Immanuel

Immanuel

Immanuel 

Introduction 

  • 6lbs 14 oz. 19 inches long. 7 lbs 10 oz. 
    • These are the weights and lengths of all three of our children when they were born. 
    • Each one of those moments was a special occasion. A moment of love, family, and great potential. 
  • One of our favorite things in this past pregnancy was revealing, not only the gender of our newly arrived baby but also the name. 
    • Lincoln’s middle name, James, was special because it was the name of my great-grandfather who was a preacher of the gospel. 
    • Names mean something to us—but not as much as within other cultures. 
  • Within Jewish culture, a name is given in hopes of that child fulfilling that particular name; or because of some special moment; or given out of reverence or respect to God. 
    • Moses, “To draw or pull out”; Isaac, “Laughter”; Jacob meant, “supplanter” but was later changed to Israel, “One who struggles with God.” 
    • These names were significant, and sometimes even seemed to determine the path that the child would later take. 
  • It’s by no accident that, in the introduction to Matthew’s gospel—in the midst of a long list of names—the birth of the Messiah surrounds the importance of two specific names that are given to the new baby: Jesus and Immanuel. 
  • Yet, is the significance of these names (particularly Immanuel), and what does it tell us about our Savior and about us? 
  • Text: Matthew 1:18-25

A Key Doctrine 

  • In recent years we have seen an increasing number of Christians question what have in the past been referred to as key or “cardinal” doctrines of Christianity. 
    • These are beliefs and teachings which have always been considered central to the message of the Christian faith. 
    • At the top of that list is the divine conception/virgin birth. 
  • For some, this concept is far too outrageous to be true. 
    • Like Zechariah, they question the possibility of such a miraculous intervention (Luke 1:18). 
    • For them, believing and following Jesus is key, and whether or not you believe in the miraculous birth of Jesus Christ is inconsequential to your Christian faith. 
    • Yet, not only is this possible (Luke 1:37), it is central to understanding the nature and person of Jesus Christ (which is the central truth of Christianity). 
  • In fact, if this doctrine is so inconsequential to the Christian faith, why would Matthew go out of his way to emphasize it within his gospel (as does Luke?). 
    • Makes sure that the reader knows this wasn’t due to Joseph and Mary’s union: 
      • “Before they came together” (v. 18). 
      • “Resolved to divorce her quietly” (v. 19). As a side note, notice how the righteousness of Joseph is discussed in the context of giving mercy. 
      • “Knew her not until she had given birth to a son” (v. 25). 
    • On the flip side Matthew makes it very evident that this conception was divine; that is, From God the Spirit Himself. 
      • “She was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit” (v. 18). 
      • “That which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit” (v. 20). 
      • “Behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a son” (v. 23). 
  • Matthew wants to make it as clear to the reader as possible that what is happening here isn’t natural—its supernatural. A work of God himself. 
  • This divine conception central to understanding the meaning and mission of Jesus and his name. 

The Name of Jesus 

  • Notice there are three characters within v. 21: she will bear a son, you will call his name Jesus, and he will save his people from their sins. 
    • This is later fulfilled within v. 25; emphasis on “he” call his name Jesus. 
    • The act of Joseph naming this child shows adoption, ownership, and bringing within the family lineage (Luke 3:23; as was supposed). 
  • As we mentioned earlier, Jewish names meant something and we see that connection here as well. 
    • Jesus is the Greek name for the Hebrew name “Joshua.” 
    • Joshua means, “Yahweh saves” (hence, the statement from Gabriel that Jesus will save his people from their sins). 
  • So, from the very beginning, the mission of Jesus is set by the name: Jesus is here to save, not to condemn. 
    • He makes this clear throughout his ministry (John 3:17); he came to save them from a condemnation that they were already under (John 3:18). 
    • He did not come to save them from the Romans, but from their greater issue: he came to save his people from their sins. 
    • If you had to sum up the purpose and mission of Christ this is it. 
  • This then should be our central goal as the church of Christ: to continue the mission of Jesus and save people from their sins. 
    • So many times churches get so caught up in different programs and they lose sight of their purpose as God’s kingdom. 
    • We are to be an outpost of God’s redeeming love; to help to save people from their sins from under the condemnation of God’s judgment. 
  • Yet, how is that Jesus can do this? How can we accomplish this work of salvation? 

The Name Immanuel 

  • As we have already seen within Matthew, we see that what is happening here is a fulfillment of old promises. 
    • Here we see that the name “Immanuel” has a greater context. 
    • Isaiah 7:1-4, 14. 
    • Surrounded by enemies the Lord gives Ahaz a sign: a child will be born which would be a sign of God’s presence among the people in the midst of great aggression. 
    • This would be to show them that the Lord would deliver them from an enemy that they couldn’t possibly conquer themselves. 
  • So we fast-forward to the gospel of Matthew and we see the gospel writer claiming that the coming of Jesus was the absolute fulfillment of this promise of the presence of God in the midst of hostile enemies. 
    • God isn’t simply above us. He isn’t beside us. He isn’t behind us. He is with us. 
    • The multiplicity of meanings with this, but I believe there are two: God’s presence is with us through Jesus Christ; God is present with us in Jesus Christ. 
      • What do I mean? 
        • People on their cell phones: You have my presence, but I am not present. 
        • We may say of people when they are sitting in front of us, staring into the distance, “Where did you go?” 
        • Within Jesus Christ we both the presence of God (his person is with us) but also He is present with us (he experiences our weaknesses, heals our sickness, suffers from loneliness, betrayal, and sorrow). God is with us. 
      • With us in a particular form in this text: a child. 
        • Think about this for a moment: the God who spoke and the universe leaps into existence; who has such exhaustive knowledge that he is aware when a single bird falls to the ground; who created mountains and the sea—is now a baby. 
        • Vulnerable, dependent, weak, crying—Immanuel, God with us. 
      • And in this we see a God who will stop at nothing to be with us. 
        • This is a God who isn’t disinterred in our pain, but who is deeply aware of our greatest need and does everything within his power to provide it. 
        • This then is why Jesus can save us: Jesus means, “Yahweh saves”—and as the angel says HE will save his people from their sins—because HE is Immanuel. 
        • God saves His people from their sins by being Immanuel—by enduring the suffering and consequences of his own wrath. 
  • Interesting, but Matthew begins and ends his gospel with this promise (Matt. 28:20). 
    • That is, the continuing story isn’t simply looking back saying, “God was with us” but continuing to say, “God is with us”—He is still there to comfort and to strengthen. He is still aware of our pain, suffering and agonizing heartache. Joy and triumphs. 
    • And the hope of the gospel is this: that God is with us, so that one day we will be with God (John 14:1-3). 

Conclusion 

  • As we mentioned, the name Immanuel was originally given as a sign of hope for deliverance from hostile enemies: God will be with you and save you. 
    • As you leave this place and go out in the world, I have no idea what challenges you will face this week. 
    • I don’t know whether you will lose a loved one; you will be betrayed by a loved one; whether you will lose your job, or your coworkers will simply start acting rudely toward you. I don’t know how the world may change this week. 
    • But I do know this: God will be with you through every single moment. 
  • Because He is Immanuel—and He will never leave us.