The third of these four titles is Everlasting Father. The word “father” is a very infrequent word in the Old Testament in reference to God. It’s been said that it only occurs fourteen times in the whole Old Testament, and that it is never said of any individual Israelite. When God is called Father it is in the sense that He is the Father of His people, that is, the entire nation of Israel.
However, when Jesus came, He began to talk about God in precisely those personal terms. It was so striking that it impressed itself upon the minds of the disciples, such that when they wrote their Gospel accounts, they even inserted Jesus’ original Aramaic word abba into the Greek text.
The Jews of Christ’s day were increasingly sensitive to the enormous gulf that separated them from God. God in His infinite might had transcended themselves in their finitude and sin. And so God seemed at the time of Christ to be rather distant. The sense of God’s nearness had receded in favor of His transcendence. Then Jesus came and challenged that idea when he referred to God in such intimate terms, in the same way that a child would approach his own father. That’s the way Jesus prayed, and also how he taught us to pray in the Lord’s Prayer.
Then, after His resurrection, we find our Lord saying something very significant to Mary Magdalene. When Jesus sees her weeping by His empty tomb, he reveals Himself to her. And once she recognizes Him, He said to her, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God’” (John 20:17). Those who believe in Jesus are given the privilege to address God as their Father just as Jesus does.
Someone might conclude that all of this is interesting, but ask how it is that this term “Everlasting Father” is used of Christ. After all, Jesus is the Son, not the Father. What is Isaiah talking about when He speaks of the coming Messiah as the “Everlasting Father”?
By using this name of the child who will be born, Isaiah is identifying this child with Almighty God. We need to remember that toward the end of Jesus’ ministry Philip asked Him to show the disciples the Father. And Jesus’ response was, “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:8-9). Jesus was affirming the unity of His divine nature with the Father.
Jesus Christ is not only a Wonderful Counselor providing the wisdom we need, and the Mighty God providing the power. He is also the Everlasting Father. His arms reach out as the arms of a good father to embrace us and receive us into His spiritual family.
I’m frequently sensitive at Christmastime to the fact that there are people who are without families. I’m aware of how difficult this is, because it is a time when most people are home and when so many of the things we do are family oriented. Sometimes the loss is due to some breach in the family. There has been a misunderstanding in past years and harsh words have been said. Sometimes a child has been banned from the home. Sometimes it’s the result of a death, such as a parent, child, or spouse. There is the daily experience of loneliness, but at Christmas that sense of loneliness is greatly increased. Everyone else seems to have their family near, but they feel cut off and this quite rightly brings great sorrow.
Then you come to the Word of God and you find that though we may have very deep hurt in terms of human relationships, there is nevertheless that all-embracing fatherhood of God which we know through Jesus Christ. This fatherhood is there to receive each one, whoever we may be, whatever we may have or not have, whatever lack we may feel, or whatever suffering we may endure.
Furthermore, that home with God in Christ is an everlasting home. That fatherhood is everlasting. You see, you can have a good home here. You can have a good father, a good mother. You can have a wonderful relationship with the children. But time does indeed eventually carry it away. And yet, in the family of God we have the One who is everlasting, whose very existence embraces all of time. It is into that family that we are brought through the work of Jesus Christ.