3rd Wednesday of Lent
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ, Can you even imagine a scene in heaven like this? Try to picture it. The Father speaking to his beloved Son: “Son, the only way to free humanity from sin’s curse is for you to take on human flesh, to put yourself in their place, to become a speck of cells in a woman’s womb, to be born as a helpless human child, to become a human so you can be the perfect substitute for humans, not only subjecting yourself to every law, but also dying the punishment they deserve on the cross.” Well, we don’t really know how the dialogue went back in eternity when God already planned our salvation, but we do know his response: absolute willing obedience to the Father’s plan and absolute wondrous love for filthy sinners!
So, at just the right time, Christ who was God from all eternity became true man. He didn’t give up his deity as God but added humanity to his person. He became the God-man, one person, both a divine nature and a human nature. What an incredible plan of salvation. As God, Christ gave the laws, as man he obeyed them. As the God-man his perfect life now counts for you and me! As God he could not die, as man he was mortal. As the God-man he did die, and with his blood made the sufficient payment for all sins!
Some 700 years before Jesus’ birth, God foretold this through Isaiah: “The virgin will be with child and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” Some months before Jesus’ birth an angel told Joseph the same thing “Immanuel.” Very simply the name means “God with us.” Well, let’s take a look at what this wondrous name- how Jesus’ proved to be Immanuel and how the fact that he is Immanuel helps us.
Not very many recognized Jesus for who he really was “God with us” while he lived on earth because Jesus set aside the full use of his divine power for a time. There were glimpses of it. One such glimpse was on the night of his betrayal. I wonder if we had a chance to talk to this Malchus what he would say about Jesus. As he touched his ear that Peter had rashly cut off and Jesus had lovingly healed. “Who is this Jesus anyway?” “Where did he get such power?”
The soldiers came up to Jesus with their ropes to tie his hands- they must have wondered too. This was far different from arresting just some ordinary criminal! They came as a detachment of soldiers – 1/10 of a legion- a large group, to do what? Arrest a dangerous rebel who has 11 cronies with him- one of whom has defected to us. They came like the swat team going in with their swords and clubs and lanterns. They were prepared to fight. But what happened? “I am he.” And they all collapsed! I’m guessing when they were about to slap the handcuffs on him they were a bit hesitant. They arrested…but really? They could hardly say they overpowered him and subdued him, it was more he allowed them to arrest him, he willingly let them arrest him. Isn’t that amazing?? This was not just an ordinary man they arrested, this was Immanuel, God with us, who in wondrous love for us was going quietly and willingly to the slaughter!
And think about it a bit further. It wasn’t as if Jesus could say, “I didn’t know where all this would lead to.” In verse 4 we’re told “Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, ‘Who is it you want?’” This God-man, Immanuel, knew what was coming. He knew the cruel punches that would bruise his face. He knew the sharp thorns that would rip his scalp. The sadistic whip that would chew up his back. The cruel nails that would puncture his flesh. The fires of hell that would sear his soul. All this he knew and yet he willingly allowed them to tie his hands. He could have snapped those ropes like they were nothing, he could have called down 72,000 angels to surround him, but he didn’t. His willing love tied his hands tighter than any rope, his willing love led him to carry out the Father’s plan of salvation.
Do we want proof that he’s Immanuel? More so, do we want proof that he truly loves us? Just look in that Garden as the God-man, Immanuel, is arrested. How could we doubt this glorious fact as we are watching this take place?
So, his name is Immanuel- it fits him, we’ve seen proof of that. Now, let’s see what it means for us. Is there a promise in this name for us? Well, first, our God is not some God who is far distant from us, who is unconcerned about us and our lives, who could care less, glancing at us from thousands of miles away from time to time, He here with us in our sins, not to cause them or to share in them, but to save us from them. We don’t have to fear his presence with us, as if he’s checking up on us, keeping tabs on us to see how often we fail. Instead he’s here with us in his Word with these comforting words, “Go in peace, your sins are forgiven.” He’s there in the Lord’s Supper, giving us the very body and blood that he used to pay for our sins. Immanuel has promised never to leave us or forsake us, but to surround us with his forgiveness.
He’s also “God with us” in our troubles. He knows what they are like- he’s suffered many of them himself. Is it grief from losing a loved one? He knows, he wept at Lazarus’ death. Is it temptation that never seems to leave us alone? He knows, he faced Satan’s relentless attacks from the beginning of his ministry. Is it loneliness brought on by unfaithful friends? He knows, Judas betrayed him, Peter denied him. Not only does he know our troubles, but he also has the power as God-man to help us.
He’s also “God with us” in our feeble attempts to serve him. When it’s two steps forward and three steps backward on our path to serve him, he knows. When our old sinful nature keeps getting the upper hand in our lives, he knows. He’s there to whisper in our ears, “Don’t give up. Remember, I’ve paid for your sins, I remember them no more. I’m here in the Word and the Water and the Wine to strengthen you so you can walk closer with me. I am God with you.
And he will be “God with us” when our last moment comes. We don’t know when that will be. But we do know who will be there at our side when it comes. When the shadows of the valley of death lengthen, we remember, “I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” He’s well acquainted with the valley of death, because he’s walked through it before us and will be with us to lead us through. Death can’t harm us anymore because he’s paid our sin and our debt. What comfort to know that our walk here will end in heaven at his side to hear him say to us, “Now I am always with you.”
Look in this Garden of Gethsemane once more, don’t you see what wondrous love our Immanuel has? Hear him, “Don’t you see, I let them tie me so I might untie you!” “Don’t you see, with the crimson scissors of my blood I’ve cut through the cords of sin that bound you for Satan’s serve and hell’s confinement. “Don’t you see, you’re free, free from sin, free from Satan, free from death, free to live for me on earth, free to live with me forever in heaven.
Let us never lose sight of our Immanuel and His wondrous love for us! Amen.