The Gospel of Matthew, the first in canonical order (New Testament) and 1 of the 3 synoptic Gospels (Mark, Luke), begins in a unique way with the genealogies of our Lord’s humanity highlighting Abraham, David, and the Deportation into Babylon. These serve as not only significant events in the history of Israel, but also to establish Christ as the offspring of Abraham, heir to the throne of David, and identify him with the nation of Israel. In verses 18-21 of the first chapter we are given an historical account of the birth of Christ culminating as a fulfillment of the prophet Isaiah,
“22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).”
There is much to examine in this passage including, at minimum, the fulfillment of the promised Messiah, the virginity of Mary, the divine communication of God, and the meaning of the phrase “God with us”, which is significant for our discussion here. “God with us” in its context imports all of the Old Testament meaning of God dwelling with His people, going back to the Garden (Gen. 3:8), the blessing promised upon entrance into Canaan (Ex. 29:45; Lev. 26:11-12), and elsewhere (Ezek. 37:27; et.al.).
In the Greek, this phrase, “God with us” is meta (meth) hemon ho Theos, which brings us to the purpose and significance of this brief post. Matthew, under divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit, concludes his gospel with this same phrase, ego meta (meth) humon eimi in Matthew 28:20 which is literally translated “I with you all am” or “I am with you all”.
The significance of these phrases framing the opening and conclusion of this gospel account should be obvious. Our Lord’s birth is announced by means of fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy, one in which the title given Him is Immanuel, “God with us”. As if that statement were not strong enough to establish the deity of our Lord, we are given by means of quotation from Him the same phrase, “I am with you all”. A statement which should not be minimized, but is purposeful in Christ claiming deity for Himself.
This is a crucial point of contention when witnessing to those who deny that Jesus is God. Often, their arguments are that Christ never claimed that He is God, which of course is false. Here we have two crystal clear references to His own claim to deity. First, as shown above, is His substitution of “I am” in the place of “God” in the phrase “will be with you”.
Second, is the meaning of the phrase “I am” (ego eimi), which is developed in far greater detail in the Gospel of John, particularly as he recounts the “I am” phrases spoken by Christ (John 6, 8, 10, 11, 14). By taking upon Himself this title, I am, Jesus takes upon Himself the meaning of this as well which finds its own development Exodus 3:14, “God said to Moses, “I am who I am.”And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I am has sent me to you.” In the verse that follows, we get the name of God that we are accustomed to seeing on the pages of Holy Scripture, “God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.” Here we have the LORD (all capital letters) standing for God’s divine, covenant name YHWH (pronounced Yah-weh), which is connected to the title “I AM”. When Christ adopts the title “I AM” He is doing nothing less than taking the name Yahweh for Himself.
In these two short, seemingly inconsequential statements we have barely scratched the surface of the wisdom of God in the revelation of His Son Jesus and the establishment of Him as God in the Flesh, literally God with us. How often we must give our hearts over with the Apostle Paul to proclaim, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” Rom. 11:33