We can hear the melody of Handels’ Messiah as we listen to the words of Isaiah 9. “His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Almighty God, Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.” The country prophet named Jesus bounces on the donkey’s back as he enters Jerusalem gates. The crowd sings praises.
“Peace in heaven,” they cry.
“Glory to God.”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”
They wave their palm branches and throw their cloaks on the dusty trail before the donkey as He comes down the road. Jesus came through the gates of Jerusalem to fulfill the purpose for which God had sent Him to the world. God’s plan for peace was being realized as Jesus, the Prince of Peace, came through Jerusalem’s Gates.
Are you at peace? Are you at peace with God?
There once was a king who offered a prize to the artist who would paint the best picture of peace. Many artists tried. The king looked at all those paintings, but he really liked only two, and he decided to choose between them.
One was a painting of a calm lake. The lake was a perfect mirror for peaceful mountains all around it. Overhead was blue sky with fluffy white clouds. Every one who saw this painting thought it was a perfect picture of peace.
The second painting had mountains also, but these were rugged and bare. Above them was an angry sky from which rain fell and lightening flashed. Down the side of the mountain tumbled a foaming waterfall. This did not look peaceful at all. But when the king looked closely, he saw behind the waterfall a tiny bush growing in a crack in the rock. In the bush, a mother bird had built her nest. There in the midst of the rushing, turbulent waters sat a mother bird on her nest in perfect peace.
Which painting do you think won the prize? The king chose the second painting. Why? “Because,” explained the king, “peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. The real meaning of peace is to be in the midst of all those things and still be calm in your heart.”
How do you define peace? At any level of life, in any of your relationships, in our world, what would you say? Peace is perfect tranquility, an absence of conflict or fighting or war. Peace is a state of rest. Peace is harmony. Experientially I might feel at peace as I float in a boat watching sunlight dance on the waves of a lake. I might feel peace as I look at the snow-capped mountains stretching across the valley before my eyes, or have my family gathered around the feast at the Thanksgiving table with laughter and love. I might define peace as freedom from all anxiety and fear. The ancient Hebrews in the Old Testament, with the word we translate shalom, talked about peace as prosperity, an abundance of everything, victory over all enemies, living by faith in harmony with God. The Hebrews’ understanding of peace was inseparable from a relationship of love, trust, and harmony with God.
Faith welcomes God to His proper place of ruling our hearts, minds, and lives. Then we can experience lasting peace.
With all the craziness of our lives and our world, what makes for peace? Why is it so elusive?
I once knew two brothers who inherited the family estate. One was a farmer. The other worked at a local elevator and rented his share of the estate to his brother. Well, the farmer brother was a big operator, and one fall he experienced a tremendous crop failure. The prices for crops were way too low, and he couldn’t make his obligations. The second brother forced payment for the rental of his ground, which flipped the farmer brother into foreclosure at the bank, and he lost everything. To their very death beds, these two brothers lived estranged from one another and bitter to the end. What would peace look like for them?
I know of a man who has fought bravely with cancer. He was terminally ill for years of treatments, surgeries, hospital stays, testing, suffering, and pain. The illness was so difficult and the diminishment of the quality of his life so significant that, though he was a man of faith, he longed for physical death. What would peace look like for him?
A husband and a wife lived in a marriage with constant turmoil. The lack of peace was so significant, they would go through periods of days and weeks living in silence. When they were speaking, they were clear in expressing mutual loathing. Their words cut one another to the heart. They knew just how to go for the jugular. To explode the marriage and make it end, one of the marriage partners had an affair with the other’s friend. The spouse, who was the offended, pursued the spouse to beg her to come back and prayed for God to help. How would they think of peace?
Jesus told the story of a father who had two sons. One was a rebel who ran off to waste all of dad’s money. The other son stayed home and was faithful, yet his favorite expressions were, That’s not fair, or I don’t care, or I don’t want to. The brother who remained home was offended by the father’s forgiveness and mercy to the rebel brother. When the rebel brother came home, the faithful son did not want to reconcile with his brother, though his father loved them both.
Peace has different applications in different life contexts. Jesus comes in all of our life circumstances to offer us peace – a peace that passes understanding. Truly, don’t our hearts yearn for peace? Not some resignation or capitulation to the conflicting circumstances of our life or the estrangement of our relationships. Not an ostrich with his head in the sand, but things that make for peace, which are true, honest, and real relationally. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the sons and daughters of God.”
So Jesus comes through the gates of Jerusalem with the courage and a wisdom that is willing to address what it takes to make peace between the broken, rebellious world and God the Father. He faces the reality of the problem. He could’ve been seduced by the praises of the crowd to accept an earthly appointment to power, but He does not settle. He knows He has come to go to a cross, to sacrifice His life to reconcile the world.
In Luke’s Gospel, when Jesus was born, a sky full of angels sang,”Peace on earth, goodwill to men.” Because Jesus had now come to the cosmos, to the earth He created, He took on the limits of our humanity in order to do what was necessary for peace.
Now on Palm Sunday, on the donkey’s back, Jesus rides into Jerusalem knowing He is going to the cross. He is going to suffer. He is going to taste blood. He is going to be executed. The crowd sings, “Peace in heaven,” “Jesus is the Prince of Peace.” He was jilted and rejected, betrayed and abandoned, abused and blasphemed, whipped bloody and nailed to a tree, lifted between heaven and earth. The King of the cosmos was executed in my place. He submitted to it in order to fulfill justice’s demands.
The perfect Prince of Peace sacrificed Himself for each one of us in love in order to declare the forgiveness of our sins, the erasing of our faults. Jesus from the cross, as the Prince of Peace, as the King of Glory, had the power to declare that our sins were forgiven. In the cross of Jesus, God was reconciling the world to Himself – not only into the opportunity of a relationship with God, but to live in the intimacy of the Father’s love. Jesus willingly went to the cross because His passion was for peace.
The tragedy is Jesus, the Prince of Peace, paid the price so peace might be ours only to have it rejected by so many of the world’s people He created and loves to this day. The heart of Jesus pulsates with a desire that we would live with Him in peace. “Jerusalem, Jerusalem,” Jesus said. “How I long to gather you, but you would not.” Jesus is the Prince of Peace who pursues you wherever you are, whatever you have done. His passion for peace is so strong He will not rest until you are His. Jesus is the perfect Prince of Peace, and He deserves to reign in our hearts.
Are you at peace? Are you at peace with God? Jesus who rode the donkey’s back knowing He was going to the cross, did everything necessary so you could know the arms of Christ are still extended toward us in love as a standing invitation. Those hands, with nail prints still in them, invite us into His embrace so we might experience His grace and love, and we might know the life God intended for us. Romans 5 says it this way, “Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him, we have access to this grace in which we live.”
Today is another day for you and I to confess simply in faith that Jesus is our Savior who went to the cross to make peace between us and God. We can thank Him for dying for us. We can, in a simple prayer, invite Jesus to come into our lives by faith so we may know we are one with God, we are forgiven, and we are His forever.
Jesus is our Prince of Peace. Amen.
Pastor Lee Laaveg