Isaiah 9:6 (NIV)
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
John 8:1-11 (NIV)
2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery.5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
This Advent we are taking a look at the promise of the Messiah given to us in Isaiah 9:6, that Jesus will be a Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. In this series, we will consider what each of those names mean and how Jesus was the embodiment of them, both in the time he spent on earth and even today in how he works in our lives. This week, we are looking at how Jesus fulfilled the promise of being a Wonderful Counselor. We see how he lived into that role in his interaction with the Pharisees and the adulterous woman, as well as how he continues to counsel us as we navigate life in today’s messy, and often times dark, world.
Zach recounts the story of the prophet Isaiah attempting to speak truth to a king of Israel named Ahaz. King Ahaz is facing war on every border and his kingdom is split in two. He is ruling in a very divisive and difficult time in Israel's history. The prophet Isaiah approaches Ahaz with the hope of helping the king ascertain a sign from God as to how he should be ruling and what decisions he should be making on behalf of God’s people. But the king chooses to not trust God to be faithful to his promises during darkness and he denies Isaiah’s help. What do you do when you are confronted with darkness or hard times? Do you choose to believe God is faithful to his promises? Or do you seek a way to move through the darkness on your own? Does your life live out the desire to believe that God can be trusted to keep his promises? How so?
We discover this week that the definition of “counselor” today doesn’t completely line up with the definition meant by Isaiah when he promises Jesus will be a “Wonderful Counselor”. God promised to give us a Messiah who could be counted on to give truthful advice. Zach describes this as “the ability to help people see things as they really are”. We see this play out in John 8:1-11 in the story of the Pharisees presenting Jesus an adulterous woman, caught in the act of her sin. In his answer to them, Jesus invites the Pharisees to trust him with their shame. The Pharisees’ response is to walk away, most likely planning how they will atone for their sins on their own. But the adulterous woman chooses to stay with Jesus when he uncovers her sin. Which do you choose? When you are confronted with your sin and your darkness, what do you do? Do you stay with Jesus and trust him with your shame, or do you find ways to cover your shame up with righteous acts and religious plans?
At the end of the interaction between Jesus and the adulterous woman, he tells her to go and sin no more. Jesus confronts her with her sin and in doing so reminds her that her actions are indeed sinful and need to be abandoned. When you are caught by God in sin, how do you react? Do you make excuses? Do you justify your sins or make excuses for them? Is there something in your life that God is telling you to leave behind and sin no more? What next steps do you need to take in leaving that sin behind?
We see in this story of Jesus and the adulterous woman that Jesus sees very little gray in the world. He reminds the adulterous woman that she was in fact caught in sin and he makes no qualms about it. We live in a different world than Jesus walked in and yet God’s Word is still applicable to our lives today. How do the “grays” of the world impact how you walk in it as a follower of Christ? How are you tempted to justify the sins of our world? Do you believe that there are gray areas in our world, or rather do you see the world as black and white? How does your viewpoint impact how you read Scripture and live out your life as a follower of Jesus?
Zach reminds us that “Jesus hates shame, even when it is deserved.” And we see Christ’s hatred of it when he invites the adulterous woman into relationship with him in the midst of her shame. How does this story cause you to react to your own shame? How can we take a lesson from Jesus when we are confronted with other people’s shame? How do you feel that the church can become a safe place for people to uncover their shame and invite Jesus into it with them?
- “Questions invite relationship.” Zach reminds us of the power that comes when we invite people to ask questions and when we feel the freedom to ask questions of God. What questions, if any, do you have during this Advent season? Are there aspects of God’s character you are hoping he reveals to you during our time of exploring these powerful names of Jesus that were promised years before his birth? Do you feel the freedom to ask God questions and invite him into relationship with you during this often busy and distracting time? Take a moment of quiet reflection to ask God to speak to you about his son this Christmas. Feel the freedom in that moment to ask your questions and anticipate his answering them this Christmas season.
Zach ended this teaching with the reminder that our next right step is always to stay with Jesus. How can you stay with Jesus this Advent season? Make a commitment to simply show up each week and explore more of this mysterious and miraculous Savior that was promised and prophesied about so many years before his arrival. Christmas can be a hectic and jam-packed time full of lots of good things. But sometimes those good things can become a distraction to the miracle that God is hoping to remind us of each Christmas season. Commit to being present this Advent. Allow Jesus the opportunity to show you life as it really is and advise you on the steps he desires for you.