A familiar Christmas text comes from the early part of Isaiah 9. Part of that text reads, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this” (Isaiah 9:6-7).
As Christians, we recognize the child who was born was born in Bethlehem. This is one of the Old Testament prophecies of the birth of Jesus Christ. The government that is upon his shoulder belongs to the kingdom of God. This is the fulfillment of the kingdom of Israel under the leadership of King David. What David started, Jesus brings to completion. This is a kingdom and a government that brings justice for all. And it is a righteous kingdom, marked by the grace of God. Sin is cast out. And it is a kingdom of peace that will have no end. Violence has no place in this kingdom.
Jesus was given four names in this passage from Isaiah – Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. These form important descriptors of the wisdom, power, eternal nature, and essential gift of Jesus Christ. This is what “his name shall be called.”
This prophecy was fulfilled during the first coming of the Son of God. During his life on earth, Jesus counseled his people. He demonstrated his power over creation by calming the storm and walking on water. He rose from the dead and promised eternal life to anyone who would believe in him. And he made a way for peace with God through the forgiveness of our sins.
In Revelation 19, we see another prophecy, this one pointing to the second coming of the Son of God. In John’s vision, Jesus appeared on a white horse. And in John’s description, Jesus was given another four names. If you read carefully, you will see them.
Jesus will be called “Faithful and True.” Truth marks his very existence – in opposition to the deception the devil and the world use to confuse and tempt. The word that we often use to end our prayers is “Amen.” This word in English often can be translated as “so be it.” Or put another way, it could be “truly.” Earlier in the Book of Revelation, Jesus described himself as “the Amen.” (3:14). He is the embodiment of “so be it” or “truly.” What Jesus says and does is certain, real, and true. He is called “Faithful and True.”
Jesus also “has a name written that no one knows but himself.” As much as we know about Jesus, we don’t know everything. As smart as we think we are, as much Bible knowledge as we accumulate, as much theological skill as we can muster – we still don’t know everything there is to know about him. Jesus is beyond our reckoning. He “has a name written that no one knows but himself.”
Jesus also is called “The Word of God.” We know this. John’s Gospel already called Jesus the Word that was “with God” and “was God” (John 1:1). Jesus is the divine Word of God. God’s people have a story, and that story is brought to us in words. We need these words to know the story – about Abraham, about Moses, about David, about Elijah, and about the rest. We need these words to know about Mary and Joseph and the shepherds and angels. This isn’t just any story. This is a story about God’s never-ending love for his people and his never-ending love for the world. It’s a story of grace. It’s a story of good news. And this gospel story is given to us in words. And what we find out is these words – this Word – is not some abstract concept of Wisdom or Goodness. No, it’s a person. Jesus IS the story. Jesus is the Word. Every paragraph, every sentence, every word, every syllable of the story points to him. Jesus is called “The Word of God.”
And finally, Jesus’ name is “King of kings and Lord of lords.” He is one who conquers. In Revelation, we’ve seen the kings of the earth rallying to the great prostitute – “Babylon the great.” But these kings are not really kings. There is nothing inherently powerful about them. There’s nothing lasting about their rule. Their kingdoms are given to them, and their kingdoms will come to an end. Jesus rules over every kingdom. The apostle Paul said, “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Chris is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11).
These are the names of Jesus Christ – Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, Faithful and True, The Word of God, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and one name that no one knows but Jesus himself.
So what do we make of all of this? What is the application for us today, especially in this time of COVID, anxiety, depression, and political unrest? What is the application for us today in this season of Christmas?
Pick one of those names for Jesus. Pick the one that you need today. All of these names are names for you to call him. But one of them may be for you today. It may give you the encouragement that you need as you move through your day. It may give you a thought to meditate on as you do your work or as you enter your prayers.
And one of these names may be one for us to spend time with as a church. We may need to call Jesus Christ – as a church – our “Wonderful Counselor” when we don’t know which way to turn. Or he may be, in this uncertain time, “Faithful and True.” Or, faced with social upheaval in our country, we may simply need him to speak to us as “Lord of lords.” Or we may simply, in our humbleness, need to dwell in the mystery of that unknown name.
Pick one of those names and consider Jesus in the light of that name – of his name. Spend time thinking about it and praying about it. I’m curious where God will take you.