This morning, Shawn tackled the first half of the great prophecy of Isaiah 9:6. He explained to us what it means that Jesus is our Wonderful Counselor and Mighty God. However, because he didn’t feel like prolonging his message until midnight, he didn’t finish everything in the verse. He left the last two names of Jesus unexplained.
That’s going to be my job for the evening, and it’s an important one. Being a Christian without understanding Christ is kind of like being married without understanding your spouse. You can try it if you like, but it’s probably not going to go very well! This is particularly true for aspects of our Lord’s nature that aren’t as easy to understand, as I think both of these last two names aren’t. Let’s consider, then, what’s behind the second half of Isaiah’s great list of the names of Jesus.
Naturally, we need to start with first things first. What does it mean that Jesus is called the Everlasting Father when normally, we think of Him as the Son of God? In order to understand this, we also have to understand that “father” is used in Scripture not only literally, but also metaphorically. For instance, when the prophet Elisha watches Elijah being carried up to heaven in a whirlwind in 2 Kings 2, he calls out, “My father, my father!”, even though he is the son of Shaphat, not Elijah. “Father” is used in this way when someone who isn’t a literal father nonetheless has fatherlike characteristics, and this is what is going on with “Everlasting Father”.
In particular, I think there are two fatherlike characteristics of Jesus that we should consider, ways in which He acts like our father. The first of these is that He is PROTECTIVE. Look, for instance, at Romans 8:35-39. This is one of the rhetorical high points of the whole book of Romans.
Basically, Paul is listing out every powerful force in the universe, everything that could possibly separate us from Jesus and His love, and asking whether any of them can get the job done. How about tribulation? How about distress? How about persecution? Famine? Nakedness? Danger? The sword? Death? Life? Angels? Rulers? Things present? Things to come? Powers? Height? Depth? Anything else in all creation? Paul says that none of them can separate us from Jesus. In fact, we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
Brethren, I preach the gospel for a living, but this passage leaves me almost at a loss for words. God’s word doesn’t get any more magnificent than this! No matter what we’re going through, as long as we stick close to Jesus, He’s going to get us through it, and there are no exceptions to that rule.
This is true for those of us for whom life is going pretty well right now, but it’s also for those whose lives aren’t going well at all. There are people here with money problems. There are people here with work problems. There are people here with family problems. There are people here with health problems. Doesn’t matter what they are. Doesn’t matter how bad they are. You are still going to be more than a conqueror through Jesus Christ who loves you. We can always cling to that hope.
In addition to being protective, Jesus is CORRECTIVE. Consider Revelation 3:15-19. To many of us, this sounds ominous. Nobody likes being corrected! However, just as we need correction from our earthly fathers to grow up, we need correction from Jesus in order to mature spiritually.
The first aspect of this correction is teaching and reproof. There are many things that I will never forget my earthly father saying to me, and it’s the same with Jesus. My dad had a pretty good handle on this whole life thing, but his wisdom pales in comparison to the wisdom of the Lord. However, if we can’t be bothered to make it here every time the doors are opened, if we’re too busy to spend time in the word on a regular basis, as far as we’re concerned, all that wisdom is wasted. Brethren, we must make His teaching a constant part of our lives.
Of course, discipline is part of a father’s correction too. There were certainly times in my childhood when my father realized that his words alone weren’t getting the results he wanted. For instance, one Sunday evening, I was sitting in the back of the auditorium drawing funny pictures with my friends, and I got the church giggles. Let’s just say that I realized something I’d never considered before—that the fact that men wear belts to church could mean serious problems for me! I never, ever again drew funny pictures during a sermon.
So too, if we demonstrate to the Lord that we aren’t going to listen to His teaching, and that pain is the only thing that is going to get through our thick skulls, then pain is what He will use. I certainly have learned some sharp lessons from the consequences of my own sin. The process isn’t pleasant, but the results can be valuable. Let’s make sure that Jesus’ discipline isn’t wasted on us.
Prince of Peace
Next, though, we must consider the description of Jesus as the Prince of Peace. Interestingly, I think this is easier to understand than “Everlasting Father”, but it’s also easier to misunderstand.
We see why this is so when we look at Jesus’ description of His peace as NOT AS THE WORLD GIVES. This appears in John 14:27. This is critically important because it tells us that whatever the world has in mind when it talks about peace, that isn’t what Jesus means. Take, for instance, the beauty-pageant contestant who breathily informs the announcer that what she really wants is world peace. I agree that world peace would be a good thing, but from what I know of the hearts of men and the wiles of Satan, I expect that war and violence will be features of the human experience from now until the day of judgment. That isn’t what Jesus is talking about.
Neither is He talking about peace as the absence of interpersonal conflict. In fact, in Matthew 10, He reveals that He has come not to bring peace but a sword, that indeed He is going to set even family members against one another. Sadly, this too is borne out in our experience. I’ve seen situations where Christians were forced to make a choice between their family and their Savior. If we’re expecting that the gospel will give us smooth sailing through life, we’d better reconsider!
Instead, the kind of peace that Jesus is promoting is peace that the world doesn’t value or think much of. However, for the mind set on the spirit, its value cannot be overstated.
It is, first of all, peace that we can know DESPITE TRIBULATION. Here, let’s look again at a verse from Jesus’ farewell discourse, this time John 16:33. In this text, Jesus says two things that seem contradictory to worldly wisdom. On the one hand, He believes that peace will result from His words to His disciples. On the other hand, He promises them that they are going to face tribulation. In other words, they’re going to have peace despite living lives that won’t be very peaceful.
The key is in the last thing He says here. The disciples will be able to have peace because of their knowledge that He has overcome the world. This is a peace that can’t be affected by any earthly conflict because it transcends earthly existence.
Having this peace is one of the great joys of being a disciple of Jesus. It reminds me, in fact, of Peter’s description of the gentle and quiet spirit in 1 Peter 3. There, the quiet that Peter is talking about isn’t the absence of outward noise. It’s the absence of inward turmoil. I’m sure that you have known, as I have, some Christian women who have this knack. All sorts of things can be going wrong in their lives, but they meet those problems with the same serenity and grace that they display on the best of days. There may be storms on the outside, but there will never be storms on the inside.
All of us, men and women alike, can find this inward quietness in Christ. Maybe we do have all of these problems that seem insurmountable to us, but we also have the knowledge that Christ has overcome the world. As a result, if only we will walk with Him, our lives can never have anything other than a happy ending. I don’t get too upset when I get a hangnail, and next to the joy set before us, the problems of this life can never be anything but hangnails.
However, even now, there is a place where the peace of the Prince of Peace appears. It shows up in our relationships WITH GOD AND ONE ANOTHER. Paul makes this point in Ephesians 2:13-18. In context, Paul is talking about the hostility between Jew and Gentile, a hostility that is one of the defining features of the New Testament. Under the Law of Moses, observant Jews wouldn’t even eat with Gentiles.
In Christ, however, because the Law was done away with, the animosity between Jew and Gentile was done away with too. In Jesus, they could all be one. So too, Jesus took this newly united group and reconciled it to God through His death on the cross. Where before Jew was separated from Gentile and both were separated from God, they became a single spiritual community.
Both of these things are still extremely meaningful to us today. We don’t care much about Jew versus Gentile anymore, but there are still all kinds of racial and ethnic divisions that mar our country’s fabric. The solution to those problems isn’t any kind of government program. The solution is Christ.
I see this in my own life right now. I’m a white man. In fact, I’m the descendant of slaveowners. Shawn is a black man. He is the descendant of slaves. According to the wisdom of the world, there should be enmity and hostility between us. In reality, we were good friends before I ever came here, and working together has only deepened our friendship. This is not because we’re uniquely wise and loving men. It’s because we have been reconciled by the blood of Jesus and share together in the love of Christ.
That same love, the love that binds us all together, also binds us to God. Because of what Jesus has done, He doesn’t remember the past either. In Christ, He forgives our sin and allows us to come to Him. What a blessing this peace is, a peace that we can share in for eternity!