How far would you go to keep a promise? What would you do to keep your end of a contractual agreement? How willing are you to keep your end of the deal when you know that the other party is prone to be forgetful, dishonest, lazy and unfaithful? What if your name is already attached to the agreement? Are you a man or woman of your word? Do you keep promises no matter what.
Names are that powerful. Throughout the Old Testament there were many indirect names given to God to serve as a reminder that God is the creator of the heavens and the earth. He is who He says He is. There was also power attached to His name. In Psalms, we are told that the name of God is more trustworthy than chariots, horses and anything else man devise. In Proverb, we are told that the name of God is stronger than a fortified tower.
The names of God have promises attached. He provides, He protects, He leads and He gives courage. But one of the more important names given is Immanuel — God is with us. God became God-man — both with a divine and a human nature. As God, He gave the laws. As man, He was subject to them. All for a purpose — a plan hatched before creation began when God attached His name to it. By His perfect obedience and by His death, he would satisfy the demands and make sufficient payment for our sins. Signed and sealed with God’s own blood, God kept His promise.
This is what Lent is all about. While we ponder the difficult verses in the gospels that describe in detail the hours leading up to Christ’s crucifixion, it’s important to keep in mind what’s happening. God is keeping His promises.
The arrest of Jesus Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane is a great example.
We come to a point in the life of Christ were all hope seems lost. The miraculous birth now seems to be a tragic death. While reading these verses it’s like watching a movie when you have already read the book. This is the point in the story where the good guy is being conquered, yet we already know what’s going to happen next. The story has a great ending. In the meantime, we are tempted to come to these verses and think, “Poor Jesus.” Instead, we come to these verses and insert ourselves into the story. While we watch in our mind’s eye how the drama unfolds, our thoughts ought to center on that he’s doing this for me.
So Judas came to the grove, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns, and weapons. Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked, them, “Who is it you want?” “Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. Again he asked them, “who is it you want?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth” “I told you that I am he,” Jesus answered. “If you are looking for me, then let these men go.” This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: “I have not lost one of those you gave me.” Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.” Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” Then the detachment of soldiers with its commander and the Jewish official arrested Jesus.” (John 18:3-12)
We live in a day that truth demands proof before we can place our confidence in it. We live in a time where promises are routinely broken. There is probably nothing worse than being let down, be disappointed, or be devastated when promises aren’t kept. In these short verses, we are given several proofs and promises that we can take God at His Word. In fact, there is one word, one name that we can attach to the promise and the truth. Jesus is Immanuel – God with us. He is who he says He is.
In these verses, there are three proofs that Jesus is Immanuel.
1. Notice that Jesus knew what was going to happen. He knew the soldier’s intent. He knew he was going to be betrayed by a trusted disciple. Yet he still asks a question of their intent. God always gives a way out until the very end. He doesn’t condemn until a soul condemns themselves. That’s how God works. Though he had the power to control the course of event, He still stuck to His promise. Even when the other party failed to follow through.
2. Notice how the declaration of “I am he” caused the soldiers to fall flat on the ground. We recently received a glimpse of this power when the asteroid exploded over Russia. The shockwaves caused structural and bodily damage. Jesus has the same power within him. This action declare that I AM. It was an act of mercy and grace that all of the soldiers did not perish in judgment. He is Immanuel.
3. Notice what happens after Peter cuts off the servant’s ear. The same Peter who flees the garden after the arrest and will deny Jesus three times attempts to defend the Christ. Jesus not only rebukes Peter’s actions and motivation, but also quickly heals the ear. Peter had already forgotten what Jesus told him what was going to happen and what needed to happen.
Attached with these proofs come some amazing promises that Jesus is Immanuel, God with us.
1. God is with us when we are troubled and feel all alone. He knows what’s that is like to be betrayed by a trusted friend and abandoned by the rest. He knows the hurt of being responded to poorly by people you care about. He was physically abused without any fault of his own. Yea, Jesus knows all about our hurts and has experienced them Himself. The promise that he can right every wrong, heal every hurt, make something good out of every act of evil, sticks home with us. Not just because He is God that can fix it, but He knows about our hurts and has experienced it Himself. In our darkest hour, He is with us.
2. God with us even when we mess up. Peter meant well. In his own mind and in his own way, he was attempting to serve the Christ whom he loved, but he blew it. Like Peter, we have a tendency to do our own thing, to do things our way, to do what we think is best, to carry out or believe what makes sense to us. We relate to that. We mess up again and again with our words and actions, even our thoughts and attitudes. Just when we think we have reached the end of Jesus’ rope, He gives us a new one. Furthermore, He is even willing to clean up after us as he did by healing the servant’s ear. Jesus is with us even when we fall so short so often.
3. God is with us when he willingly takes up the cup the Father has given him. He tells the soldiers to let his disciples go. He is willing to take upon the entire guilt. He knew what was going to happen. He recognized what must happen. He knew the punishment to come. He not only knew the prophecies foretold in Isaiah and the psalms, but he was the one who wrote them in the first place. He signed his name to the plan of salvation. He came in the flesh to fulfill not just his part of the bargain, but ours as well.
And there lies the miracle. Jesus not only kept his end of the deal, but he kept ours. We are free. We are no longer held under contractual obligation. Our name has been crossed out and Jesus has signed his name instead — with his blood. This is the promise that Jesus extends to us. You can take Him at His Word. His name is truly Immanuel.