February 20, 2013: Names of Wondrous Love—Immanuel

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, WHO IS GOD WITH US EVEN THIS VERY NIGHT!

TEXT: John 18: 3-12

Dearly Beloved By Our God-Born Brother, Jesus Christ:
Immanuel. It literally means: “God with us.” Only twice does that blessed name appear in the Old Testament. Both times it is found in Isaiah—the most known reference is chapter 7: “A virgin will conceive and birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” We know that’s a reference to Christ’s virgin birth. But it’s also another name filled with wondrous love. Tonight we get to see why.

NAMES OF WONDROUS LOVE—IMMANUEL

I

When Jesus walked this earth few recognized that He was “God with us.” That’s because He usually laid aside His divine power, especially so when walking to Calvary. However, that night outside Gethsemane we get a glimpse of that power. What would Malchus tell us about Jesus’ power today? After the awful pain of getting his ear sliced off, having it bleed and throb and then Jesus restoring it in one fell swoop, did Malchus give any thought to Jesus and His divine authority?

The soldiers who came to tie Jesus’ hands must have wondered, too. How different this arrest had been from all their previous criminal apprehensions? They had come armed to the teeth and expecting a fight or a flight. But this Jesus tells His followers to put their arms away. He offers Himself up to them. And this occurs after Christ somehow knocked all the soldiers to the ground and stunned them, kind of like getting punched with an invisible hand. So they arrest Him. But did they really apprehend Him or overpower Him? Hardly. No, He came willingly! As Isaiah had prophesied: “He came like a lamb to the slaughter.” Such is the nature of this Immanuel.

And what about the One they arrested? In vs. 4 we’re told: “Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, ‘Who is it you want?” Ah, but He already knew the answer, didn’t He? As the true God-man He knew exactly what was coming. He knew the punches coming that would bruise His face. He knew about the sharp thorns that would rip His brow. He knew about the cruel whip that would lay His back open and the awful spikes that would pierce His hands and feet. He knew of the coming fires of hell that would sear His soul. Nonetheless, He let them bind Him. He could have torn those ropes like Samson of old. With one snap of a finger He could have summoned 72,000 angels to guard Him. He had the power. He had already used it to throw them all to the ground. Yet, Immanuel permits all this suffering to take its course. Why?

You know why. He had already foretold it in John 10: 17-18: “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.” Love for His Father and us compelled Him to suffer and die. That was plan for our eternal salvation devised by and for “God with us.”

II

Immanuel is His name. We’ve just seen how this name fits. But what meaning does it have for us tonight? Is there any promise for us in that name of wondrous love? Yes! Our God is not far off in heaven sitting upon a throne and removed from the daily trials we all face. He doesn’t just “drop in” on occasion and make sure we’re still muddling along. No, He’s with us in our pain, our suffering, carrying our sins, sharing in our death. But His “with us” doesn’t stop there. No, everything He did was about saving us, comforting us, uplifting us. It is God with us Who says: “Go in peace, your sins are forgiven.” It is God with us Who says when we commune: “This is My body and blood for the forgiveness of sins.” God with us is found wherever His word of love and cleansing are present.

God with us is also present in our troubles. He knows what they feel like. The grief of a loved one dying—He wept at Lazarus’ grave. Satan’s sneaky temptations—He faced them in the wilderness and later on the cross and never succumbed. Loneliness and rejection by those near and dear?—All His disciples ran away in the garden. Betrayal? –Well, Judas and Peter span the gamut of betrayal and yet Christ still reached out in love to try to pull them back, didn’t He?

He’s also “God with us” in our feeble attempts at serving Him. A professor friend of mine once described the life of a believer as that of a drunk weaving back and forth trying to walk the straight line, yet stumbling, taking one step forward and two back and then stumbling again. It’s an apt description. Yet, when we do so, as we do so, He is there whispering in our ear: “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you. Don’t give up.”

Immanuel is there when we draw our last breath. We don’t know the time or place when that will occur, but we do know we won’t be alone. “Yea, tho I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, You are with me, Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” And mind you, God with us has already conquered death so His rod and staff cannot snap when we lean upon them for strength!

Ah, but there’s one more peek into Gethsemane comfort. See Him with His hands tied being led off to death? What is He saying to you in that image? “I let them tie me so that I might untie you. It is with the crimson scissors of my blood that I’ve cut the cords of sin and death that have bound you in Satan’s service and hell’s confinement. With my shackles you’re free—free from hopeless and helplessness. Yes, my wounds of wondrous love are all about healing you! God with us, indeed! Amen