Jesus is God With Us
Topic: Christmas Passage: Matthew 1:18–1:25
The various names for Jesus found in scripture tell us who Jesus is and how he comes to us. In different places he is called Savior, Prince of Peace, Redeemer, Son of God, and many other names, and all of these names together paint a more accurate portrait of Jesus so that we can know him more and trust him more. Matthew’s account of the birth of Christ is the only gospel that refers back to Isaiah’s prophecy that they would call his name Emmanuel, God with us.
As we prepare to celebrate Christmas, as we meditate on the meaning of Christmas, we want to remember that this is who Jesus is. Not just God, God with us. And not just with us, God with us. Let’s consider these two attributes – Jesus is God and Jesus is with us – one at a time.
I. Jesus is God with us
Jesus isn’t just a good man, a great teacher, or even, as the Jehovah Witnesses believe, the first and most glorious of created beings. Jesus is the second Person of the Trinity, fully and truly God. There is only one God – the Trinity is the mystery that the One God manifests Himself in Three distinct Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Each Person of the God-hood is fully God. Not 1/3rd of God but fully God.
Matthew quotes the prophecy in Isaiah that a virgin would conceive and bear a son, and Matthew alone gives us a glimpse into the scandal that this produced. Mary was betrothed to a man named Joseph when she was found with child. Now when we think of betrothal we probably think it was something like being engaged to be married, but it was a much higher commitment than that. Engagements are a serious step but engagements are broken all the time. To be betrothed was to pledge before witnesses that the couple was to be married to one another. Essentially it was being married without the living together. So when Joseph discovered that Mary was with child it broke his heart and it required a response akin to divorce. The question for Joseph was how he would divorce Mary and because he was a just and kind man he decided to put Mary away quietly without dragging her name through the mud and exposing her to a very public scandal. Even though from his perspective Mary was guilty of an unspeakable offense against him, even so he was concerned about Mary’s welfare and wanted to protect her as much as he could. God came to Joseph in a dream and revealed to him that this child was not the product of unfaithfulness but was conceived of the Holy Spirit and would save his people for their sins.
The virgin birth is one of the most scoffed at miracles in the Bible. A friend was visiting C.S. Lewis in his office one day and as they were talking they could hear carolers outside the window singing a carol that referenced the virgin birth. The friend, who wasn’t a believer, said to CS Lewis, “Isn’t it good that we now know better than they did.” CS Lewis asked, “what do you mean?” “Well, isn’t it good that we now know more than they did.” “I’m afraid you’re gonna have to explain what you mean.” CS Lewis said. “Well, isn’t it good that we now know that virgins don’t have babies.” CS Lewis looked at him and said with amazement, “Don’t you think they knew that? That is the whole point!”
That is the whole point: Jesus wasn’t an ordinary baby. He was born God with us. The Incarnation is the miracle of God the Son putting on human flesh, being born as a baby. And Jesus wasn’t just faking his babyhood. He wasn’t faking his weakness, his dependency, his helplessness – he took on human nature with all its limitations and weaknesses and he was truly born a baby. Jesus emptied himself of the full use of His divinity – embracing the limitations of a man – without ever losing any of those attributes.
In the incarnation you have these amazing paradoxes existing at one time in the person of Jesus: Jesus was infinite, existing for all of eternity, and Jesus was born, drawing his first breath on his first day of human life. Jesus was all-powerful, Jesus was born a helpless babe. Jesus was the glorious king of heaven, Jesus was born in the poverty and humility of a dirty stable in Bethlehem. Jesus is God with us.
And because Jesus is God and man, he alone was able to mediate between God and man. 1 Timothy 2:5 says, For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all…
As Jesus hung on the cross, he hung there as the one and only perfect mediator between God and man because he was God and he was man. He hung there as a man – a righteous man giving his life as a substitute for sinful man. And he hung there as God – for only an infinite being could absorb the infinite punishment for all people.
I want you to jump into the deep end of the pool with me for a moment so that we can contemplate the beauty and mystery of the atoning death of Jesus. Let’s say that hypothetically a man (who wasn’t God) could live a perfectly righteous and sinless life. Such a man would not need to die for sin then because he had none. But he could not die and pay for the sins of the world like Jesus did because one man could never take all the sins of the world on his shoulders or pay fully for the countless sins of countless people. The Bible says that the punishment for sin is eternal death – punishment forever and ever and ever and yet the debt created by sin is never, ever paid, not even over eternity. The punishment of hell isn’t redemptive – it has no power to cleanse or atone for sin. So for one man to take on another man’s debt he would have to pay forever and still would never pay the debt, much less take on the sins of the whole world.
Here’s the amazing thing: Jesus didn’t suffer for eternity, he suffered for a few hours on the cross. And yet in those few hours he accomplished what the eternal torment of hell cannot accomplish: he paid for our sin. He satisfied the Father’s wrath for our sin perfectly. And not just for one person or two or two million, but for the entire world – so that anyone who believes in him would never perish but have eternal life.
How could he do that? It’s a miracle and a mystery, but the answer is inextricably connected to Jesus being God. He was not a finite being with a finite capacity for love or suffering or righteousness or wrath. He was an infinite Being – God with us – and thus had an infinite capacity to absorb an infinite amount of wrath in a short time.
Let me give a crude analogy. Suppose you were given a container about the size of a soup can – representing our capacity as humans - and told that you needed to pour all the oceans of the world into that container. There is no way you could do it. Now suppose that container was two inches in diameter but infinite in depth – now the oceans of the world could be poured into that container and there would still be infinite room left. Crude, but maybe it helps us to see and be amazed that it wasn’t the length of suffering on the cross but the depth of Jesus’ suffering that enabled Jesus to absorb and exhaust in a short time an amount of wrath that sinners would face for eternity and never exhaust. When we consider the birth of Christ this Christmas, let’s remember how necessary the Incarnation is to the saving work of Jesus Christ. He was – and is – God with us.
II. Jesus is God with us
Meditating on Jesus being God reminds us that Jesus isn’t like us – he isn’t just another man, he’s God. It is appropriate to come to Jesus like the magi, to worship the King in reverence and awe. But that’s not the whole story of Christmas. Jesus was (and is) God with us. And here we find another paradox: He became a man, he drew near, he put on all the challenges that comes with humanity: the hardships, the heartaches, the temptations, the tears, the disappointments, the frustrations, the weaknesses, all of that without sin. He’s not like us, but he is like us. He drew near, and he continues to draw near to the worst and most broken of sinners to this day.
The Incarnation doesn’t just describe Jesus’ birth, it describes his life. He incarnated every time he saw a suffering person and felt compassion. He didn’t just answer questions or fix problems, he felt what the sufferer was feeling. He drew near (incarnated) the leper who was lonely and desperate and isolated and unable to touch or even be near his wife or children. Cut off from all human interaction, especially human touch he cried out to Jesus for mercy. Jesus didn’t just say, “yeah, you’re healed, move on!” He spoke tenderly, “I’m willing to cleanse you…” and knowing he was starved for human contact he reached out and touched him. Incarnation. God with us.
Jesus incarnated when he asked the blind man who was crying out for Jesus, what he wanted him to do for him. He could have just assumed the guy wanted his sight, just healed him and gone on to the next project. But people weren’t projects and efficiency wasn’t the goal of his mission. He drew near the man and asked him as a human being, what would you have me do for you? “I want to see” was the man’s answer.
ILL: I read that many people in Newtown, CT were taking down their Christmas decorations and lights after the horrifying shooting at the elementary school last week. For them the celebration of Christmas is inappropriate – just a brutally cold reminder that there are many who will not be opening up gifts this Tuesday.
How does Jesus come to Newtown, CT? He comes as God with us. He draws near to them in a way that he alone is uniquely able to do. For those who have lost their innocent little boys or girls, Jesus comes as the one truly Innocent who was murdered by evil men with evil motives. He felt their unreasoning and unjustified rage and anger and hatred. He felt the injustice of being savagely and brutally executed for no reason.
The King of heaven came to this dark world and he didn’t give himself diplomatic immunity from our suffering and grief. He bore it, and bore it to a higher degree than any other human being will ever bear it. He is God with us. So he comes to the suffering and broken hearted in Newtown and anywhere else in the world and he feels compassion for their grief. I believe he cries with them as he draws near to them. Jesus wept with Mary and Martha over Lazarus even though he knew he would raise him in just a few short minutes, I don’t think it’s far-fetched to think that Jesus weeps with those bereaved of their precious children never to see them again in this world. Jesus is God with us.
Are you going through a hard time right now? Oh, I know it doesn’t compare to the suffering of those in Newtown or so many others in the world, but Jesus draws near to you in the trial you’re in now. Don’t feel that your trial has to measure up so high before Jesus cares about what you’re going through. Last week Janice and I were able to go out for a short date night. We only had an hour and a half but we felt we needed to get some time together. It had been a stressful day and in some ways a challenging week and as we were driving, Janice asked me how I was doing. I answered, "Better than I deserve…but not as good as I want." Just being honest. About 3 minutes later our van got a flat tire. Half of our short date night was my changing the flat tire.
Through the mercy of Christ those of us trusting in him as our Savior are doing better than we deserve because God’s wrath has been removed and we have been adopted as His beloved sons and daughters. That is a truth we should always keep before us and rejoice in it. But we have bad weeks too – not bad in comparison with Newtown, but challenging – and Jesus isn’t afraid to hear us be honest about that. In our sad times, our rough times, our stressed out times, our weak times, and our mountaintop times, our victories, our accomplishments, our successes and our failures, in all of it, Jesus is God with us. He draws near and is near and is our friend and companion.
Christmas is a time of joy – but it’s a joy that is just as strong in the valleys as it is on the mountaintops – not based on everything going well for us or our lives being protected from hardships, trials, disappointments, stresses, and maybe even heart-wrenching tragedies. It’s a joy based on Jesus being God with us. As we come to the manger this Christmas we see a babe lying in a manger – God with us. And as we look at the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry just before he ascended to heaven – just before he, in a sense, left us, he promised his disciples down through the corridors of time:
“And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20
Jesus is God with us, and having him with us is more than enough to get us through, and more than enough reason to celebrate! Let’s stand together.