God With Us
There are several ways of referring to Jesus—Son of Man, Son of God, Son of David, Lord, Christ, Savior, Messiah. Another one is Immanuel. Immanuel is found in Matthew 1:23 and is a reference to Isaiah 7:14. The Gospel of Matthew says that Immanuel means “God with us.”
Prophets play a big role throughout Scripture. We have those we refer to as Major Prophets who are associated with lengthy books in the Bible—Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel. There is also, as it is referred to in Jewish thought, the Book of the Twelve. We call them Minor Prophets because they are shorter books—Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habbakuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi. Then there are the prophets who play a major role in the history of Israel—people like Nathan, Elijah, and Elisha.
But of all the prophets in the Bible, not one of them claimed to be “God with us” in the flesh. From Moses to Malachi, the prophets were God’s mouthpiece. They were not God Himself. This is what sets Jesus apart from all the rest of the prophets in the Bible, as well as from those who claim to be prophets within other religions. Jesus has come not only to bring the Word of God, but to be the Word of God (John 1:14).
The notion that God dwelled in the flesh amidst creation through the person of Jesus was too much for some to accept. This largely seems to be the background for the Gospel and Letters of John. All throughout these writings, there is an emphasis on Jesus being in the flesh and having a body. Whether it be the emphasis on the Word who become flesh (John 1:1-18), Thomas who wants to touch Jesus’ resurrected body (John 20:24-29), or the insistence that “every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God” (1 John 4:2), John’s writings are meant to persuade us that Jesus was fully man and fully God. He was “God with us.”
But why does it matter? What difference does it make? It matters because it is what makes Christianity unlike any other religion. The one who we follow was a good teacher, but He was more than a good teacher. He was a prophet, but more than a prophet. In Jesus, God got down on our level. God came and lived life with us. Because of this, we have a God who sympathizes with us (Hebrews 4:15-16). He knows our struggles. He knows our pain. Put simply, He knows how much we need Him.
God is not distant, cold, and aloof. Rather, God is a “very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). This is a God unlike any other so-called god, and this is a God that I want to know.