06 November 2020

The Prince of Peace

Jesus is often called the Prince of Peace. This phrase comes from Isaiah 9:6, and is found nowhere in the New Testament. In fact, Jesus has some very different words to describe his purpose. In Matthew's gospel, he declares, "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword" (10:34) and in Luke's gospel he says "I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled" (12:49).

In describing his purpose, Jesus quotes Micah 7:6, "For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law— a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household" (Matt 10:35). In Jesus's day, people believed the Messiah would come for all of Israel, the good and the bad, and that he would cast out all the foreigners, the good and the bad. Jesus tells them that his way is not a political revolution, but a revolution of the heart and mind. Jesus would embrace foreigners and cast out corruption, two things that, in his day, were not believed about the Messiah.

There was no shortage of violent revolts in the time of Christ. The Maccabean Revolt had concluded in 160 BC, and the Jewish-Roman War of AD 66-74 had resulted in the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in AD 70. Further, the Bar Kokhba Revolt of AD 132-136 resulted in both Jews and Christians being cast out from Jerusalem.

However, the way of Christ was not about violent revolution. This is why, in John's Revelation, we see the army of Christ assembled not to fight, but to praise God. God will do the fighting, the church is not God's army, but God's cheerleader. Paul echoes this in Romans 16:20, saying "The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet."

Paul opens many of his letters with, "Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Cor 1:3, 2 Cor 1:2, Gal 1:3, Eph 1:2, Phil 1:2). Peace is essential to being a Christian. James tells us that "Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness" (3:18). Following Jesus may put Christians at odds with family, friends, and their communities, but as Jesus tells us, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).

Whether we live in a time of prosperity or oppression, we can have peace because Christ has overcome all opposition, not by war, as in the Bar Kokhba revolt (led by its infamous false Messiah), but by passive resistance, even to the point of giving his own life as a demonstration of God's love.

Whatever your worries, whatever your pain, know that God has already overcome and has made a place for you not just in the next world, but in this one as well.

As always,
Peace be with you.

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