First Immanuel, Then Jesus
Text: Matthew 1:18-25
Proposition: The virgin birth of Jesus Christ brought man and God together in essence and then in relationship, eternally.
Introduction: There’s a great quote of Matthew Henry that goes like this: “By the light of nature, we see God as a God above us; by the light of the law, we see him as a God against us; but by the light of the gospel, we see him as Immanuel, God with us, in our own nature, and (which is more) in our interest.” When people see sunsets and majestic mountains and the beauty of all kinds on animals, birds, fish and even reptiles… that’s the light of nature and we conclude there is an intelligent designer, there is a great God above. When people consider the 10 commandments, the Law that Scripture reveals, we see how far short of it we are in our everyday lives. The Law is like a dentist’s light, it can’t take away the decay it can only expose it. The light of the Law exposes sin and declares that sin and holiness are at opposite ends and we see God as being against us. Ahhh, but by the light of the gospel we read of a virgin birth, we read of the Holy Spirit bringing about conception in a young woman named Mary. We read about God entering into humanity, we call that Immanuel, With Us, God. In our nature refers to the human nature, the condition of mortality, a place of dependence on water, food and sleep and the needs of hope and community. In our interest refers to the very purpose of God on our behalf. If the virgin birth is too amazing for you, the idea of God being willing to take on death, the consequence or wages of sin, to die on our behalf that in our interest we would be reconciled to Him eternally, that is more amazing than all. Jesus, His name means Jehovah is Salvation, came close in order to take our place. Immanuel, God with us, was so that Jesus, God is our Salvation, could occur... first Immanuel, then Jesus. Turn with me to Matthew 1:18-25.
I. Immanuel, A Plan That God Wants You To Know About.
Have you ever had your plans interrupted, maybe a trip you were planning that can’t happen because the car left you a message on the garage floor. Maybe it was a plan for fun and work interrupted it. I’m thinking that Joseph had a plan to love a young woman, to marry her, to have a family and to live a simple life in Nazareth. He’d proposed marriage, she’d accepted. Soon they would formerly wed, but right now, even in the engagement, they were husband and wife. He hadn’t seen Mary for about three months since she was visiting her cousin Elizabeth near a little village called Bethlehem. When he next meets her Mary tells Joseph that she is pregnant. Have you ever had your plans interrupted? Joseph did. Though the penalty for adultery was death by stoning, Joseph seeks to quietly divorce Mary, quietly let her go, quietly explode inside. Though the virgin birth and incarnation of Christ are what causes us Christmas joy, they came about by interrupted plans, interrupted lives. Then, just as Joseph begins to put in place another plan, a painful plan to divorce, God interrupts again. It seems when God interrupts our lives it’s because He has a plan we haven’t heard of, He has a plan that’s greater than we could ever imagine and even in the pain and inconvenience it brings to us, that plan includes us in what He wants to do. Here’s the amazing part, God wants you to know what that plan is. This is true in our account with Joseph but it’s also true in your life here today. Look what He tells Joseph: 1. You are a son of David… that’s the family that you belong to, the Promises I’ve made to this family belong to you; 2. Don’t be afraid… Mary is still your wife, she has not betrayed you, I have not betrayed you, trust Me and take her as your wife; 3. The child she carries is of Me, the Holy Spirit, call His name Jesus; 4. He will save His people from their sins… His people have a problem that they are helpless to overcome, He will save them from their sins.
It’s here that the gospel writer Matthew inserts an editorial note. Inspired by the Holy Spirit Matthew says that all this happened according to what was prophesied 700 years earlier by the prophet Isaiah, “Behold the virgin shall be with child and bear a Son and they shall call His name Immanuel.” God has interrupted Joseph’s life and He has interrupted your life by telling you His plan, Immanuel, God with us. It’s not God above you, it’s not God against you, it’s God with you! The virgin birth was so that deity, the very reality of Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity, the One who was in beginning with God and was God, was now entering into humanity as the incarnated Son of God. Does God know what the warmth of the sun feels like, does He know what it means to sweat, to ache, to be hungry? Does God know how to laugh, how to hold little children, how to touch a lepers face? Does He know what it feels like to be alone, does He know how to pray and is He aware of what it feels like to die? Immanuel…Immanuel... Immanuel!
The purpose of God with us is that He would be like us, our representative. The purpose of Immanuel is that He would be like us but with one great exception, He would not have a nature to sin and would not have done any sin. The virgin birth broke the cycle of generational transmission of a sin nature by only one half being human while the other half is divine. The God-man is who Immanuel is, like us as our representative head, unlike us as the only sinless man. Hebrews 4:15 puts it like this, “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” First Immanuel, first God with us in every way the perfect man, without sin, like Adam, yet now perfectly obedient to God the Father. First Immanuel incarnate God with us, so that first hand we would know what God looks like it terms of character, in personality, in conduct, in command. Jesus said, “If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father.”(Jn. 14:9) Because of Immanuel we know the plan of God and even more we know God in a way we never could have else wise. Because of Immanuel we know He knows us, first Immanuel… then Jesus.
II. Jesus, A Man In Which You Can Stand.
Have you ever vouched for another person, that is, have you ever put your name on the line so that they can be excused some error or wrong action? Maybe it was for your kids, they broke your neighbors window, they trampled your neighbors rose bush and you vouched for your kids. You may have even paid the damages for the broken window because, after all, it was a triple pane picture window, eight feet wide and ten feet tall. It would have been impossible for your kids to pay for that, so you did. When the angel told Joseph, “…you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”, he was saying that Jesus would vouch for His people, he was saying it would be impossible for His people to pay, so Jesus would do what His people couldn’t do for themselves. He would save them from their sins. Jesus can do that because He is Immanuel, God with us. Jesus can do that because He is without sin and is a perfect sacrifice that takes away the sin of the world. Jesus in essence says to the Father, “These are My people, the Jews first but also the Gentiles. They know from the evidence of creation that there is a God and that they are under God, under His power, under His purposes and under His plan. They have heard of your Word, they know about the Bible and they have come to know your Law. It has exposed their sin and they know that sin is what puts them at odds with You Almighty and Holy God. They know that because of sin You are against them. Now these have come to know that You have sent Me, Immanuel and that you have made My name known to them, Jesus… God is Salvation. Father I give myself for them, put what is owed you from them because of sin, put that on Me. I will… to take their place. For this reason You sent Me. Father forgive them their sin eternally, draw them to this understanding and help them to take their stand in Me by faith. Cover them with Me.”
The wonder of the virgin birth is amazing, but the purpose of Immanuel is breath taking and the act of Jesus…well it’s incomparable! We stand amazed. Now we choose by faith to take our stand in the sinless man Jesus, in the Lord God Jesus, in our High Priest Jesus, in our King Jesus. Help us to remember 2 Corinthians 5:20, 21, “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us, we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”