Where Can I Find God Today? Part 2
Where Can I Find God Today?
Examining Matthew’s Answer
Like a racehorse bursting out of its box in the big race, Matthew wastes no time with his extravagant claim. The infant boy born to a young virgin woman would be called Emmanuel, which is translated, God with us. (Matthew 1:22-23; Isaiah 7:14). What an astounding claim!
Can this be true? Has the staggering promise from Isaiah that a virgin would conceive and bear a son actually be fulfilled in the birth of Jesus? And can it be possibly true that this baby is in fact God? His name is Emmanuel. But is he really God with us? Is Jesus the embodied God of Israel who jealously forbids the worship of any idols or false gods?
Matthew bursts out of the box with this staggering claim. But he also finishes his story of Jesus with the same burst of confidence.
“All authority has been given unto me in heaven and on earth. Therefore, as you are going, make disciples of all the nations…and look, I am with you even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20
Jacob, Jeremiah, and Haggai
To the Jewish reader, such an audacious claim could only be made by God and would remind them of the same ground of confidence made to their ancestors. To Jacob, the LORD God of Israel said in a dream,
“Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go…I will not leave you…” Genesis 28:15
To Jeremiah the prophet, the LORD God of Israel said,
“Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you…”
Through God’s messenger, Haggai, God said,
“Then Haggai, the messenger of the LORD, spoke to the people with the LORD’s message, saying, I am with you, says the LORD.”
But what about the story of Jesus in Matthew? Is there any evidence that Jesus regarded himself as Emmanuel? Does the story corroborate Matthew’s front and back cover claim? Do the characters, men, women, Jews, and Gentiles in Matthew treat Jesus as God with them?
Jesus Sets the Record Straight
We can be sure that Jesus understands the difference between the human and the divine. When Satan tried to seduce Jesus into worshiping him in exchange for all the kingdoms of the earth, he rebuked God’s enemy by quoting Israel’s Scripture,
“You shall worship (προσκυνήσεις) the Lord your God and him alone shall you serve.” Matthew 4:9-10, quoting Deut. 6:13
Jesus set the record straight. Only the Lord God can be worshiped (προσκυνήσεις) and served. So, does anyone worship Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel? And, if so, does Jesus reject such worship or does he accept it? Does Jesus willingly accept worship reserved exclusively for the Lord God of Israel?
Test Samples from Matthew
Let’s take a few test samples from Matthew’s account:
“And when they had come into the house, they saw Mary his mother, and fell down and worshiped (προσεκύνησαν) him (Jesus).” Matthew 2:11
“So they left the tomb quickly, with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. But Jesus met them, saying, Greetings! They came to him, held onto his feet and worshiped (προσεκύνησαν) him.” Matthew 28:9
“So the eleven disciples went to Galilee to the mountain Jesus had designated. When they saw him, they worshiped (προσεκύνησαν) him.” Matthew 29:17
Three examples, Gentile Magi, the women at the empty tomb, and Jesus’ disciples on the mountain, are only a few of the episodes in Matthew where a variety of people adopt the posture of worshiping Jesus when in his presence.
In all cases, Jesus did not repel their actions or their worship of him. Jesus accepted worship from all comers and acknowledged implicitly his divine identity. He is the same person who strongly repeated the commandment from Deuteronomy: “You shall worship (προσκυνήσεις) the Lord your God and serve him only.”
Matthew claims it and Jesus agrees with it. The infant son, named Jesus, born to a virgin woman, is indeed Emmanuel, God with us. The ground of confidence he gave to his disciples, “Look, I am with you until the end of the age,” are words that could only be spoken by the embodied presence of the God of Israel. Jesus is our Emmanuel. Jesus is God with us.
You searching for God? Where can you find him? Go to Jesus. He too can be your Emmanuel, God with you.
O holy child of Bethlehem,
Descend to us we pray;
Cast out our sin and enter in;
Be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell;
O come to us abide with us,
Our Lord Emmanuel.
 Isaiah 7:14
 Phillips Brooks (1835-1893), O Little Town of Bethlehem.