Tony Evans - Immanuel
Names matter in the Bible, because names are used descriptively to describe something or somebody, and one name that, we'll look at other names a little bit later, but one name that I would like to focus on today is found in Matthew chapter 1, verse 23. It reads as follows, "'Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call his name Immanuel,' which translated means, 'God with us.'" Here we have a name given to Jesus Christ and that he was to be called Immanuel. Now, if you will notice closely in your Bibles, you will see that this is a quote. Verse 22 says, "Now all that took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet," so verse 23 is a fulfillment of something that had been previously predicted or prophesied. That comes from Isaiah chapter 7, verse 14, where it says a virgin shall have a son.
So, in order to understand what Matthew 1:23 means, you have to go back to what Isaiah 7:14 meant, since Matthew 1:23 is a fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14. We know what it's translated to mean. It means "God with us," but what does that really mean to call Jesus Immanuel, God with us? Well, back in Isaiah 7:14 God's people were being attacked by the enemy. God showed up and told King Ahaz, "I'm going to give you a sign of victory, and the sign of victory I'm gonna give you is a virgin having a son, which will be my sign that you win and the enemy loses. So, the virgin that has the son is really a sign of your victory and that I'm gonna be with you in spite of what is attacking you". Matthew picks up that quote and quotes it related to the birth of Jesus Christ, so one of the things you need to understand about Immanuel is that no matter what you have gone through, no matter what's been good, bad, and ugly this year, no matter what you're going to face next year, you need to know the name Immanuel, because that means you're not facing it alone. God is with you.
So, when he talks about the birth of Jesus Christ, he talks about it in the context of things not going well, of things not being apparently in your favor, of things that are coming against you, and he reaches back into history, prophetic history, and to say that the birth of Jesus Christ is God showing up at the worst of times. He says that this child that is born will be not just with you, but God with you, so the first thing you need to understand about Jesus Christ is his designation as God. He is designated as God. Now, we'll talk about how that happened in just a moment, but for right now the New Testament over and over and over again equates Jesus with God, so when we talk about Jesus we're talking about God, not just another man. When I began to look at some of the names of God in the Old Testament and then some of the declarations about Jesus in the New Testament, it became even more replete about the deity of Jesus Christ. That he is God.
For example, God is called in the Old Testament "Elohim," the Creator God, yet the New Testament says everything that was created was created by Christ Jesus. In the Old Testament God is called Jehovah, the I Am. Jesus says to the Jews, "Before Abraham was I am". In the Old Testament God is called Adonai, the boss. In the New Testament the Bible says we must confess Jesus as Lord, your boss. In the Old Testament he's called Jehovah-Nissi, your banner of victory. In the New Testament Jesus says that "I have overcome the world". In the Old Testament God is called Jehovah-Rohi, the Lord is my shepherd. In the New Testament Jesus says, "I am the Good Shepherd, and the sheep hear my voice". In the Old Testament God is called Jehovah Sabaoth, he's the Lord of hosts. In the New Testament Jesus said, "I could have called 10.000 angels". In the Old Testament God is called El Elyon, the Lord who is high and mighty. In the New Testament Jesus says, "I sit on the right hand of the Father way up high". In the Old Testament God is called El Shaddai. In Revelations 1:8 the Bible says Jesus Christ is Lord Almighty.
So, if you can get confused about the name of God, all you gotta do is remember Immanuel, because he is not only with us. He is God with us. But how did God get to be with us? Because God is transcendent in nature. The theologians say he is holy other. That is, he's outside of our realm. He exists in another realm. He is infinitely distinct from his creation, so you cannot talk about creation as though God is a part of it, because he's distinct from it. He's in another zone, but he wanted to be with us, dwelling among us, so exactly how did this occur? Well, the prophecy tells us, because the Scripture says that a virgin would get pregnant and have a baby boy. Well, a lot of things go into that. We call this in theology the hypostatic union. That means the union of two natures in one person, unmixed forever. Let me say that again. The hypostatic union is two natures in one person unmixed forever. That's why Jesus is sometimes called the Son of God, because he has the nature of deity, and other times he's called the Son of Man, because he has the nature of humanity. Two natures in one person that never cross each other, unmixed forever.
Well, the way that occurred is that a virgin would have a baby. When Mary asked the question in the book of Luke, "How could this possibly be that I'm pregnant"? The angel told her, "Well, let me explain, girlfriend, how this works. You have an egg, and the Holy Spirit has got the sperm, and he's going to fertilize your egg with the sperm of deity, and so you are going to apart from a man get pregnant and give birth to a baby boy". That is the only time in history that this has occurred, so the reason that Jesus Christ can be God and man is he has the egg of humanity and the sperm of deity coming together to produce two natures in one person, unmixed forever. The Bible explains how that occurs in Philippians chapter 2, because it says in verse 6, "Who, although he existed in the form of God, he did not regard equality with God as a thing to be grasped," or held on to.
So, let's just stop there. It says, "Although he existed in the form of God". That is, Jesus, before he became a man, existed as part of the Godhead. That's why Isaiah chapter 9, verse 6 says, "Unto us a child is born, but unto us a son is given," because even though the child was born the son had to be given, because the son existed before the child ever got born, because the son existed in the form of God prior to the child being born in the form of man. So, the only reason you got the child being born is 'cause you previously had the son in existence. He says now the way that that occurred, according to this next verse, it says, "But he emptied himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men". He emptied himself. What does that mean? Well, let's pretend you've got a pitcher of water. The water in the pitcher represents deity, or divine nature, and then you've got a glass, and you take the pitcher and you pour the water. You empty the water out of the pitcher into the glass. Whatever is in the pitcher, the water, now has been deposited or emptied into the glass, so what you had at the virgin birth was deity being poured into humanity.
So, all that made God, God was poured into human flesh so that apart from sin God became a man in the person of Jesus Christ. He emptied himself into humanity. And why did he do that? So he could be with us, so that he could be human in every aspect of the word apart from sin, while at the same time being God, and go through the growth and development process that every human being goes through without losing his deity. So, what you're dealing with: fully God, fully man wrapped up in one person, the unique person of Jesus Christ. And so, it says he emptied himself and made himself in the likeness of men. "And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient even to the point of death". The Old Testament prophesied that one day there would come a Messiah, and when this Messiah came, he would come through the legal and the biological lineage of David.
Now, I need you to follow me on this one. The whole Old Testament said there will come a King and this King will be God in the flesh, and he has to come through the line of Judah, via the lineage of David, because there were a lot of lineages in the line of Judah, but it had to come through this one line that would be through the lineage of David. Now, there are two genealogical records in the Scripture. One is the record of Joseph, and the other is the record of Mary, the most boring parts of the Bible, the parts you don't wanna read and that you skip over when you read your Bible. God never wastes words, and so what the Bible had to show was that Jesus Christ could be proven to be the one that had been prophesied in the Old Testament.
So, when you read the genealogical record, it designates that Jesus Christ is from the line of David both biologically and legally. One story is in a whole book of the Bible called the book of Ruth. Ruth wasn't even a Jew. She was a Moabitess, but because she followed Naomi, her mother-in-law, back to Israel and met Boaz, got married to Boaz, Boaz was a Jewish man. She had a baby named Obed, Obed had a baby named Jesse, and Jesse became the father of David, so God even reached to a foreign country to get her to the right country, to meet the right man so that they could be in the right lineage to fulfill the list in Matthew chapter 1. He goes even further, and he traces this line, and then he comes to verse 16. "Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, by whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah". So, we get to Joseph, but if you look carefully you'll see a switch. It doesn't say Joseph was the father of Jesus. It only says Mary was the mother of Jesus.
Let me show you two words that would be easy to skip over: by whom. You need to know that "by whom" is a relative feminine pronoun. Why? 'Cause Joseph had nothing to do with this. This was totally outside of Joseph, but Jesus had to come from the legal line, so since Joseph became Jesus's stepfather, 'cause he was not his biological father, and Joseph is from the legal line of David, Jesus qualifies to be Messiah because Joseph is his legal father, even though he is not his biological dad. But according to the Jewish line, the Messiah also had to have the biology of David. That's why when you look in Luke chapter 3 there is a whole 'nother genealogy, but that's not the genealogy of Joseph. That's the genealogy of Mary, and he traces the genealogy through David biologically and comes all the way down to Mary, who is the physical mother of Jesus.
So, now God's gotta do something else. He gotta get two people to fall in love who are both from the same line, one from the legal and one from the biological, so he gets a cupid to shoot some arrows, and Joseph sees Mary, and the two fall in love, and they get engaged. But we still got a problem, because the Old Testament prophecy said that Messiah, Micah 5:2, had to be born in Bethlehem. It's like a little country town, but Jesus was prophesied: the Messiah would be born in this little town called Bethlehem, so God not only has to get two people from the line of David, one legal, one biological, to fall in love. He's also gotta get them in the right location to fulfill the prophecy the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. So enter the Roman IRS, because a census was taken and people were being taxed and had to go back to their place of birth. Joseph then had to go back to Bethlehem, which was his place of origin, in order to fulfill the Roman IRS census. He wind up going back at the exact time that it was time for Mary to give birth to her baby boy so that the prophecy would be fulfilled that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem through the right line.
See, God will deal a whole lotta stuff for you, and the God of heaven has entered into human history. And why? Because he wanted to let you feel like you experienced what it's like when God is sitting right next to you. And guess what else he wanted? He wanted to know what it feels like for man to sit next to him. You see, God in his core essence is a spirit. The Bible is clear in John 4 that God is a spirit and that he is not in his essence corporal. That is, he's not in his essence physical, so he knows all about you, but he wants to feel you, okay? That's why when Abraham was sacrificing Isaac, and he says, "Now I know that you fear me". He says, "Because now I know what it feels like to be chosen above your own son, and I like how that feels". God wants to feel you, so God became a man, according to Hebrews chapter 4, verses 14 to 16, so that he could sympathize with our weakness. That we have a high priest who feels it, why?
Because during his 33 years on earth he went through every category of situation you now face. He went through loneliness. He went through being forsaken. He went through being rejected. He went through being crucified. He even went through death. He went through everything you're going through, so you ain't saying nothing to him that he doesn't know what you're talking about, 'cause he not only knows it informationally and academically, he knows it experientially, see? So, when you talk to Jesus, you're talking about somebody who can feel you, who not only knows you, 'cause he's God with us. No, he's not a movie. He's the real deal, and he became flesh and blood and lived among us so that we can have a personal relationship with the living and true God. That's who he is, so let's give him what he deserves. Let's give him the adoration. What should be the response?
Well, let me close with Philippians chapter 2. Here is what it says, beginning in verse 9. "For this reason, God has highly exalted Jesus," he's highly exalted him, "and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of the Father". You say, "I wish I could feel Jesus. I wish I could feel the closeness that God with us was meant to say". Well, it gives you the secret, if I can call it that, of not only knowing him, but feeling him. He says at the name of Jesus God has proclaimed that every knee should bow, every knee up in heaven, so let me tell you what's in heaven right now.
Everybody who's in heaven is paying homage to Jesus Christ, because God has declared that everybody is to give recognition to Jesus Christ. Then he says everybody on Earth is to pay homage to Jesus Christ. Then he says everybody, folk who have died, God is calling to pay homage to Jesus Christ, so here is the option. You can pay homage to him now voluntarily, or you will pay homage to him later mandatorily, but everybody is gonna have to pay homage to the Christmas miracle of Jesus Christ, so why don't we give him some real praise during the holiday season? Why don't we give him some real glory? Because this is not another man. This is Immanuel. This is God become a man, who wants to dwell among us, and all you gotta do is bow and give him the glory due his name, give him the recognition that he deserves, because he is Lord of life, and he is Lord of Christmas.
Well, let me say merry Christmas to you, and, you know, when I think about Christmas, I think about the name of Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us, all of God, all of divine nature deposited into humanity, so in Christ all that God is, is resident in the person of Jesus Christ. So, when you think of Jesus this Christmas, you're actually thinking about God Almighty, since the fullness of God dwells in him in bodily form, so I'm excited. I'm excited about Christmas because I'm excited about Jesus, and since God became a man, the incarnation in the person of Jesus Christ, you have someone relating to you this holiday season who can really relate to you, because when God became a man he came into the realities of life, the realities of oppression, the reality of social conflict, the reality of poverty, the reality of family struggle, the reality of life and death, so in Jesus you have a real person who is really also God.
So, as you get together with family and friends and as you celebrate all the things that will make up this holiday, I hope that you will remember the name Immanuel, God with us. Unto us, unto us a son is given, but a child is born. That's the incarnation right there. That's God with us. Stay close to Jesus, because in staying close to Jesus you are really staying close to God. Merry Christmas, God bless you, and remember his name is Immanuel.