When Jesus Was Named “Wonderful”

Names make a difference… but why?

By Charles Kelley

Philomath, OREGON – Forty-two years ago, a beautiful young woman named Nancy Heidebrecht changed her name to Nancy Kelley.

Why? Because, in taking on my surname, Nancy legally identified herself with her new husband (me!).  

Do you remember the huge football player William “The Refrigerator Perry?” His name emphasized that he was not only huge but that he invested a good portion of his life in buffet lines!

It is common in our culture to name people, e.g., “Slim,” “Pumpkin,” “Magic,” or “Doc,” because these names are affectionately fitting.

I once read a psychological study about names and those related to 15,000 juvenile delinquents. It concluded that those with odd or embarrassing names were in trouble four times as much as others.

In the world of the Bible, names also mean a great deal.

God named the first man Adam, which means “earth,” because he was made from the dust of the ground. Abram’s name – “father of many” – was changed to Abraham, which means “father of many nations.” And when God told the aging Abraham and Sarah that they were to have a son, they laughed; so their son was named Isaac – “laughter.”

The most important names in the Bible are those associated with Jesus, who is identified by hundreds of names and titles – each revealing who He is or what He does. Jesus is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Joshua, which means “the Lord is salvation.”          

Seven hundred years before Jesus was born, the prophet Isaiah predicted His coming: It is recorded in the scriptures:

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful…

Isaiah 9:6

“Wonderful” is generally used as an adjective. But in the case of Jesus, it is actually one of His names. His name is Wonderful. In English, “wonderful” means “full of wonder.” It’s associated with ideas like astonishment, awe, and bewilderment. The Latvian translation is “beautiful.” The Hebrew word emphasizes the idea of “uniqueness.”

Jesus is called Wonderful because of His unique birth, life, and character.

His birth was rich with wonder-filled events – angelic announcements, visits by lowly shepherds and foreign dignitaries, and a special star indicating the birth of the Messiah.

Those who heard Jesus teach were astonished by His words. Those who watched Him interact with the religious leaders of His day were amazed at His courage, wit, and poignancy. Those who knew Him best were regularly filled with awe when He healed the sick, fed the hungry, and calmed the storms.

True wonder is based on knowledge – the more we know, the more we wonder. The more we understand, the more we will appreciate it.  

This is true in the world of science. If I were to gaze into a powerful microscope focused on a specific cell, I might be fascinated by colors, shapes, and movements. But I wouldn’t see what my researching friends see – developments and contrasts.  My fascination might last a moment or two; their sense of awe builds over a lifetime. The same is true in the world of sports, art, and literature.

The more that we are exposed to the complex, the more we appreciate it; the more that we appreciate it, the more we are filled with wonder.

I have been a follower of Jesus for 50 years. Each year, my heart is flooded with more wonder at Jesus; who He is and what He does. The more I know and experience Christ, the more I understand why His name should be Wonderful.

Now, I wonder… What do you think?

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