This is post 1 of 10 in the series “CALL HIM BY HIS NAME”
- Wonderful Counselor: Here Comes The Son!
- Mighty God: Betting Your Life On Jesus Christ
- Everlasting Father: Starlight In A Star-Crossed World
- The Promise Of The Angels
- Prince of Peace: This Shall Be A Sign
- Wonderful Counselor: God Can Make Something Great Out Of You
- Mighty God: It Would Take A Jesus To Invent A Jesus
- Everlasting Father: The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From The Tree
- Prince Of Peace: The Last, Best, Greatest Hope For Humankind
- Savior: Take Heart! The Lord May Come Today
Call Him By His Name: Here Comes The Son!
I heard a story about a small-town church far from the big city. Well, when the time came for Christmas, the people in that church wanted to decorate the front of the building with a large and appropriate sign. So they asked one of their businessmen who was going to be traveling to New York City to have the sign made for them. He carefully noted down the inscription and the dimensions for the sign. However, when he arrived in New York, he discovered that he had misplaced his notes. So he called home to his wife and asked her to get the words that were to appear on the sign and also the sign’s dimensions and wire the information to him. Several hours later, he went down to the Western Union office and told them that he was expecting an urgent message from his wife. It turned out that the message was coming in just at that moment. The telegraph operator looked at the message and dropped into a dead faint. Somewhat alarmed, the man went over and picked up the telegram which was addressed to him. It said: “Unto us a child is born, six feet long and four feet wide.”
I suppose that’s one way of looking at those words that come from Isaiah 9:6—words you know by heart, I am sure: “For unto us a child is bom, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulders, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” But you know as I have thought about those words recently, I have come to believe that they form a splendid outline by which we might consider the Christian and the possibility of the Christ who comes to us as a child at Christmas. This morning, then, we focus our attention on the first of these names attributed to Him by Isaiah. He calls Him “Wonderful Counselor.”
But is Jesus the Wonderful Counselor? I have read in your hearing a passage of Scripture which describes one of Jesus’ counseling episodes. He was meeting with a leader of the Jews named Nicodemus. And perhaps if we examine what happened in their counseling session, then we shall discover just how wonderful a counselor Jesus is: So come along for a few minutes and let’s see what we find…
The first mark of a good counselor is that he is available.
Now Jesus was subject to all the physical limitations which we have. He preached every day—and that is physically, emotionally and intellectually draining. He gave Himself to healing the sick and ministering to people in need, hour after hour, day after day—and nothing saps a person’s strength like that. So when Jesus came to the end of a day, He was ready for a time of rest and peace. That’s why I think He often stole away in the shadows of the evening to be by Himself. That’s why He often retreated to the homes of His good friends—homes like that of Mary and Martha and Lazarus in Bethany—simply to escape the crowds and replenish the resources of His own strength.
Understand, please, that in that land, in that time, people ate the evening meal rather late. When the meal was finished, those who were in the house would go up onto the roof of the house where the cool breezes could be enjoyed. There, in the evening, they would spend time in gentle conversation and in prayer, followed by restful sleep. However, on this particular night, after the disciples had already returned for the evening, Jesus, bone-weary though He must have been, continued to make Himself available. He went out that night to meet with Nicodemus.
Occasionally, I hear people say how wonderful it would be if Jesus were physically present with us today. And I admit that at first glance that is a very happy thought. But the more I think about it, the more I have a tendency to disagree. Why, just think of the crowds, the lines, the waiting, the frustration if that were to be the case. If you think it is tough standing in line at Epcot, imagine what it would be like if people from all over the world were trying to get into the presence of Jesus. With modern methods of communication, with vastly increased population, and with faster methods of transportation, Jesus could be whisked about to the great population centers of the world and He could speak to the whole world on television, but for people to gain access to His presence would be virtually impossible.
So I think it is good that in His infinite wisdom Jesus said: “I must go away, but I will come again in the presence of the Holy Spirit.” So in the Holy Spirit He has come again. That spirit—present with us always, but present especially with us here—guarantees that Jesus Christ is available to every single individual at every single moment in every single day. He is available. He is a Wonderful Counselor.
The second mark of a good counselor is that he guides and directs.
Our Lord Jesus Christ gives us clear words of instruction which benefit us in the circumstances we confront in life. We see it clearly in this incident with Nicodemus. Jesus analyzed the source of Nicodemus’ difficulty and offered him clear guidance as to the way to solve his problem. He does the same thing for us in the Bible, for the Bible is the record of the guiding words of Jesus.
However, we must be very careful when we look at this Book that we do not make the mistake of worshipping it. This Bible is not a paper Pope. To be sure, it is the Book which has been handed to us by the Holy Spirit of God. It is, as our Confession of Faith puts it, “the Word of God written.” Yes, but this Book has validity and worth and meaning only if it serves as a window to open us up to all the grandeur and the greatness of the Savior. He is our example. He is our teacher. He is our infallible guide.
When the Christian poet seeks inspiration, he does not say, “Help me, Shakespeare”, he says, “Help me, Jesus.” When the Christian businessman seeks ethical guidance he does not say, “Help me, John D. Rockefeller”—he says, “Help me, Christ.” When the Christian nurse confronts a patient in trouble, she does not say “Help me, Florence Nightingale”—she says, “Help me, Lord.” Francis of Assisi was known as “the selfless one”, yet it was Jesus Christ who taught him to live for others. Brother Lawrence was called “the humble one”, yet it was Jesus Christ who directed them to true humility. David Livingstone was called the “adventurous one”, yet it was Jesus Christ who propelled him into high opportunities for service. Do you get the point? Christ is our example. Christ is our infallible guide. He said to Nicodemus that the Spirit of God is like the wind that blows where it wills, and just so the word of the Spirit moves off the pages of the Bible and into the center of our lives. And the word of the Spirit speaks to us not of Scripture, but of Scripture and Lord. And in these words of our Lord are all the guidance and direction we ever need for the living of these days for He is Wonderful Counselor.
The third mark of a good counselor is that He forgives our failures.
Nicodemus went away from Jesus that night unconvinced, and thus unsaved., But I am convinced there were other meetings between those two. In the first place, you can’t deal with a deep subject like that in one brief encounter. And in the second place, I think that’s the only way you can explain how Nicodemus came to see Jesus as One who could indeed forgive the sins of his past and enable him to start all over again. How do I know that occurred? Well, later on in the Gospel story, there is a marvelous little footnote. It says that this same Nicodemus, at the risk of his life, came with precious spices and ointments to anoint the body of his crucified Saviour. He came to see that in Christ was the forgiveness of his sins. And I believe it was confirmed in all the glory of the first Easter morning.
Christmas announces with great joy that here comes the Son. He comes as the Revealer of all the sadness that hide and lurk in the darkness, as the Reviler: of all that is evil in life, as the Stiller of the storm-winds of human passion, as the Adorner of all things bright and beautiful, as the Quickener of everything that is wholesome and good. He comes as the Torch of truth, the Anchor of hope, the Pillar of faith. He comes as the Rock for strength, the Refuge for security, the Fountain for refinement, the Lamb for tenderness, the Rose for beauty, the Friend for counsel, the Brother for love. He comes to us at Christmas. But He comes to us above all else as Saviour from sin. “You shall call His name Jesus for He shall save His people from their sins.”
He did not merely come to teach
It was to save He came.
And when we call Him Saviour
We call Him by His name.
Oh, my beloved people, we have so many things to be merry about at this Christmas season, and one of them is that we have such a wonderful, Wonderful Counselor…