When a doctor tells a young woman she is going to have a baby, it stirs a mixture of emotions – joy and shock. Perhaps the timing is unexpected. Maybe dad and mom feel inadequate or overwhelmed by the magnitude of a life that’s now growing within the woman’s womb. I once had an expectant mother say to me, “The human gestation period is too short for me to be ready for this baby!” Pregnancy stirs joy, hopes, dreams of heart as we wonder about the potential of life and the personality this child will have. The moment a child is on his way, and especially when the child is born, life is changed forever for the family. Perhaps it is changed in even broader circles than that!
When the prophet Isaiah, 700 years before Jesus was born, said, “A child is to be born whose name will be Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace,” that promise fulfilled sets the heart to hoping and dreaming.
We live in wonder as we unpack the truth that God sent Jesus, His Son, to be incarnate into the human experience and to be our Savior. We might be wonder filled at Jesus’s origin. Just as a girl in a Disney movie sings, “Someday my prince will come,” believers in Old Testament homes sang, “someday Messiah will come” after centuries of suffering darkness and oppression from military entities in neighboring kingdoms. They may have experienced periods of despair as God’s people were unfaithful and wandered far from God. During one period, the word of God was lost in the temple. When the King Josiah discovered it, he implemented all kinds of spiritual reform for the nation.
A remnant prayed all through the centuries for Messiah to come. Isaiah says, Jesus will be born, and His name will be Wonderful Counselor. The Messiah, the King, literally translates, The Anointed One. Each time a king was crowned in Israel, the people would ask, is this the One? Is this the One who will usher in God’s will in a way that our life experience will be permanently altered according to the promise of Shalom?
Isaiah 7:14, says, “This will be a sign: a virgin will conceive a child.” So when the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and said, A child will be born, and you, a virgin will conceive, the Holy Spirit came upon Mary. And when a sky full of angels, glorious and radiant, appeared to shepherds out in the hillside, they proclaimed the arrival of this Messiah. “Good news of great joy, for to you is born a Savior” (Luke 2:10).
Do you ever hear this news, even as we celebrate Christmas, and think, I wonder what God is up to in the twenty-first century? Do we still wait and hope for God to bring things into harmony with Himself? To bring peace on earth? The birth of Jesus and the story accompanying Him is incomprehensible, full of wonder beyond our understanding. Part of the wonder is that Jesus embodies God coming down to where we are to be with us as we are. The birth of the Son of God is Immanuel, God forever with us. The infinite takes on the finite so He might redeem us. The Creator comes to dwell among His created people. The One without limits willingly takes on self-imposed limits in order to make Himself accessible to us.
Soon after Jesus finished His mission by dying on the cross, being raised from the dead, and ascending into heaven, God sent the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, the Counselor, who comes alongside us to help. Now God is not only with us, but He is also within us. Jesus comes down to where we are and even deeper. He comes within us to restore and heal all that is broken.
God sends Jesus down to where we are; He does not wait for people to come to Him. He never turns us away. Instead, Jesus seeks us where we are – out in the streets, at weddings, at house parties, by a lakeside, on a mountain, in the wilderness, in our darkness where, like He asked Adam, He also asks us, “Where are you, child?”
People in the life of Jesus were amazed and wonder filled with His teaching. How could an uneducated son of a Jewish carpenter from Nazareth know all the things that Jesus taught? The Scripture says they were amazed at His teaching! Like one with authority, Jesus taught us that the all-powerful God is actually our Father, our Abba.
Jesus taught us about the reign of God ushering in His kingdom. He used parables to help us picture what it might be like. It was counterintuitive, an upside-down vision of what ultimately has value. In the Beatitudes, Jesus redefined blessing saying,
“Blessed are the poor in spirit . . .
Blessed are the meek . . .
Blessed are those who mourn . . .
Blessed are the gentle and the merciful . . .
Blessed are the pure in heart . . .
Blessed are the peacemakers . . .”
Jesus taught us that we should love our enemies and rejoice if the world hates us, for so it also hated Him.
Jesus was wonder filled because of His power. Crowds of people thronged around Him everywhere He went, on the edge of their expectation: I wonder what’s going to happen next!
He did miracles where He commanded creation. He spoke to storms, the wind, and the waves, and they calmed down like a dog coming to heel. Jesus showed flashes of His cloaked identity as He changed water into wine or multiplied fish and a few small loaves so a multitude ate and were satisfied. Jesus healed the sick. More than that, He restored and recreated those who were born with physical deformities. He sent demons back to hell, and He raised the dead back to life. People were wonder filled at Jesus’ power.
Perhaps most amazing and wonderful of all, however, is the law of Jesus that universally includes all people, every one willing to believe in His name. Jesus loves the irreligious, the rebels, and the sinners. Jesus loves the rejected and the unwanted, the people on the margins, those whose lives are broken. Jesus loves us individually; He looks into our soul and tells us, You are precious and important to me. So we say with the apostle Paul, “(Nothing) will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:39). How wonderful!
We have another piece to His name in Isaiah 9 this day. He is a wonderful counselor. He holds wisdom like King Solomon. “His counsel is wonderful, his wisdom is excellent” (Isaiah 28:29). Jesus knows what is in each person’s heart (John 2:25b). In Him “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3). “He (Jesus) is our great high priest who is able to sympathize with all our weaknesses, we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). Jesus can resonate with our humanness, yet He is perfect to show us the way.
Jesus is the counselor who is our confidant. He listens to our problems, speaks the truth without judgment. We have no need to hide our dark stuff from Him. Tell it to Him so He can lift your shame and guilt away. His love is so deep, it is beyond our ability to comprehend.
Jesus, our wonderful counselor, is ultimately the doctor of our soul. He restores our inner health and reconciles us to God.
Max Lucado, in his book, In the Grip of Grace, writes, “In Romans six it says, ‘When people sin, they earn what sin pays – death.’ Sin does to a life what sheers do to a flower. A cut at the stem separates a flower from its source of life. Initially, the flower is attractive, still colorful and strong, but watch that flower over a period of time and the leaves will wilt and the petals will drop. No matter what you do, the flower will never live again. Surround it with water, stick the stem into soil, baptize it with fertilizer, glue the flower back on the stem. Do what you wish, the flower is dead.
“A dead soul has no life. Cut it off from God, and the soul withers and dies. The consequence of sin is not just a bad day or a bad mood, but a dead soul. The sign of a dead soul is clear – poisoned lips and cursing mouth, feet that lead to violence and eyes that don’t see God. The finished work of sin is to kill the soul,” so writes Lucado.
Jesus came to be our soul doctor – to heal our sin-sick soul and rejoin us into a relationship with God as the living one. God sent Jesus as our wonderful counselor, the doctor of our souls.
Do you remember how Jesus, the Lord of the universe, stood before the blind man, Bartimaeus, a man who’d been pushed to the peripheries, who had no value, sitting in the dirt? Jesus asked, “What would you like me to do for you?” (Mark 10:46-52).
Jesus came to the woman at the well knowing her deep thirst. He also knew the complexities of her broken life, the stories of men who had used her and then rejected her. Jesus knew she was beaten down by shame and sin. She had been rejected and discarded. Jesus spoke truth, but also poured grace and love into her as well. He became for her the living water, and He healed her life with His love. (John 4:4:5-26).
Jesus came to the woman caught in adultery. He knew her circumstances as well and never excused her sin or her responsibility. Jesus did not reject her or condemn her. (John 8:1-11).
Jesus stood outside the tomb of Lazarus and wept with grief and frustration at the deadness of life in this world. “Lazarus, come out!” He said. The dead man heard His voice and came out of the tomb. (John 11:43-44).
Jesus is our soul doctor. He goes deep into people’s hearts to heal and forgive, to love and transform. He is the One who was born as our Savior. We rejoice in His birth as our Savior, the soul doctor, the Wonderful Counselor.
Where do you need Jesus, the soul doctor, to heal your life today? I encourage you to bring your brokenness to Him and ask Him to heal you in His love. Amen.
Pastor Lee Laaveg