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“Isaiah’s Picture of Jesus”
Isaiah 9:6-7


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Christmas Day—December 25, 2011

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Today’s Old Testament Reading, from Isaiah chapter nine, is probably one of the most familiar portions of Scripture, because it is part of George Fredrick Handel’s famous oratorio, “The Messiah:”

“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder.  And His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”

With the Christmas cards we received this year as usual there were included many pictures of friends and relatives, and their families and children. This is the Christmas picture we sent out with our cards. The most amusing Christmas picture we received this year was the Dakota Dunes family that posed in their living surrounded by a big pile of moving boxes.

In today’s Old Testament Reading, when Isaiah gives us five names of the Messiah—“Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace”—he is actually giving us a Christmas a picture of the Messiah, telling us who the Messiah is and what the Messiah will do.

“And His name shall be called Wonderful”—The Messiah is “Wonderful” not only because he does wonderful things, but also because his very nature is a wonder, a mystery beyond our comprehension: God and man united together in one Person.  As Isaiah also prophesied, “The Lord himself will give you a sign: Behold, the Virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call his name Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.”  And as Paul says in Colossians, “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.” 

“And His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor”—Although Jesus IS the ultimate personal counselor, with you always to counsel you and guide you, that’s not actually the meaning of the word “Counselor” in this particular verse.  Here it means a “Counselor” in the sense of an important government official, like a Counselor to the president.  He is the ruler’s “right-hand man,” and he is sent by him to carry out some very important work.  So the Messianic name “Counselor” tells us there is some great work the Messiah is being sent to perform.  And what is that great work of the Messiah?  “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”  That is the great work of the Messiah: the salvation of the world, which he accomplished through his birth into flesh, his life on earth, his death and resurrection.

“And His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God”—Earning the salvation of the world would be beyond the power of any mere human.  But, Isaiah foresees that the Messiah not be only a human.  He will have divine power to accomplish the great work of our salvation because he is also “The Mighty God.”

“And His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father”—When I’ve sung this part of Handel’s “Messiah,” it always seemed odd at this point that the Son of God is called “The Everlasting Father.”  But, “The Everlasting Father” is not a description of the Messiah’s role in the Trinity.  It’s rather a symbolic title, representing an aspect of the Messiah’s character.  “The Everlasting Father” symbolizes that the Messiah has deep love and care and concern for us—unchanging, everlasting—like the love of a parent for a child.

“And His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace”—This final name tells us the result of the Messiah’s work: peace, peace between you and God.  As the angels sang the night of his birth, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”  That is the Gospel, the Good News of Christmas: on account of Christ, God’s attitude toward you is not anger and wrath, but peace and goodwill.  As Paul says in Romans, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder.”  Government isn’t used here in a political sense.  It means taking on a responsibility.  The best English paraphrase I can think of is, “The burden shall be upon His shoulder.”  You see, your shoulders simply are not broad enough, or strong enough, to carry the burden of your sin, or the burdens of life.  You need someone to shoulder the burden for you.

Jesus has already lifted from your shoulders the burden of your sin:  “Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows.” “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us.”  “He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross.”

Jesus has already lifted from your shoulders the burden of your sin, and he wants to lift from you also the burdens of life: “Come unto Me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”  “Cast your burdens upon the Lord, and he will sustain you.”  In Philippians, Paul tells us how that is done: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”  Let him shoulder the burden for you.

“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder.  And His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”

That is “Isaiah’s Picture of Jesus:”

“Wonderful”—His very nature as the God-man a wonder beyond our comprehension;

“Counselor”—Sent by his Father for a great work, the salvation of the world;

“The Mighty God”—With divine power to accomplish that great work;

“The Everlasting Father”—Loving and caring for you, like the love of a parent for a child;

“The Prince of Peace”—His work of salvation brings you peace with God.

“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given.”

Amen.

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