The Real Jesus: Immanuel

Good morning and welcome to Journey Church.  My name is Phil Human and I’m one of the pastors here on staff and it’s a pleasure to introduce today a new series that we are calling the Real Jesus.  And this series is going to be a study of the life of Jesus – that begins today and will end the week after Easter.  We are going to highlight the life, the teachings, the actions and interactions of Jesus in an effort to help us understand who Jesus really is.

And the primary book we will use to study Jesus’ life is the book of Luke.  Luke is one of four books in the bible that details the life of Jesus.  And we will at times reach into these other three books – Matthew, Mark and John, but we’ll use Luke to guide our way.

Why Luke?  Well, for one thing, we find out in the very beginning of the book that Luke was written with a specific purpose in mind.  Actually – with a specific person in mind.    Check out how Luke begins his letter.

Many people have set out to write accounts about the events that have been fulfilled among us. They used the eyewitness reports circulating among us from the early disciples. Having carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I also have decided to write an accurate account for you, most honorable Theophilus, so you can be certain of the truth of everything you were taught.

Theophilus simply means Loved by God or friend of God – and it seems to be a code word for a real person.  Being identified as a follower of Jesus then as today – isn’t always a safe thing.  But what I love about Theophilus, is that he appears to be a bit skeptical.  He has his doubts.  He’s heard about stuff.  He’s even been taught stuff about Jesus.  But it seems Luke senses that Theophilus is at least some percentage skeptical.

I like him already!  We started Journey for the Theophiluses of the world!  We started Journey for the Skeptic and cynic.  For the people who are just starting out on their spiritual Journey as well as those who are restarting their faith after a pause.  And it’s for long time followers of Jesus who like being part of a church who love being part of a church whose goal is to help the Theophilus’ of the word discover the real Jesus.

Because we, like Luke, truly believe that when you discover the real Jesus you will find him irresistible.

This morning I want us to zero in on one word that Luke uses in these verses – the word appears in the first verse… and that word is “fulfilled.”   Many people have set out to write accounts about the events that have been fulfilled among us.

If we are going to study the life of Jesus – we need to start where Luke starts – and that means we need to see that the story of Jesus begins long before the manger in Bethlehem.  We need to understand that this entire Old Testament is about Jesus as well.

This Bible that I’m holding is big.  And it’s divided into two sections.  What we call the Old Testament and what we call the new.  The Old Testament begins at creation, documents the fall of mankind into rebellion and sin.  The New Testament begins with the birth of Jesus.

But the deal is that the writers of the New Testament work very hard to help us see that Jesus is in fact all over the Old Testament.

When my kids were little we read stories to them every night before bedtime.  And one of our kids favorite books was Richard Scarry’s Cars and Trucks and things that go.  And it’s filled with the shenanigans of animals who drive cars and trucks and – great little book.

But we just called it the Goldbug book.  Because the book has an interesting feature.  His name is Goldbug.  And we learn to keep an eye out for goldbug – who is very often placed in the picture somewhere – he isn’t on every page and he isn’t always conspicuous.  But once you find him you begin to see him on the other pages as well.  Can you find Goldbug in this picture?  I’m not going to tell you – you’ll have to go to our facebook page later and pause the video and find him.  Nah – Just kidding – there he is on the bottom corner!  There’s Goldbug!

My kids got so good at it that as soon as I turned a page they would put their finger on Goldbug!

Now – in some ways – finding Jesus in the Old Testament is a little bit like finding goldbug.  He isn’t always obviously placed.  And he’s not on every single page.  But there is a great joy to be found once we begin to see him.

Let me share a couple of examples of seeing Jesus in the Old Testament – when the Israelites are about to be freed from Egypt – they are instructed to observe the Passover meal.  What do they do during the meal?  They kill a lamb – and the blood of the lamb is placed over the doorway of the home – and the angel of death passes over those who have applied the blood of the lamb.

Centuries later Jesus celebrates the Passover meal with his disciples and says- this is my blood – shed for sins of the world.

That is what we call a “type” of Jesus – it’s not actually Jesus but it’s a signpost pointing toward Jesus – the Passover meant something very special to the Jewish nation as they remembered to God delivering them from bondage through the blood of the lamb.  They didn’t know that it was also a sign pointing – not only backward – but forward – to the day Jesus, the lamb of God, would die to free whosoever wishes to be freed, from the tyranny of slavery to our sin.

So when Luke says that Jesus fulfilled promises and prophecies given to us in the Old Testament, he is taking a moment to make sure Theophilus understands the NT isn’t just stapled onto the back of the OT- it’s a completion of it.  It’s one work.  Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament.

If you are interested in learning more about this – then I’d say crack open the book of Matthew – who goes to great lengths to specify all the ways in which Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament – and all you have to do is look at the footnotes and note how many times Matthew directly references Old Testament passages.

Which brings us to these verses I’d like to read from Matthew.  A great example of how the New Testament shows Jesus as the fulfillment of the Old – and also a wonderful passage to study just 12 days from Christmas. This is from Matthew 1.  And we jump into the story of an angel appearing to Joseph who was engaged to be married to Mary.

20 As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

22 All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet:

And here I where Matthew is going to directly quote from the Old Testament book of Isaiah, chapter 7:14, written 750 years before Jesus was born.

23 “Look! The virgin will conceive a child!
She will give birth to a son,
and they will call him Immanuel,
which means ‘God with us.’”

With the remaining time this morning, I want to answer three questions.  Who is Jesus?  Where is Jesus, and how do I find Jesus?

First – who is Jesus.  And we must begin with the Bibles claim that Jesus is God.  The Real Jesus is…  God with us.  The bible insists, and Christianity insists, that Jesus is God in the flesh.  This is what Christmas is all about.  God become flesh.

I remember reading a thoughtful article a couple of years ago in the NY Times by a writer who asked a pastor, “Can I be a Christian if I don’t believe in Christmas? Must I believe he is God in the flesh?   “Why can’t I just believe Jesus is a great moral teacher?”  Sounds like a Theophilus to me?

And the answer is simply this…  Christmas is the most important claim in the Bible.  If Christmas isn’t true, then Christianity isn’t true.

Some might say that the resurrection of Jesus, that we celebrate on Easter, is most important, but if Jesus is not fully, completely God in the flesh, If he is not “God with us”, then the resurrection means very little actually.

All of Christianity hinges on Christmas being true.  That almighty God became a baby.  That God came near.  Who is Jesus?  Jesus is Immanuel – God with us.

The Bible insists that Jesus is God with us.

Now, sometimes skeptics want to say – show me where Jesus says he is God.  And I’ll say again – once you see Goldbug you’ll see him everywhere.  And so in the New Testament you see many ways in which Jesus invites people to see him as divine.

And we will see it over the next few weeks- but let me throw this out there.    When you read the bible, you will come across a story about Peter and Barnabus and they go to a city and perform miracles and the people of the city fall down and begin to worship Paul and Barnabus!  And they say – get up.  We’re just men.

Peter gets visited by a man named Cornelius, Peter heals Cornelius and Cornelius falls to his feet to worship – Peter says – get up!  I’m only a man.

In Revelation John is taken up into the heavenlies by an angel and the things he sees is so overwhelming that he falls to his knees in worship and the angel says – what are you doing?  Get up – I’m a created being just like you.

And yet – what about Jesus?  There are multiple occasions recorded in the Gospels where it says the disciples worshipped him and Jesus allows it.  After walking on water and calming the storm?  Then the disciples worshiped him. “You really are the Son of God!” they exclaimed. Matthew 14:33

He never says – stop it I’m just a man like you.  He welcomes their worship.

Why?  Because Jesus is God.

It’s no small thing to remember that the early church grew like crazy and it grew because jewish people were worshipping Jesus.  And of all the people on earth the Jewish nation was known to worship no one but God himself.  The Roman Emperors would demand their people to worship Caesar – they gave the jewish people a pass because they knew it’s never going to happen – there will be war before they bend the knee to anyone but God himself.

It’s throngs of Jewish people – worshipping a man who was recently killed by state execution.  How could this be?  Because they came to see that all of their scriptures were about Him.    It’s because they recognized that Jesus is Immanuel – God with us.

Who is Jesus?  He is God in the flesh.  And secondly – where is Jesus?  He is God – with us!

He is not absent.  He has not abandoned us.  He is not far away – he does not live on the other side of the galaxy.  He is as near to you as that mask you don’t like wearing on your face!

Jesus is God with us – not against us.

He is with us in the grime of life.  He is with us – in our worst failures – he is with us in the trenches as we fight against the woo of our sinful selfish nature.

He is with us.  He will never abandon us.  He will never forsake us. His final words to his disciples was – even though you aren’t going to be able to put your eyeballs on me – I want you to know that I will always be with you.  I will never leave you.  I will not abandon you.

Adam and Eve used to walk that close with God.  Sin broke the relationship and caused a dividing wall between them and God.  God punched a hole through that dividing wall by becoming one of us.  To show us what God is really like.  To pay the spiritual debt we owed.  He put it on his tab and paid the price.

When God decided to become a human in order to save our lives, he chose the most vulnerable, humble way imaginable to send the message that he is approachable.  He is God with us.

Not only is God WITH us – Jesus shows us that he is God FOR us!  Do you know that God wants to be with you?  That Jesus – not only loves you, but he likes you?

Or have you been taught that God is simmering with rage and easily angered – that it’s best to lay low and try not to be noticed?  He’s willing to put up with you so long as you behave?  Otherwise!  The backhand of God awaits.

I remember going on trips with my dad and me and my brothers would start getting a little too annoying to my dad and all of a sudden the hand would reach back and just start smacking whoever it found.  We were dodging and ducking the hand!

Some people think that’s God.  You don’t behave and the hand!

Maybe that’s why God became a baby.  I’ve never met a baby simmering with rage.  I’ve met some temporarily grumpy babies – but I’ve never said to anyone – let’s stay out of that babies way – we don’t want to get on the wrong of that baby.

Jesus is God with us, and that’s good news for each of us, because He goes on to live a remarkable life of love.  People flock to him.  They run to be near him.  There is no kind of person he does not treat with dignity.  There is no person excluded from his love.

Author Max Lucado writes:  The moment Mary touched God’s face is the moment God made his case: there is no place he will not go. If he is willing to be born in a barnyard, then expect him to be at work anywhere— bars, bedrooms, boardrooms, and brothels. No place is too common. No person is too hardened. No distance is too far. There is no person he cannot reach. There is no limit to his love.

Jesus is God.  Immanuel, God – with us.  God for us.

Now for the last question.  Who is Jesus?  Jesus is God in the flesh.  Where is Jesus?  He is with us.  As close to us as the breath on our arm.  And the last question, How do I find Jesus?

The answer is by turning.  Turn towards him.

Here’s a wonderful sentence that comes in the middle of a sermon delivered by Paul to a group of people in Athens Greece.  It’s a sermon he begins by commending the people of Athens for their spirituality.  He says – everywhere I go I see statues to Gods – obviously you are seeking the truth about God – and Paul says – perhaps that’s why he led Paul to them.  This is what Paul says…

24 “He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since he is Lord of heaven and earth, he doesn’t live in man-made temples, 25 and human hands can’t serve his needs—for he has no needs. He himself gives life and breath to everything, and he satisfies every need. 

27 “His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us. 28 For in him we live and move and exist.

Where is Jesus?  I’m telling you the same thing Paul said.  He is not far from any of us.  He is God with us.

And all it takes is for us to turn our face toward him.

Can I show you how that crowd in Athens responded?  Acts 17

32 When they heard Paul speak….

some laughed in contempt,

but others said, “We want to hear more about this later.” 33 That ended Paul’s discussion with them, 

34 but some joined him and became believers.

Those are your three options.  You can snicker in contempt.  Or you can say – I’m curious and I’m looking forward to learning more – which is fine.  But you can also say, right now in your heart, I’m ready to follow Jesus.

And you will become alive spiritually in a way you never knew possible.  Right now – in your heart – do you feel God asking you to take a step of faith towards him?  Do you think highly enough of Jesus to trust him with your life?

Then today, December 13, 2020, is the day you will be reborn.

Who is the Real Jesus?  He is Immanuel, God with us.