Isaiah 7:10-14 The Lord spoke to Ahaz again. He said, 11“Ask for a sign from the Lord your God. Ask for it either in the depths below or in the heights above.” 12But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, neither will I test the Lord.” 13So Isaiah said: “Listen now, you house of David. Is it not enough for you to try the patience of men? Will you try the patience of my God also? 14Therefore the Lord himself will give you all a sign. Look! The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son and call his name Immanuel. (EHV)
Why did Jesus travel so far? Why did Jesus leave His mansion in heaven to journey to earth? Why did Jesus remain God but also trek to earth by taking on the baggage of human flesh and blood?
Those are the questions we tried to unravel recently in our 6th grade confirmation class.
To help us understand the relationship of God to humans, we discussed the relationship of humans to ants. Caleb volunteered to be our resident “ant-lover.”
We set up the story that Caleb’s dad was going to be resurfacing their driveway. But Caleb noticed that there was a large anthill at the edge of the driveway. He became worried that when the hot asphalt was poured onto the driveway, that the asphalt would also fill the anthill – killing the countless ants inside.
Caleb being the ant-lover that he is, went outside to start talking to the ants. He told about his dad, the driveway, the asphalt, and their anthill. He told them the entire story.
And what did the ants do? … Nothing. They ignored Caleb, even though he was trying to help them.
Caleb got down on their level. He put his face right above the anthill and shouted warnings for them to pack up and leave. The ants just ran away.
What could Caleb do? He loved the ants. He wanted to rescue the ants. But he was too superior to them. They were too puny and he was like a “god” to them.
Caleb decided that the only way they would listen to him is if he became one of them. … And that’s exactly what he did. He went to his closet and put on his Ant-Man suit. (Ant-Man suits are becoming much more popular after the movie.)
Caleb, in his Ant-Man suit, pushed a button and shrunk down to become the size of an ant. In this form, he was able to communicate with the ants and save those who believed.
It sounds like a silly story, doesn’t it? It will seem even more silly when Caleb wears his Ant-Man suit to school one day.
It seems ridiculous that a person would become an ant to save the ants.
But that is no more ridiculous than God becoming a human to save the humans.
Why? Why did Jesus travel so far?
What a world He left. Our classiest mansion would be an anthill to Him. Earth’s finest cuisine would be crumbs on heaven’s table. And the idea of becoming an ant with a segmented body and antennae? That’s nothing compared to God becoming a one-celled embryo and entering the womb of Mary.
But He did. The God of the universe was born into the poverty of a peasant and spent His first night in the cow’s feed trough. The God of the universe left the glory of heaven and moved into our neighborhood. Who could have imagined God would do such a thing?
Why would He come?
He comes to be Immanuel. He comes to be God with us.
But I want you to understand that God being with us is not necessarily good news. He has every right to be God with us in righteous anger over our sins. He can be God with us in justified judgment over how we act and live. He can be God with us in deserving punishment over our continual crimes against God and humanity.
A king coming to be with his people is not good news if he is there to raise their taxes. A judge coming to be with the people in the courtroom is not good news if he is there to sentence them to prison. A human coming to be with the ants is not good news if he is there to step on their anthill. And God coming to be with his creation is not good news if He coming to bring the hellish punishment they rightly deserve.
It is very significant that when the angel appears to Joseph in a dream he says, “Joseph, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:20-21). The God who is coming is not coming to destroy his people because of their sins. Rather, He is coming to save his people from their sins. In other words, the God who is with you is the God who comes for you.
This is what the incarnation of God taking on human flesh reveals. Jesus is the King coming to free His people from the tyranny of the devil. He is the Judge coming to release the prisoners from the prison of hell. He is the God-Man coming to proclaim rescue to those who will listen. He is the God who could come to us to wipe out us and shed our blood. However, He is instead the God who comes to wipe out our sins with His blood.
God with us is only good news if God is for us. The good news is in changing the preposition. “For” means that Jesus is on our side, out to get our enemies. We are the “apple of his eye” (Psalm 17:8). He comes to live the perfect life for us, in our place. He comes to suffer for us, in our place. He comes to die for us, in our place. He comes to be the fulfillment of His names. He is Jesus because He saves us from our sins. He is Immanuel because He is God with us since He came for us.
Again, why would Jesus come? Why? Because He loves to be with the ones He loves.
Dr. Maxwell Maltz tells a remarkable story of a love like this. A man had been burned and disfigured in a fire while attempting to save his parents from a burning house, but he couldn’t get to them. They perished. He mistakenly interpreted his pain as God’s punishment. The man would not let anyone see him — not even his wife.
She went to Dr. Maltz, a plastic surgeon, for help. He told her not to worry. “I can restore his face.”
The wife was unenthused. Her husband had repeatedly refused any help. She knew he would again.
Then why her visit? “I want you to disfigure my face so I can be like him! If I can share his pain, maybe he’ll let me back in his life.”
Dr. Maltz was shocked. He denied her request but was so moved by her love that he went to speak with her husband. Knocking on the man’s bedroom door, he called loudly. “I’m a plastic surgeon, and I can restore your face.” No response. “Please come out.” Again, there was no answer.
Still speaking through the door, Dr. Maltz told the man of his wife’s proposal. “She wants me to disfigure her face, to make her face like yours in the hope that you let her back into your life. That’s how much she loves you.”
There was a brief moment of silence, and then, ever so slowly, the doorknob began to turn.
The way the woman felt for her husband is the way God feels about us. But He did more than make the offer. He took on our face, our disfigurement. He became like us. Just look at the places He was willing to go: feed troughs, carpentry shops, badlands, and cemeteries. The places He went to reach us show how far He will go to save us.
Again, why would He come? He is Immanuel – God with us by being God for us. He loves to be with the ones He loves. Amen.