Summary: What does the title "Prince of Peace" tell us about Christ?
This morning, we conclude our Advent sermon series. During the month of December, we’ve been examining four of the names of Christ, found in the Old Testament book of Isaiah.
"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." -- Isaiah 9:6
Seven centuries before the birth of Christ, God pulled back the curtain on the future. He told Isaiah about the coming Messiah, the One He would send to save his people from their sins, the One whose birth forms the fulcrum of history, so that even today, we date everything that has ever happened by how many years it occurred before or after Christ. He never held public office, or commanded armies, or acquired great wealth, or even wrote a book, yet He is the most influential person who ever lived. And so, just as Isaiah and the rest of God’s people looked forward to the coming of the Messiah, so now we look back. We regard his birth, and life, and death, and resurrection as the most significant events of all time. He isn’t just the founder of a religious movement. He isn’t just a good man, or a wise philosopher, or an inspirational leader. He is the Savior of the world. He is God in the flesh. He is the One by whom and for whom all things were created.
This morning, we consider the title, "prince of peace," certainly one of the most well-known and well-loved titles by which Jesus is known. When the angels announce his birth to the shepherds, they sang, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." (Luke 2:14). It warms our hearts to think of that newborn babe in the manger, watched over by his loving parents, worshiped by the shepherds and wise men. In our mind’s eye, as we imagine the scene, nothing disturbs their quiet adoration; no noise breaks the silence, save the rustling of cattle in their pens. That vision of peace and tranquility is reflected in the pictures on our Christmas cards, and in those little nativity scenes we place on our mantles, and even in our hymns. Take "Silent Night," for instance:
Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin mother and child
Holy infant, so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.
And yet, tragically, the peace doesn’t last long. As the gospel of Matthew tells us, when Herod found out about the newborn king, a potential rival for his throne, he ordered the slaughter of every male child under the age of two in the vicinity of Bethlehem. Mary and Joseph and their infant son barely managed to escape with their lives. After that, we don’t much about Jesus’ boyhood or early manhood. But we do know that once he began his public ministry, conflict and controversy followed him whenever he went. At times, he intentionally provoked it. He repeatedly challenged and antagonized the Pharisees. On one occasion, He verbally attacked them, calling them "hypocrites," "snakes," and "sons of hell;" he compared them to "whitewashed tombs filled with dead mean’s bones". On another occasion, he became downright violent. When he found vendors and moneychangers in the Temple, the center of the Jewish religion, the Bible tells us that, "he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables." (John 2:15) Finally, when he was arrested and brought before Pilate, he outraged the Roman governor by refusing even to answer his questions, or say anything in his own defense! And we’re supposed to believe that this rabble-rouser, this hothead was the "prince of peace"? Just listen to what Jesus told his disciples! He said,
"Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 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." -- Matthew 10:34-36
What are we to make of all this? What does it tell us? Well, For one thing, it tells us we need to revise our picture of "gentle Jesus, meek and mild," as the old Wesleyan hymn puts it. At best, it is incomplete, and at worst it is positively misleading. Yes, Jesus is the good shepherd, caring for his people. Yes, he is humble, and full of grace and compassion. Yes, He did instruct his disciples to "let the little children come to me." But Jesus was not a wimp. He was not weak, or effeminate, or cowardly. He was courageous, and bold, and strong, and at times even ferocious.