Jesus as Immanuel: God with us

Matthew 1:23

Here, Matthew quotes Isaiah 7:14, which in Greek speaks of a virgin giving birth. Yet Matthew is probably also thinking of the verse’s larger context. In that context, Assyria would battle against Israel and Aram before the promised son was grown (Is 7:14-17); Isaiah says almost the same thing regarding his own son in the very next chapter (8:3-4). The son Isaiah refers to would be a sign to the king who was reigning in Isaiah’s own day.

What does this have to do with Jesus? In the next chapter, Isaiah declares that the names of his children are intended as signs pointing beyond themselves (8:18). To whom would “Immanuel,” or “God with us” (7:14), more aptly point than to the son of David rightly called “Mighty God” in the very next chapter, in Isaiah 9:6 (cf. 10:21; 11:1)?

Matthew does not think of “God with us” merely at Jesus’ birth, or during his earthly ministry, or in some abstract way. He revisits this issue toward the middle and end of his Gospel. In 18:20, Jesus announces, “Where two or three have come together in my name, I am in their midst.” In 28:18-20, Matthew’s Gospel closes with Jesus’ Great Commission. The final words indicate that as we continue carrying out this commission, Jesus will be with us: “I am always with you,” he declares, “even until the end of the age.” Jewish people understood that only God could be with them at all times. There could be no misunderstanding about who Jesus really is.