“’Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which is translated, ‘God with us.’” Matthew 1:23
I never grow tired of hearing the Bible’s perspective about the birth of Jesus Christ. It truly is good news! In the gospel of Matthew, we learn of the humanity of Jesus as proven by the fact that He is a legal Descendant of King David (Matt. 1:1-17; 2 Sam. 7:16). But Jesus is also God as proven by His names and manner of conception (Matt. 1:16, 18, 20-21, 23, 25). 1
When Joseph discovered Mary became pregnant while engaged to him, he assumed the worst and sought to put her away to avoid public disgrace for them both (Matt. 1:18-19). Before Joseph could act, God showed up to him and addressed him as a descendant of David (“son of David”) through whom the Messianic King would come, telling him not to be afraid because Mary’s pregnancy was supernaturally produced by God the Holy Spirit (Matt. 1:20). This Son Whom Mary would bear was to be named “Jesus” (Yahweh is Savior) “for He will save His people,” Israel, “from” the physical (Zech. 9:9-10) and spiritual (Acts 10:43; 16:31) consequences of “their sins” (Matt. 1:21). 2
Jesus’ virgin birth fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy (Isaiah 7:14) that a virgin shall be with child – a supernatural sign that would indicate an unusual “Child” was to be born because of His divine nature and presence (Matt. 1:22-23a). A virgin birth through the Holy Spirit explains Jesus’ sinless nature (2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15). The sin nature is passed on through the human father. Romans 5:12 states, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (cf. Rom. 5:18).Although Eve sinned first in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:1-6), Adam is held accountable for sin’s entrance into the world.
The Bible also teaches that God visits “the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations” (Exod. 20:5; cf. Deut. 5:9). Generational sins are passed on through the fathers, not the mothers.This implies that the sin nature is transmitted through the fathers, not the mothers or both parents.
“Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes: one member of each pair inherited from the mother and the other from the father. This suggests that when the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary (Luke 1:35), and Jesus was conceived in His mother, God miraculously supplied the other 23 chromosomes to make the matched pair with Mary’s. These would normally have come from a human father.” 3
“And the angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.’” (Luke 1:35). Since God the Holy Spirit took the place of the human father and brought about the conception of Jesus, His 23 chromosomes “overshadowed”Mary’s, causing Christ to be the only human being ever to be conceived since the fall of Adam and Eve without a sin nature. The Greek word translated “overshadowed” (episkiazo) occurs in all three accounts of the Transfiguration where the cloud overshadowed those present (Matt. 17:5; Mark 9:7; Luke 9:34). 4 The Holy Spirit “overshadowed” Mary with His presence to bring about this supernatural conception.
“This delicate expression rules out crude ideas of a ‘mating’ of the Holy Spirit with Mary.” 5
“The deity and preexistence of the Son of God required a miraculous conception. His virgin birth resulted in His assuming a human nature, without giving up His divine nature.” 6
The virgin birth qualifies this infinite Person (Jesus) to bear an infinite number of sins for all humanity on the cross 7 (cf. John 1:29; I John 2:1-2). Only a perfect sacrifice could remove the sins of all humanity forever. In the Old Testament, emphasis is given to “perfect” animal sacrifices “without blemish” (Exod. 12:5; 29:1; Lev. 1:3, 10; 3:1, 6; 4:3, 23, 28, 32; 5:15, 18; 6:6; 9:2-3; 14:10; 22:19, 21; et al.) as foreshadows of the perfect Lamb of God Whose shed blood on the cross would perfect forever those who believe in Him (John 1:29; 3:14-18; Rom. 4:5; 8:31-39; 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 9:1-10:18; I Pet. 3:18)!
Since Jesus is fully human (John 1:14; I Tim. 2:5), He can empathize with our human struggles (Heb. 4:15). And since He is fully God (John 1:1, 18; Titus 2:13; I John 5:20), He can heal our brokenness (Exod. 15:26b; Psalm 147:3). Jesus is “Immanuel” which means “God with us” (Matt. 1:23b). We often focus on this verse to emphasize that Jesus is “God,” but in so doing we can easily skip over the word “with.” The Greek word translated “with” (meta) refers to God being “among” or “in the company of” someone in a supportive way. 8
Jesus Christ is not “God against us,” “God condemning us,” “God judging us,” “God punishing us,” “God pushing us,” “God shaming us,” or “God shoulding us.” The God of the universe is saying, “I am God WITH you.” The Lord is with us in our pain and struggles. He moves toward us with compassion and love so we can feel safe from being criticized, judged, or shamed. This can help us relax and let Jesus heal the deep wounds that we have buried deep within our souls to protect us from rejection and ridicule.
Jesus is “God WITH us.” He is“God HELPS us.”9 He moves toward broken humanity with compassion, not against them with condemnation (Matt. 11:28-30; 12:20; John 3:17).
Unfortunately, Christians may not experience Christ in this way when it comes to their “church” experience. When they struggle with anxiety, depression, loneliness, rejection, sadness, or suicidal thoughts, well-meaning Christians may move against them by saying, “You shouldn’t feel that way. Just trust God.” Then they quote a Bible verse to support their should’s. What this communicates to the struggling believer is that it is not okay to feel that way. It also reinforces the lie that says, “Good Christians don’t have negative emotions.”
I believe when a hurting believer gets exhorted by other Christians with should’s, it is often because the exhorting believer is uncomfortable with their own feelings that are activated when they hear someone else talk about negative emotions. But instead of facing their own feelings, the exhorting believer focuses on the feelings of the hurting person in a critical or judgmental way to get them to stop talking.
The result is the struggling Christian learns that it is not safe to talk about their negative emotions in a church setting. So, they work extra hard to know the Bible and have all the right answers. They faithfully attend prayer meetings, volunteer to teach Sunday School and Vacation Bible School, and go on mission trips so they don’t upset God and other believers. It is not wrong to do these things per se. But when we do these things out of fear instead of love, it causes more isolation and pain. We can do all these right things without any close connection with God and others.
You probably realize that I am speaking from my own experience. I have been on both sides of this equation. I have been the exhorting Christian who moves against the hurting believer with should’s and lots of Bible verses. And I have also been the hurting believer who has been the recipient of many Bible verses and should’s from well meaning believers who unknowingly moved against me.
This serves as a reminder that all people, including Christians, need Jesus Christ. Only Jesus can move toward us with perfect love and compassion regardless of our condition. Perhaps you are struggling with anxiety, depression, loneliness, rejection, sadness, self-doubts, stress, or suicidal thoughts. You can draw near to Jesus this Christmas season with confidence that He will help you and heal you. He wants all people to experience “God with us” both now (Matt. 28:20) and forever (Rev. 21:3)!!!
How can you experience God’s loving presence in your life if you are not a Christian? Jesus wants you to understand your need for Him. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). All people (except Jesus) are born with a sin nature that desires to live our own way instead of God’s way. All of us are like sheep who “have gone astray; we have turned, everyone, to his own way.” (Isaiah 53:6a). All people have rebelled against God and disobeyed His laws.
Since God is absolutely holy and righteous, He cannot be around our sin. Therefore, the Bible says, “The wages of sin is death.” (Rom. 6:23b). The word “death” means separation. Our sins separate us from God. Jesus tells us that the final punishment for our sins is death in hell or the lake of fire forever (Mark 9:43-48; cf. Rev. 20:15). I think you will agree this is bad news.
But Isaiah’s prophecy also has good news! “And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6b). Hundreds of years before Jesus came to earth, the prophet Isaiah tells us that Christ would be punished for all the sins of the world through crucifixion (“pierced through for our transgressions” – Isaiah 53:5).
God loved you and me so much He gave His only Son, Jesus Christ, to die in our place on the cross and rise from the dead over two thousand years ago (John 3:16a; I Cor. 15:1-6). Jesus is alive today and He invites you to come to Him on His terms when He says, “that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16b). What are Jesus’ terms? He says, “whoever believes in Him.” He does not say, “whoever lives a good life… prays… has religion… turns from sin… meditates… loves God… surrenders… gives his or her life to God… is baptized with water, etc.” Christ says simply to “believe in Him.”
To “believe in” (pisteuōn eis) Jesus means to be persuaded that He is speaking the truth and is therefore worthy of your trust. 10 Are you convinced Jesus was speaking the truth when He said, “Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life”? If you are, then believe or trust in Him alone to give you His gift of everlasting life so you will not perish in hell.
If you believed Christ’s promise, He wants you to know with absolute certainty that you now have eternal life (I John 5:13)! Jesus now lives inside you forever through His Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39; Gal. 2:20) and He promises never to leave you nor forsake you (Heb. 13:5). You can now experience “God with us” every day of your life as you learn to talk to Him in prayer (John 15:7) and obey His Word (John 15:4-5; I John 3:24).
The best part is we will experience God dwelling with us in perfect harmony on the new earth in the eternal state where there will be no more barriers to fellowship with Him (Rev. 21:3-4). Anything associated with the fallen world will “have passed away,” never to return (Rev. 21:4). The sin that caused tears, pain, and death will be forever removed! We can enjoy uninterrupted fellowship with God and with His people for all eternity.
Prayer: Hallelujah Lord God Almighty! Thank You for giving us Immanuel that first Christmas season so we can experience God with us both now and forever the moment we believe in Jesus for everlasting life. Thank You Jesus for moving toward us with compassion and love so we can feel safe from criticism, judgment, rejection, and shame. Use us to move toward other broken sinners with the same love and compassion You have moved toward us so they can discover You alone are the Giver of eternal life. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.
1. Hal Haller, Jr., Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pp. 14-15.
2. Ibid., pg. 15.
3. Randy Alcorn’s and Julia (Stager) Mayo’s August 26, 2013, article entitled, “Did Jesus Have a Sin Nature?” at eternal perspective ministries (https://www.epm.org).
4. Tom Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on Luke, 2022 Edition, pg. 46.
5. Ibid., cites Leon Morris, The Gospel According to St. Luke, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries series (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), pg. 73.
6. Ibid., pp. 46-47 cites Erwin W. Lutzer, Christ among Other gods (Chicago: Moody Press, 1994), pp. 64-74.
7. Haller, pg. 15.
8. When meta (“with”) occurs with the genitive (hēmōn – “us”), it expresses supportiveness as in “God with us,” “God stands by us,” or “God helps us.” See Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 636.
9. Archibald Thomas Robertson, A. T. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament (with Bible and Strong’s Numbers Added!), 6 Volumes (E4 Group, 2017 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 567.
10. Bauer, pg. 816.