Jesus: Prince of Peace
In the midst of our busyness and the stresses and strains of life, Jesus offers us a wonderful gift. Anne Le Tissier encourages us to pause and receive his gift of perfect peace
I love preparing for and celebrating Christmas, but I do wonder what people think when they receive a festive card picturing a dove or the stable scene, entitled ‘Prince of Peace’. After all, with ongoing warring factions in the world, the turmoil of natural disasters, escalating gun and knife crime, and breakdown of personal relationships, it doesn’t take a genius to recognise the promised ‘Prince of Peace’ has apparently yet to live up to his name.
No, it doesn’t take a genius - it just takes faith to recognise that he does, in fact, fulfil that title.
It was the prophet Isaiah who heralded the name to be given the promised Messiah (Isaiah 9:6). It’s inevitable that rebelling against God’s holy ways and purpose are going to reap their consequences, but Isaiah brought hope to the nation of Israel who were living in the darkness of exile from God’s presence and favour. He promised forgiveness and restoration to God; first, when the exiles returned to Jerusalem, but more importantly, when the Prince of Peace brought the spiritual healing required of a people estranged from God by sin.
And so we read how the angels praised God when that Prince was born on earth: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests” (Luke 2:14). Nor did it end there. About 33 years later, men called out praises too, as the Prince rode into Jerusalem for Passover celebrations: “Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!’” (Mark 11:8—10)
But their royal tributes and praises changed to “crucify” when, a few days later, the Prince of Peace didn’t meet them on their own terms. They’d heralded the leader they thought would bring peace from Roman oppression, but Jesus revealed that his kingdom wasn’t of this world; it was from another place (John 18:36). They misunderstood Christ’s reign, and it’s not so very different today.
When our non-believing friends receive ‘Prince of Peace’ Christmas cards or find themselves at a carol service, singing Hark! The herald angels sing . . . Peace on earth . . . they too may dismiss the Prince who hasn’t brought the peace which they expected. But Scripture isn’t referring to temporary reconciliation between nations or some kind of external tranquillity - rather it speaks of the peace we find with God when we put our faith in Christ. This was what Isaiah and the angels were referring to; the depth of spiritual peace that pervades body, mind and soul through relationship with the Messiah.
Jesus’ gift to us
Some of you reading this article may be about to face your first Christmas away from home, your first Christmas for many years without your husband ( . . . or wife), your first - or fifth or tenth - Christmas, wondering how your finances are going to stretch to meet December’s expectations, fearing that sense of ‘aloneness’ which this season can accentuate, or wishing that it was all over as you battle with your health.
Our concerns for war-torn and impoverished communities, our anxieties for family or friends, our personal hurts and disappointments, are just a few ways that this fallen world might influence the reality of Christ’s peace in our hearts. And we’re not the first to feel like this.
The disciples felt unsettled by growing hostilities towards their Master who determined to face his enemy head on. And so, by the evening of the “Last Supper”, tensions were high as Jesus spoke of his impending departure. Nevertheless, he left his intimate friends with the promise - and then the fulfilment of - an awesome parting gift: ‘“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid”.
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were hidden together in a locked room for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “’Peace be with you!’ . . . And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (John 14:27; 20:19,21—22).
The Prince of Peace did - and does - live up to his name. Jesus - perfect and at one with his Father throughout his mortal life - continues to impart that wholeness and spiritual well-being to modern-day disciples. It’s an eternal peace that the world most certainly cannot give; the inner rest a believer finds in fellowship with God.
Jesus is the Prince of Peace; the prince of a kingdom not of this world, but a kingdom that is within you and me as we place our trust in him (Luke 17:21). It’s a very real and present peace, reserved only for those “on whom his favour rests” - on those with faith in his salvation.
Perhaps you’ve yet to open your heart to Jesus and receive the promised blessing of his kingdom’s peace. If so, why not speak to the person who gave you this magazine, or simply pause right now, confess that you need Jesus to forgive the life you’ve led independently of him, and ask him by his Spirit to come into your heart.
Or, perhaps you already know the Prince of Peace, but the impact of this fallen world overshadows your spiritual well-being. If so, then pause now, and ask him to breathe his Spirit afresh on your life; open your heart in expectation and take or make time - quality time - to draw closer to his presence. Feeling distanced or separated from God causes inevitable anguish, but in the same way the resurrection removed all doubt and fear from the disciples’ hearts, so the living Prince of Peace still longs to heal your inner being too.
Our gift to others
As we accept Christ’s gift to us this Christmastime, remember that it’s not only to be received, but also to be shared, as we live out its implications.
Jesus, by his Spirit, imparts peace into every believer, and likewise we’re to keep in step with his Spirit, so sharing that peace with others. “Make every effort to live in peace with all men . . . See to it that no-one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many” (Hebrews 12:14—15).
The spiritual fruit of a life lived for and with Jesus is “ . . . peace . . .” (Galatians 5:22); the inner harmony that our relationship with God expresses to our neighbour, no matter the stresses and strains of life that seek to snatch it away. Indeed, our natural tendency is towards irritability, panic, bitterness or anger - even the manic rush of Christmas can challenge our inward peace. But we are obliged to exercise faith and allow our Prince to pervade his peace in and through our lives. And perhaps, as we do so, our non-believing friends will look at their ‘Prince of Peace’ Christmas cards and turn their thoughts to us - a people of peace, love and inward security, who reflect and impart Christ’s reign today.
Take it further
“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)
Isaiah 9:5 - 7 and Luke 2:14 confirm Jesus’ mission to restore peace between men and God where that relationship had been broken by sin. Ironically, however, that peace will itself cause conflict as our differing personal responses to him divide our opinions, outlook and purpose - regrettable but inevitable, even between family members.
In Jesus, however, we have a new family bond with fellow believers - one which we can nurture now, and enjoy for eternity.
Hark! The herald angels sing:
‘Glory to the new-born King.
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!’ . . .
Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace!
Hail, the Sun of righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
Risen with healing in his wings . . .
Hark! the herald angels sing:
‘Glory to the new-born King.’
Charles Wesley (1707—88) altd.
Luke 1:68-79; 2:8-14