Immanuel

I started this post at Christmastime.  Now it’s Easter time and I’m revisiting the idea of “God with us”.

Isaiah 7:14 – “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”

Matthew 1:23 – “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).”

God with us.  Really ponder that.  God is with us and in us.  To many, this is a foreign concept.  Many perceive God to be distant and/or angry.  But that is not the message of Gospel.  God came to restore relationship with us.  How does he do it?  Does he come on a white horse?  Does he wield a sword?  No, he is brought forth in pain and tears.  He is born as a weak little child.

If you read the Bible from the beginning, you will see a people struggling to satisfy and appease a god who is supposedly angry and distant.  They search the scriptures daily looking for some connection to the god of the universe.  They followed laws and commandments.  They followed traditions and rituals.  All the while hoping God would show himself and be pleased with them.  To those “knowledgeable” in the scriptures and theology of the time, “God with us” would be a foreign concept.  He only comes to the holiest of holy and even then it’s for brief moments of enlightenment.  His visage so bright and holy that you need a veil to shield yourself or you would die.

But God’s promise is that he would be “with us”.

The name Immanuel is associated with the Christmas story so let’s examine it.  Jesus was born in a barn.  His parents were alone, young, and scared.  They were far away from home.  Their family may have shunned them for being pregnant out of wedlock.  The smell must have been horrible.  It must have been cold at night.  With no medicine for the pain, Mary gave birth to Jesus.  Eventually, He was laid in a feeding trough to sleep.

I’ve been thinking the last few weeks about Jesus’ life on Earth.  Jesus’ earthly life was God giving us a first impression.  This life was what God wanted us to see.  Jesus on Earth was who the disciples fell in love with.  Maybe he is what we should fall in love with too.  To do that, we need to go to the beginning: his birth.  So what does God want us to see first?

He was born poor and alone.  He grew is wisdom in knowledge just like any other child.  He became a rabbi but instead of choosing the best of the best for his disciples, he chose fishermen and tax collectors.  These people were not high on the totem pole.  But he chose them to teach them a new way of thinking and living.  He was a servant who washed the feet of others.

Now it’s Easter time, a time to think about the end of his life.  Today is Good Friday.  He is being put on the cross.  “God with us” on a cross.  God came and was rejected by men.  But the greater miracle was still to occur.  The people that put him on the cross thought they were getting rid of a heretic.  If he is Immanuel, why don’t he save himself?  What they didn’t know was that his death and resurrection would bring the Holy Spirit to them.  God would be with us forever.

Even today, we have this image of a distant, angry god.  A god so wrathful that he had to brutally murder his own son to even look at us.  I don’t think this is the case.  If your child were on death row, would you turn your back on him?  No?  Then why do we think God turned his back on Jesus?  Oh, because Jesus asked, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  Remember Jesus was taking on the sin of the world, he was being blinded to God’s presence just like we were in our sin.  He was asking our question.  The answer is that God has never forsaken us.

Colossians 1:21 says, “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.”  Pay attention to this.  When Adam and Eve sinned, God came looking for them.  He didn’t say, “Oh well, they messed up.  Time to find something else to do.”  He went looking for them because they were hiding.  Let me say that again.  We were hiding from God but God was never hiding from us.

His plan from before the foundation of the world was to pay our ransom so that we could be with him forever.

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