"...the Morning Light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace" (Luke 1:78-79).
I don't need to recount the stories, I know you've seen them. It's hard to avoid the barrage these days, it's hard to take your eyes off it: children shooting each other, men witnessing and participating in gang rapes, women lighting themselves on fire to kill themselves or strapping themselves to bombs to kill others, leaders of countries massacring their own civilians . . . The Bible likens the turmoil of the nations to the raging of many waters, and I for one feel like I'm cowering in the midst of a storm. Historians calculate that in all the history of mankind there have been 13 years of war for every single year of peace.
But Jesus . . . He speaks a word and calms the storm.
The book of Micah speaks of a great ruler, coming from Bethlehem, whose origins are ancient, who will shepherd His flock in the strength of the Lord. Micah 5:5 prophesies, "This One will be our peace."
Elsewhere in the Old Testament Jesus is described as like rain falling on a freshly mowed field, like the showers that water the earth. He is like the light of morning at sunrise on a cloudless day, like the sunshine after the rain that causes the grass and the flowers to grow.
And of His kingdom it says He will rule in righteousness, justice and mercy. People will play with the children of their former enemies, carrying them on their shoulders. Men will turn the weapons of war into tools to feed the nations. In that kingdom, countries will never raise swords against each other and men will not even learn about war; every remnant of war will be destroyed. Those who were once predators and those who were once prey will live together in the same place, and no one will be hurt, and nothing will be destroyed, and every tear will be wiped from every face.
Isn't that beautiful?
But the people of the New Testament didn't find that beautiful. They were living in a war-torn world very much like our own. Their land was violently occupied by a foreign nation, they needed riot and revolution, not a "humble and gentle" king, they needed someone riding in on a conquering stallion, not a baby donkey. They abhorred the idea of a ruler that would attain the victory by bleeding, and himself accepting "the punishment that brought us peace" (Isaiah 53:5), and just like the world today, they rejected him. He came to bring "peace on earth" as was announced at His birth, but the people said, "We will not have this man to reign over us" (Luke 19:14).
Not long before that ride we call the "Triumphal Entry" -- which must have looked like anything but -- Jesus wept over the fate of Jerusalem. "I wanted to shelter your children in my arms," he cried, "but you refused to let me. If only you had known what peace really was, but you have been made blind" (paraphrasing Luke 13:34, 19:42).
Peace was Jesus Himself. "For He is our peace" (Ephesians 2:13), as the book of Micah foretold.
For us, to follow Jesus is to follow in the path of peace. Peace is our inheritance, that's why the Bible calls peacemakers "children of God" (Matthew 5:9). He taught his disciples to leave peace wherever they went and that it would go to those who promote peace in every place (Luke 10:6).
“I will listen to what God the Lord says; He promises peace to His people, His servants” (Psalm 85:8).
"Peace I leave with you;” Jesus says to us, “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” (John 14:27). That's a command. It's the same command Jesus gave to His disciples when He walked out to them on the water, on a gusty night. When Jesus spoke, Peter, fixing his eyes on Him, said, "Lord, if it is really You, tell me to come."
"Come," Jesus said, and Peter walked out on the water. But the fury of the weather tore his attention away, and he was afraid. If Jesus had not reached out for him he would have sunk.
We can only keep our hearts from being troubled if we take what Jesus gives instead of taking what the world gives. We fix our eyes on Him so that when the waves of fear or the winds of anger rage around us, we won't go down. In a time like this, our attention is the most valuable commodity we have.
What are we giving our attention to?
When we choose to look at Jesus instead of letting the worries of our age determine our outlook we make a radical statement about what we've believe the outcome will be. This is the peace that doesn't make sense, but it guards our hearts (Philippians 4:7). This is the deeper war we fight against the Enemy who would steal our inheritance from us and blind us to what Jesus is doing in each and every circumstance, blind us to His kingdom and the way of peace in which he leads us.
This is the truth, that follows that title "Prince of Peace" in the book of Isaiah: "Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end" (Isaiah 9:10).
In a world at war, let's be preoccupied with the Prince of Peace.