God with us!

One of the most amazing aspects of Christianity is the fact of the incarnation.  That the God who creating everything would Himself become human, all the while remaining full divine, should never cease to amaze us.  When Jesus became a man, we learn that “He is the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15, ESV) and “in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell” (Colossians 1:19, ESV).  When we look at Jesus, we are seeing God.  Jesus was and is the clearest revelation of who God really is.

I was thinking today about living the “with God life,” to borrow a phrase from Richard Foster and others, and I began thinking about a verse from Matthew 1.  At the beginning of his gospel, Matthew tells us that when Jesus was born it fulfilled a prophecy that “‘they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us).” (1:23, ESV)  I have read this verse many times before.  Probably so many that I need to slow down and think about the importance of that verse again.  God Himself came down to be “with us.”  God’s love drove Him to reach out to the very creation that turned against Him by coming to us in the most personal way He could, as a human Himself.

What struck me as I was thinking, however, was that Matthew did not just begin his gospel by telling us that God was with us.  He ends it the same way.  The very last words Jesus speaks in Matthew’s gospel are an assurance to His disciples (and to us) that He is “with [us] always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20, ESV)  Did Matthew intend to start and end his gospel with a reminder that in Jesus God is with us?  I’m not sure, but it stands out all the same.

Not only was God with us in Jesus when He was born and walked among us, but He is with us even now, after the resurrection, and He will continue to be with us until the end of the age!  What a powerful truth if we could grasp it fully.

What is interesting is that I have found myself thinking many times that if only Jesus were here, I could follow Him better or be influenced by Him more.  Jesus, however, told us the opposite.  It is by His going away that we are truly able to be influenced by Him.  Jesus said, “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” (John 16:7, ESV)  We often wish we could have Jesus here in person like the disciples did.  Christ, however, told us that “it is to [our] advantage” (it is better) that He left and sent the Holy Spirit.  While He was here, he was localized; He was only in one place at a time, and only those near Him could benefit from His presence.  After the ascension, however, He can be with and in all of us at the same time and at all times through the Holy Spirit.

Let us always live with the knowledge that God is with us.  Not that God was with us in the past when Jesus was on Earth, but He is currently with us now through the Holy Spirit, and He is with us in a deeper and more intimate way than He was when He was with the disciples before He ascended.  What a wonderful truth!

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