cross; (2) He models authentic prayer by demonstrating that the purpose of prayer is not to bend God’s will to ours, but our will to His; (3) In the Garden Jesus models His amazing patience with people – who are failures (they couldn’t keep watch with him for one hour). Keller remarks, “Jesus came not to just be a model but a Savior. He changes us on the inside so that we can be slowly but surely made over into his image. He does not just tell us how to live; he gives us the power to live that way.”

Keller’s essay is a motivational reminder of Christ’s amazing love for us. Jesus’ love didn’t fail or falter in the Garden, nor did it fail or falter on the cross; and His love assures us that when we falter and fail Him; He will never falter or fail to endure in His love for us. As Jesus says in Romans 8:38 and Hebrews 13:5, “Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ…I will never leave you nor forsake you.”