Immanuel (God’s Secret Identity!)


“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.”  William Shakespeare

I have always been intrigued by the dual names given to our Savior. In both Matthew’s and Luke’s telling of the Christmas story, God very clearly tells Mary and Joseph that their child is to be named Jesus. And then there is this prophecy saying that His name will be Immanuel. What is up with this other name?

Back in my comic book reading days, if there was one scene that stood out, it was of Clark Kent, shedding his glasses and tie as he stepped into a phone booth to become Superman. He had to keep his identity secret; so that the bad guys wouldn’t suspect and the good folks wouldn’t be afraid.

God in that same manner gave His Son dual identity papers while here on earth. To His closest family friends and neighbors He was just Jesus, the baby born in a manger. Yes of course there was the meaning to that name; but the name Jesus was also a common version of the Old Testament name Joshua. That name would not have made a ripple in the village of Nazareth. Only Mary and Joseph really knew more.

If we fast forward 32 years to the time of Jesus’ ministry, we would see that even the disciples did not fully understand just who they were dealing with. Then one day on a mountain all that changed.  Having scaled a couple of peaks in the Berkshires I remember the moment when reaching the final bend in the trail to the summit suddenly we could see what seemed like all of New England.

In somewhat the same way I can picture the disciples climbing to the summit that morning when a cloud suddenly descended on them and the clothing of Jesus began to shine with light. Peter James and John fell to the ground in amazement as they saw  Moses and Elijah appearing and talking with Jesus. Seeing even a glimpse of the true identity of their teacher, the miracle worker and friend filled them with fear. How wonderful hearing the words of Jesus at that moment.

But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.”  Matthew 17:7

Oh yes He is Immanuel! He is more than a special baby. He is more than a miracle worker and great teacher. This Jesus of Nazareth can do far more than cleanse lepers and give sight to the blind.  He is God – who is with us and who by His great love and mercy chose to come down in secret. At the moment we see Him as He really is we can  come without fear and receive Him into our hearts as not just God – but God who is with us!

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). Matthew 1:23 ESV

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