Immanuel, “God with us.” The entirety of the Christian belief can be summed up in this one name and present reality. Throughout all of life, the journey of the God-fearing person is a journey of acceptance. Can I believe that God is truly with me, even in this problem, trial, or victory that I am experiencing? An active rejection or a lack of belief in God can be attributed to a fear of acknowledging that He is with us even in our problems because it implies that He is allowing them. This can be a scary thought, but God is not trying to scare us. We know this world is corrupted with trouble and all kinds of sickening and wicked activity, but God is not anxious about such things, nor is He apathetic. God sent His Son–the clearest sign given that He is with us in the depths of our depravity–and overcame sin and death. Immanuel is God’s way of saying: “I have overcome; do you believe that I am with you?”
For, if God is with us, then who or what can be against us? What situation is actually a bad situation, if God is the One writing our story? Jesus, by all accounts, is the One who has the highest right to say that the Father is not good–the Father sent His Son to the cross to die out of His love for a sinful people. It can be easy to read such a statement and look at God in a way that questions His goodness for doing such a thing. But, we must remember, it was for you and me that Jesus was sent to die. And Christ went willingly because He trusted the Father. Jesus is the perfect picture of trusting God despite the circumstances presented by the world, and to the very end, Christ waved the banner that God alone is good. Even when He was on the cross bearing the sins of the world, Christ did not separate Himself from the suffering nor try to escape through self-justification. Jesus, the perfect Lamb who did nothing wrong, trusted the Father even to the point of death. The sacrifice given at Golgotha will remain the most unfair circumstance of all time–nothing even comes close to the injustice of Christ’s crucifixion.
Yet, the story didn’t end there. God’s love is so radical and powerful, that even in accepting something entirely contrary to His nature–sin and death–His love still couldn’t be overcome. That, even out of death and darkness, God’s light is able to shine perfectly. It is written, “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” (Genesis 1:2-3 ESV); “If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,’ even the darkness is not dark to You; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with You.” (Psalm 139:11-12 ESV); “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:4-5 ESV). With God, any situation can be made a miracle, and any circumstance can be turned for good.
The birth of Jesus and His story is all about God making something good out of something not-so-good. Does a manger sound like an ideal sleeping place for a baby (Luke 2:7; though, I suppose if you just add a bunch of hay or something, it might be pretty comfortable…)? Moreover, right as Jesus is born, King Herod wants to kill Him. On top of that, Mary and Joseph probably carried deep sorrow knowing that Herod killed every firstborn two and under in Bethlehem simply out of spite against the wise men–the wise men who deceived Herod to protect Jesus. But that’s the whole point. To be human is naturally a messy, complicated, and confounding thing, and it is right at the center of our humanity where God meets us.
God didn’t go around our mess, or snap His fingers and make it disappear; God went straight for our hearts and became just like us, though without sin. Christ entered our humanity, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14 NKJV). God dwelt among us, and was so intentional in His love that He humbled Himself by living out a regular, mortal human life like us–about 33 years or so. Can it be that the living God wants to be constantly involved with our day-to-day lives? It is true, and Christ took our entire lives with Him to the cross so that we could receive the entirety of His love. The sinless God became sin so that the sinful could become Godly. “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39 ESV). Do you believe Christ to be the Lord of your life?
There is not a sin that could make God’s payment at the cross nullified–there is nothing you have done or could do that can separate you from the love of God, unless you believe it does. Why do we think Christ is constantly asking for people to believe in Him? We relinquish power in our lives to what we worship, and if we choose to worship our sin rather than God, how will we see the love He has shown us? Repentance is a changing of the mind–a re-orientation of the lens through which we look at life; a transformation in our belief. And it is when we believe in Christ that we are walking in faith; one cannot see God without faith.
Thus, it is by faith alone that a person can enter into a living relationship of love with the Almighty. God is with us all at all times, but He is entirely personal and wants the individual to believe of their own accord. The Lord is so intentional in this way, as He gives every soul the opportunity to seek Him and find Him, to the most intimate scale. If you were the only person on earth, your present reality with God would not change; His hunger for your heart would be the exact same. The question is, do we believe? Because, if you do, “you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” (John 1:51 ESV; Genesis 28:12-15). Christ’s favorite title for Himself wasn’t the Messiah, Savior, King of Israel, or even the Son of God–it was the Son of Man.
The title Son of Man is a perfect depiction of the desire of God: He wants to be indivisible from mankind because He loves us, but entirely separate to draw us into His holiness. His name is Immanuel, the Son of Man; God has never stopped loving us. Jesus is the perfect demonstration of God’s desire for a relationship of love and intimacy with you and me. Ellicott’s commentary gives a good word concerning the title “Son of Man”:
“The word is ἄνθρωπος, not ἀνήρ; homo, not vir. It is man as man; not Jew as holier than Greek; not free-man as nobler than bond-man; not man as distinct from woman: but humanity in all space and time and circumstance; in its weakness as in its strength; in its sorrows as in its joys; in its death as in its life. And here lies the explanation of the whole verse. The ladder from earth to heaven is in the truth “The Word was made flesh.” In that great truth heaven was, and has remained, opened… The ladder is set up upon the earth, but it reaches to heaven, and the Lord stands above it. It goes down to the very depths of man’s weakness, wretchedness, and sin; and he may lay hold of it, and step by step ascend it. In the Incarnation, Divinity took human form on earth; in the Ascension, Humanity was raised to heaven.”
In all things, God is trying to send us the message that He is with us. Did Christ come to condemn, kill, steal, or destroy people’s lives? Jesus entered humanity so that we may have life, and have it abundantly (John 10:10). Jesus entered humanity to save that which was lost (Luke 19:10; Matthew 18:11). Jesus entered humanity so we could have peace with God through faith (Romans 5:1). The living God is in our midst, but do we want to acknowledge His presence? All Christ wants is to share a meal. When we open the door of our hearts to Him, He enters in and eats with us; if He is knocking, by no means turn Him away. Because, it is in the dining with the Almighty that we find our salvation, and walk in the reality that God is with us. Thank You, Lord, for Your relentless love; help us love as You do. Amen.