From George Frederic Handel’s grand masterpiece “Messiah” in 1742 to Amy Grant’s classic “Emmanuel” in our day, the phrase “Prince of Peace” tumbles out of some of our most beloved Christmas songs. But George and Amy didn’t make up that title—the Old Testament prophet Isaiah, who ministered 700 years before Christ, first used it to describe the coming Messiah.
Prince of Peace? Did peace come immediately when Jesus came? Was all hatred and war banished? Hardly. In some ways, Jesus’ coming initially added to the conflict in the troubled world. So why would Jesus be called the “Prince of Peace”?
To help us understand why Jesus is truly the Prince of Peace, we need to first paint some pictures of what you or I would have done had we tried to establish peace on earth. As we shall see shortly, God took a very different approach than we would have.
First, much like government officials, we would have tried to negotiate peace. In negotiations, one tries to get both sides to “give a little” so we can come to an agreement. We might have said to God,
“God, could you back off using the label “sin” to describe the things people do to displease you. That sounds harsh. Also, could you lower your standards of holiness. Could you just focus on the really bad things people do, like murdering others?”
Then we might have turned to our neighbors and said,
“Can you just stop doing all the really bad things like killing other people? Then you won’t make God so angry.”
Second, we might have tried to play the role of counselor or therapist. We might have asked God and people to try to see things from each other’s perspectives and try to understand where the other was coming from. Maybe, just maybe, peace would then come.
Third, we might have decided to banish all words or objects that could be used to create conflict or war. Surely peace would come then.
Fortunately, none of those solutions would have worked. We would have been applying a band-aid rather than performing radical surgery.
Here’s what God has told us:
- “By my very nature, I am totally holy, sinless. To give up even a little of my holiness would mean giving up all of it—and I would cease to be God”
- “Your ancestors rebelled against me and you followed in their footsteps. My holiness required that I drive you out of my presence. Frankly, we became enemies. And you started quarreling with each other, too”
- “Since you couldn’t fix this problem, I came down to earth in the person of my one and only son, Jesus, whom your ancestors crucified on a cruel cross. He absorbed the “body blows” of my anger, or wrath, over your sin. I brought him back to life again to show you I accepted what he did for you”
- “You and I can now be at peace with each other. The war is over!”
- “All I ask is that you confess your rebellion and accept what Jesus did on your behalf”
- “And, by the way, not only are you now at peace with me, you can be at peace with your neighbors, too. As you walk in the footsteps of Jesus, loving others, you will experience true peace”
Jesus, the Prince of Peace? Indeed. Jesus laid a solid foundation for peace. On our own, all we ever did was to construct buildings on shifting sand.
This Christmas, have you accepted what the Prince of Peace did for you? If you’d like to know more, please watch this video.