“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27).
This second week of Advent, we look forward to Christ’s birth and his promise of peace. “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, Counselor, 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 kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from this time forth and forevermore” (Isaiah 9:6-7).
What a promise! The people were promised that the Messiah would one day come and be the “Prince of Peace” who’s government (rule) will have no end. Jesus claimed to be this Prince of Peace when he said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you.” The people longed for peace during a tumultuous time.
Consider Israel’s history for a moment. Years earlier, the nation of Israel divided into two kingdoms: Israel and Judah. Rebellion against the Lord brought severe punishment to both kingdoms. Israel in 711 BC was taken over by Assyria, and Judah in 586 BC was taken over, with Jerusalem leveled to the ground by Babylon. After Persia became the superpower, the Israelites were allowed to go back to Judah and rebuild their nation. Persia was then taken over by Alexander the Great and the Macedonian Empire in 332 BC which Hellenized (the spread of the Greek language and culture) the Middle East. As if that change wasn’t enough, 300 years later in 64 BC, the Roman Empire took over as the world’s superpower. Now, under Roman rule, the Israelites were living with new leadership over them.
As Jesus himself explained, “The rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them and their great ones exercise authority over them.” Jesus’ point was that the leadership over the Jews was harsh and foreign to God’s people. To say that God’s people were living in a state of turmoil during this time is an understatement. They were taxed unfairly. Their priests were corrupt. Much of their religious leadership was closely connected with Roman leadership. Ironically, Roman rule brought something called Pax Romana (Roman peace, aka “peace by force”). As God’s people looked for a Messiah, they were hoping for a Savior who would bring an end to the heavy-handed rule of Rome. They were hoping and expecting their Messiah to bring peace to God’s people through force! As we know, the Messiah brought a much deeper, much more important peace than any military ruler could ever bring.
Today, many are living in a significant state of turmoil. Relational conflict, physical illness, racial division, and sexism are just a few of the results of the fall that bring suffering. Beyond those earthly experiences of turmoil, many are living in a much deeper place of conflict. They have rejected God, and do not even realize that they are enemies of God who are desperately in need of being reconciled to God. This is the ultimate peace that Jesus came to bring to his people. “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). Peace with God is only possible through Jesus Christ.
This peace is the ultimate peace Jesus was leaving with his disciples in John 14:27. This peace is the ultimate peace that Jesus came to bring as promised by Isaiah in Isaiah 9. You need to understand that because Jesus has come, peace is available to you. You also need to know that because Jesus has revealed himself to you, what is now promised to you is eternal suffering, judgment, fire, separation from God, and torment for you who reject Jesus, the Prince of Peace. May the peace of God be very real to us this Christmas season.