Jesus the Peacemaker? Yes!
Here’s something that happened just over seven hundred years ago. On the 24th of June 1314 a famous victory was won by the Scots over the English at a place called Bannockburn. I mention it not because I am a Scot and Bannockburn is one of the outstanding events in our national history but rather as an illustration of a special ability that we as human beings have. We can look back over centuries and remember things that happened long before we were born.
What, however, if I turn from the past to the future? I can think and write about something that happened seven hundred years ago. What if I project my mind seven hundred years into the future? Can I tell you anything that about the year 2723? No! Remarkable as the gifts are that we humans possess the power to penetrate the future and speak of it as authoritatively as we do of the past is not one of them. We can try and guess. But that’s as far as it goes.
Let me introduce you to a man in the Bible who forms an exception. His name is Isaiah and in the book of the Bible that is named after him and which came from his pen he tells us about something that would (and did) take place seven hundred years on from when he lived. Here are his words: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdoms, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this” (Ch.9.6-7).
Most readers will know of whom Isaiah is speaking. If not you can probably guess, given that this is a Christmas message. Isaiah is speaking about Jesus. And amazingly, he is doing so seven hundred years before his birth in Bethlehem.
There is only one explanation for this that does justice to all the facts and it is this: Isaiah was God’s prophet. His calling in life was to declare to people whatever message God gave to him. Often it had to do with how things were in Isaiah’s own day. But God also had things for Isaiah to announce in advance; things that God was going to do at some future day. The prophecy above is an example. God is not subject to our limitations. He knows the future. He has it all planned out. And this was part of it. Seven hundred years on from Isaiah a very special child would be born – Jesus.
It’s only on one part of the prophecy that I want to touch, namely, the part that speaks about peace. The child to be born would be called Prince of Peace. It is said that “of the increase of his government and of peace” there would be no end. Jesus would be a ruler. And one of the blessings of his rule would be peace.
It’s one of these claims about Jesus that evokes a variety of negative responses – the raised eyebrow, the curled lip, the mirthless laugh, the dismissive shake of the head. And you understand why. We’re two thousand years on now from Jesus’ birth. Where’s the peace? Not in Ukraine. Not in Israel and Gaza. Not in lots of other places. Angels sang of “peace on earth” the very night that Jesus was born. “Aren’t we having to wait rather a long time for it?” someone asks.
The first is that there is no reconciling, peace-making force on earth to compare with the message of Jesus. It is true that his message divides. People take sides over it. But it also unites, as no other message does. When it truly takes hold of us it changes our hearts. Under its influence old hatreds die. We are able to forgive. We begin to love. Those whom once we loathed and would happily have killed are family now, our Christian brothers and sisters. And it hasn’t just happened with a few. Millions upon millions can bear testimony to the gospel’s healing power.
But there is a second comment that needs to be made. Strife among ourselves is not our biggest problem as human beings. Our biggest problem is our broken relationship with God. He has ever so many things against us on account of our innumerable sins. And we for our part don’t care for him at all. In fact we hate him. Jesus, the peace-maker, is the answer to that breakdown in relations too. Through his atoning death our sins can be justly forgiven. We can have what the Bible describes as peace with God. His controversy with us on account of our guilt can be settled once and for all. And at the same time Jesus can so powerfully work in our hearts that we begin to love God and count him our dearest friend.
A third comment to complete the picture. It has to do with the future; with another of the things that God has said will one day happen. Jesus is coming again. We don’t know when (for we haven’t been given a date) but it’s on God’s calendar. And what an event it will be! Jesus will make everything new. The longed-for peace will come. Isaiah’s vision will be fully realised. Jesus, Prince of Peace, will reign over our entire world. And the peace of his reign will be perfect, universal, righteous, and eternal.
But first things first. You must accept Jesus’ message. You must accept him. You must welcome him unconditionally as your peacemaker. Ask him to come and put you right with God by forgiving every sin God has against you. Ask him to give you a loving heart for God and for your fellow humans too. Ask him to make you a citizen of that peace-filled world of which he will one day be the lord. His promise is that you will not seek him in vain.
This piece first appeared on the blog of North Preston Evangelical Church, and is used here with permission.
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