Advent, Isaiah, Christ
During the Advent season we are looking at the names of Jesus given by God through Isaiah the prophet. We are taking this one verse and trying to turn it like one would turn a diamond to see it’s reflected beauty. The names of Jesus help us to see the Savior with new appreciation.
It may seem rather strange to spend our Advent on one verse in Isaiah. After all, shouldn’t we be talking about the Shepherds, the Wise Men, Mary and Joseph? Shouldn’t we recount the story of the angels, the brilliant star and the picture of a child born in a barn and laid in a manger?
Yes, I think we should be stunned by the magnificent story of Christmas. But I think we may have to take a non-traditional approach to the story for that to happen. Most of us are quite familiar with the story of Christmas. Maybe we are too familiar with the story. The re-telling of the Christmas story often is comforting, but not astounding. It is like the reading of “The Night Before Christmas” or the story of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”. We love hearing the story because it anchors us to history and tradition.
But I’m looking for more this Christmas. It’s my hope that by working slowly and deliberately we may regain some of the wonder of Christmas. In fact, it’s not the wonder of Christmas that we seek . . . it is the wonder of Christ. In the midst of the traditions of the season we want to deepen our appreciation for our Savior and what He did for us, and what He means to us.
Last week we considered the first of four names that described the character of Jesus. He was called the “Wonderful Counselor” the one who would show us the Father and lead us to the truth about ourselves and about life. This week we look at the title, “Mighty God”. The Hebrew for God in this title is the simple word “el”. It denotes a mighty power that can be found only in deity. When we understand that the word for God means “Mighty Power” then we can see that this title really means the “Mighty Mighty Deity”. In other words, Jesus is set apart from all other powers, deities and spirit beings. His power is seen as far superior to anyone else.
THE NATURE OF HIS POWER
It is easy to say that Jesus was the powerful Savior. But that phrase loses some of its potency because we use the terms “mighty” or “powerful” in many different ways,
- We might call someone a powerful leader
- We might say a nation has a mighty army
- We might call an athlete a power hitter or a power forward
- We might say that someone delivered a powerful speech
- We might proclaim that our vehicle has a powerful engine
You can probably think of other illustrations. The point is that our use of these words in so many and varied ways lessens the impact of this title in Isaiah. So, let’s look more specifically at some of the descriptions of Jesus’ power and might.
In John 1:3 we read, “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” A similar claim is made in Colossians 1:16,17
For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
These verses tell us that Jesus had the power over all creation. Jesus was the one who created our world! He is the Creator and the Sustainer of all creation.
In 1 Peter 3:22 we read that Jesus, “has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.” Jesus has power or authority over the angels and spirit beings. He doesn’t just have authority over the earth . . . He has authority also over the heavenly realm.
In Matthew 28:18 Jesus declares, “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” In other words, He has supreme authority. He has ALL authority. Any authority on this earth is “derived” authority.
If you put all these claims together you must come to two conclusions.
- Jesus claimed and His disciples declared that Jesus was God. The authority and power of Christ was unique. In Hebrews 1:3 we are told, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” Throughout the Gospels Jesus claims god-like authority for His words, claimed that He had the authority to forgive sin, and declared that He was God. Any view of Christ that makes Him merely a good man, misses the true declaration of the Bible.
- To reject Christ is to reject God. Those who tell us that faith in Christ is not necessary for salvation are saying that the claims of Christ are not true. In essence they accuse us of idolatry. And this is why Muslims and true Christians realize that the two religions are incompatible. Islam says Jesus is one of many prophets with the supreme prophet being Mohammed. They would be quite up front about saying that Christians are worshiping a false God in Jesus. Mormons and Jehovah’s witnesses would diminish Christ by calling him A god. Mormons believe that all of us are in the process of becoming Gods. These religions are not Christian.
Jesus drew a clear line. His declaration was firm and direct. We bow before Him or we don’t. And that fact will determine whether or not we will spend eternity in Heaven.
THE EVIDENCE OF HIS POWER
Let’s face it, anyone can make great claims about themselves. A coach is often told by a player, “I’ll be the best player you ever had.” But the proof will come on the field. Someone may say they are an excellent soloist or musician, but the proof will be how they perform. It’s easy to make claims, it is much more difficult to back them up.
What evidence is there that Jesus is the Mighty God? First, there is the evidence of his teaching. We are told that the crowds that heard Jesus teach were attentive because, “he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law. [Matthew 7:29]. The people had never heard anyone like Jesus before. He seemed to know their hearts. He spoke as if He had a direct pipeline from God.
You’ve seen some religious teachers. Often when you are listening to those people there is a ring of phoniness about them. It seems like a sham. That wasn’t the case with Jesus. There was no production. He didn’t manipulate the emotions. When Jesus spoke, people listened and they felt God’s Spirit burn within them.
The miracles of Jesus testify to His power and His authority. They testify that He was God. Blind men received their sight, crippled people walked, dead people came back to life, demon possessed people were set free, diseased people were made well. Jesus was unique in His power. No other religious leader exercised this kind of dramatic power.
In Matthew 8: 26,27 We read about Jesus calming a fierce storm. “ “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”
Time and again the miracles of Jesus testified to his uniqueness. At one point John the Baptist was thrown in prison. While he was there he began to wonder if Jesus was really the Messiah, the one who would save people from their sins. So he sent messengers to Jesus and asked, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”
4 Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: 5 The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy b are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. 6 Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.” [Matthew 11:2-6]
The miracles of Jesus validate His claims and reveal His power.
Jesus revealed his might and power by the way he endured temptation. Hebrews tells us that he was tempted in every way like we were, but DID NOT sin. His strength was much greater than ours. Where we give in, He remained strong. Where we crumble He stood firm.
We know from experience that you don’t know what a person is made of until you see them handle a crisis. The weak fall apart but the strong rise to the top in difficult times. In times of war or disaster some people show themselves to be extraordinary individuals. And in times of temptation you see how strong a person really is. The weak person gives in to temptation almost immediately. The stronger the person is, the longer they resist. Jesus resisted until the end.
We see His power in the events of His death. Perhaps you have watched a family member endure a terrible disease and remarked, “I didn’t realize how strong they were.” Look at what Jesus endured. He endured the ridicule, the excruciating pain, the betrayal of friends. And even more staggering, He endured the penalty for our sin. In some sense He endured the wrath of the Father. Look at the events associated with his death: an earthquake, darkness in the middle of the day, the fact that Jesus decided the moment at which he would die (John 19:30, Jesus said “It is finished” and then bowed his head and died.), and the tearing of the temple curtain. The might and power of that event are seen from many different angles.
We see His power and authority in His resurrection. Paul was right when he based the truthfulness of Christianity on the resurrection of Jesus. If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead then we have all been duped and are fools. But if he did rise from the dead, then Christ alone is worthy of the position as Savior. He has proved that he was who He said he was. Of all the religions of the world, only one boasts a Risen Savior. Only one has a Savior who continues to lead. All the others are merely dead men and women who made great claims. Jesus alone backed up His claims.
I have examined the evidence for the resurrection (and I encourage you to do so as well) and it is obvious to me that Jesus really did rise from the grave. Every time I begin to wonder if the whole Christianity thing is real I remember the evidence for the resurrection and know that it is true.
THE BENEFITS OF HIS POWER
Having said all of this we can now get to the question that most of us are asking, “So What?” There are at least two reasons why this title of Jesus should bring joy and worship to our heart. There are two reasons why these words deepen and enrich our Christmas celebration.
First, it means He is Able to do what he promised. The most important thing he promised is eternal life. Jesus promises that not only can He give us eternal life . . . once He has given it to us no one can take it away from us.
[John 10:28-30] I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”
In Hebrews 7:25 we are told,
Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.
We desperately need for this promise to be true. When you read the Bible and see the standard of holiness is required, and then you look in a mirror, you realize that you are helpless to save yourself. All the good intentions and “good deeds” we have done or try to do cannot make up for the rebellion, sin, rationalization, and failures of our life. If the standards for holiness are true, then you and I are in trouble. . . . BIG trouble.
The promise of Jesus is that in spite of our sin we can be made new because of Christ. In spite of the stupid, rebellious, and even wicked things we have done in our past . . . if we will place our faith in Christ, His death will cover our sin. His death and resurrection open the door to a new beginning and to everlasting life. Because He is the Mighty God He can save even those who,
- Who have abused others through their words or actions
- Who gave up their sexual purity well before their marriage
- Who have lied, cheated, manipulated their way through life
- Who have abused their body through drugs
- Who have ignored God or railed against God for decades
- Who have spent most of their life devoted to false religions
- Who have committed criminal acts
- Who have stolen from others
- Who have abandoned family members
- Who have had abortions
- Who have been unfaithful in their marriages
It doesn’t matter where you have been. The promise of the gospel is that the sacrifice of Jesus is powerful enough to pay for your sin. The Mighty God who came to earth as a baby can be your Savior. He is the one who can give you a new beginning and an assurance of Heaven.
What He asks from you is that you trust Him. He asks you to put your confidence in Him and to trust His power. As we approach another Christmas, I have to ask: “Have you done this?” Have you placed your confidence in His work rather than your own. Have you bowed before the manger and received the salvation that comes from the hands of Jesus? If not, I pray you will do so today. I pray that you would wait no longer and would receive His new life right now. In the quiet of this place say, “Yes”, to God.
The promise of salvation is the greatest promise He gives but there are other things that Jesus has promised us and can bring to pass because of who He is.
- That He would give us his Spirit who would guide us into truth (John 16:13)
- That He would supply our needs (Matthew 6:25-33)
- That He would bring us to His heavenly home when we die (John 14:3)
- That He would be with us always (Matthew 28:20)
- That He would give us the words to say when we come against opponents of the faith (Matthew 10:19)
- That He would comfort us in times of sadness and loss (2 Corinthians 1:3-7)
We know from personal experience that people make promises all the time that they can’t keep. But the promises of Jesus are sure. They are sure because He is the Mighty God.
Second, it means that He is Able to Help Where We Need It. The promises of Jesus are wonderful and they provide us hope. But those promises often seem distant. They seem sometimes unrelated to what we are going through in the present. The fact that Jesus is the Mighty God also means that He is able to help us where we need that help right now. If you don’t know where to turn . . . turn to Him. He can . . . and He will, help.
- He will draw close to the person who is filled with loneliness
- He will give strength to the one who is engulfed with fear
- He will provide comfort to the one who’s heart is broken
- He will give direction for the one who doesn’t know which way to turn
- He will provide for the one who is jobless
- He will give new courage to the one who is discouraged
- He will protect and defend the one who feels their life has come crashing down around them
- He will bring justice to the evil doers
In other words, whatever your need, God is able to meet that need. There are times in life when we feel very helpless. As we watched the World Trade Center towers crumble before our eyes, we felt helpless. When we watch a loved one dying of cancer, we feel helpless. When we watch fire destroy a home, we feel helpless. When we are told that our business is closing and we will be out of a job, we feel helpless. Some people face emotional problems and feel absolutely helpless to do anything about them. But the message of these two words “Mighty God” is simple. We may feel helpless but our Lord is able to help. The one who healed the lepers and raised the dead is the Lord who has offered you salvation. The Lord who created and sustains all there is, is the same Lord who calls you His child.
It is my hope that you realize that the helpless little baby in the manger was really the Mighty God. Those tiny hands were the same hands that put the stars in place. The Jewish Carpenter who made tables and doorframes while he was growing up was the same one who fashioned the world and made human beings. The Holy God of justice who must punish sin, was the very one who allowed Himself to be nailed to a cross so that He might satisfy those very demands of justice.
The Christmas story is not just a great story about a baby born in extraordinary circumstances. The Christmas story is about God . . . the Mighty God, taking the form of man so that He might tell us that He loves us and also point us the way to go home.
What separates Christians from Non-Christians is this very realization. The non-believer sees Jesus as a revolutionary. They believe he was a great man, a representative of God, a man who sought to save our lives. But they do not believe he was the mighty God. Deep down, they believe that under different circumstances we could have done the same thing that Jesus did. And they are wrong.
Recognizing Jesus as the Mighty God is essential to true faith. But it is also essential to understand the true wonder of Christmas. So who is this Jesus to You? I know you know the “right answer” but what is the honest answer in terms of your life?
- If you believe He is God, why not serve Him? And if he is not God, why follow Him at all?
- If He is Almighty, then why not rest in His strong hands? If He is not the Mighty God then how do you really think He will help You?
- If He is the Mighty God let us worship and serve Him, if He is not the Mighty God, then let’s stop pretending and get on with something else.
- If He is the Mighty God, let us make time to adore Him and honor Him this Christmas. If He is not, then let us use our time for more productive activities.
These are not idle questions. They are basic and foundational questions. This is the core issue: Who is Jesus? How you answer that question is the difference between a celebration of Christ’s birth and merely another excuse for a party.