Mt 1:23 they will call him Immanuel” – which means, “God with us.”
Before we conclude this set of meditations from the Gospels and move into considering Easter, we step right back to the beginning of Matthew to consider this prophetic verse that reminds us just who Jesus is. The thought contained in this verse is either the most scary thing ever known or the most wonderful. Isaiah first prophesied these words (Isa 7:14), almost as a rebuke to king Ahaz, but Matthew now takes them and applies them to Jesus. It is an amazing thought. Religions throughout the world seek to reach God by a variety of means, but now, here, God says He will come and be with us in the form of this one human figure, Jesus.
Throughout the Old Testament period God had spoken to His chosen people again and again and again. Sometimes it was face to face (e.g. Ex 33:11), often through prophets and largely through the Law. Now He is saying He will come and actually live in the midst of His people. This is God close up and personal! The writer to the Hebrews summed this up: “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son… The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being” (Heb 1:1-3) The apostle Paul spoke of Jesus, saying he, “made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness,” (Phil 2:7) hinting at Jesus somehow putting off his glory as God’s Son in heaven to live in a human form on earth. How else could we cope with him? Jesus, in the Garden of Gethsemane, prayed, “And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began,” (Jn 17:5) indicating this same thing: back in heaven he was the all-glorious Son of God clearly seen. Here on earth he was God with his glory hidden.
Yet was it hidden or was it revealed in a different way? The staggering truth, which many balk at, is that Jesus Christ was God in the flesh. We’ve seen it before in these meditations but our minds cannot really cope with it. The fact that the all-powerful, all-knowing, ever-present God can somehow limit Himself in a human being, defies our imagination. Did this mean He stopped being God in heaven while He was on earth in human form? No, of course not! It was simply that while He was still God in eternity, still all-powerful, still all-knowing, still ever present, He was also expressing Himself as His Son, the human figure.
It’s a poor analogy but imagine a man who is a director of a company but also a father to small children. In the company environment he is seen in the all-powerful role of head of the company, and hundreds of people do his bidding. But then he goes home and plays on the floor with his small children. He is the same man but his children have no comprehension whatsoever of the enormity of his power and influence in the other world; he is just simply an ordinary figure in their limited world. He is not exercising his power or authority because that is not needed with his children. As we said, it’s a poor analogy but it may help us grab something of the idea of God who is all-powerful who comes to us in a human form, limiting Himself for our benefit.
Just in case you haven’t heard the old illustration, there was a little boy who had an ant farm but couldn’t get the ants to understand him. He expressed his frustration to his father who replied, “The only way you’ll be able to properly communicate with them is if you become an ant yourself.” That, in a sense, is exactly what God did. He became a human being like us and shared in our experiences so that He could show us, in ways we would understand, something of His love for us. Wow!