For being the Prince of Peace, Jesus sure knows how to stir up trouble!
The truth is, of course, that we are the ones who have disturbed the peace of the cosmos. We are the ones who have broken the law and are to be hauled into court to pay our debt. We are the ones who are at war with God and therefore at war with one another, at war within ourselves, and at war with nature. In fact, the traditional list of three kinds of conflict that literary textbooks talk about – man vs. man, man vs. himself, and man vs. nature – is incomplete, for it leaves out the most important kind of conflict of all: man vs. God.
We expect that when God walked into the world that everything would be made better immediately and without any fuss. We thought that we could start a war against God, change sides in the war, and then there would be no more war. As violently as the war began, we would have liked to believe, is how peacefully it will simply ebb away.
But the problem is that this isn’t the case. To bring peace to a war at world with itself, war must be waged, and as General Sherman said, “War is Hell!” To turn an upside down right side up again requires a cataclysm that is violent and very disturbing. And to make known the reality of this war and the two opposing sides, it was necessary that the Light of the World illuminate the fundamental division that exists in the world: the division between sheep and goats, disciples of Jesus Christ and rejecters of Jesus Christ, and the children of light and the children of darkness.
The disturbing, violent nature of the cataclysmic work of redemption reverberates throughout the end of Luke chapter 12: in fact, it’s been thundering all around us ever since Peter made his confession in Luke 9:20 and Jesus began to teach about the real nature of what the Christ of God has come to do.
We hear it in Jesus’ voice when He says in verse 50, “But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how distressed I am till it is accomplished.” Jesus knows the terrible price that must be paid to bring peace to the earth and to humans once again. He knows, and He sets His face like flint to obey the will of the Father. And He is greatly distressed while He waits to pay that terrible price. As He gets closer to the Cross, that Cross begins to get heavier and heavier upon Him. This is the deeper magic of Tolkien’s The Return of the King, in which the closer Frodo gets to Mount Doom to destroy the Ring, the heavier it gets.
We feel Jesus’ distress and the shaking of the earth as Jesus reveals the growing chasm between Good and Evil. “Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division,” He tells us in verse 51. Even families are divided by the coming of the Christ of God because some will accept Him and some will reject Him.
And then Jesus directs our attention beyond His own pain and conflict, and beyond our present pain and conflict, and to the end of time instead. Even time is disturbed by the coming of the Christ, so that the great dividing line in history is time Before Christ (B.C.) and time In the Year of Our Lord (Anno Domini, or A.D.) Time is also divided because within any given time period, some will not discern the time and will be unprepared for the coming of the Judge, while others will redeem the time. Some will settle with the Judge by accepting His terms of peace, and others will never make peace with Him and will therefore be thrown into the prison of Hell.
This is the terrible war and earthquake and apocalypse of the Christ of God!
And yet for the Christian it is a message of peace, and He truly is the Prince of Peace. The violence and divisions and mighty motion is all necessary to bring peace, but in the end, there is the offer of peace from the Prince of Peace. The terms of peace are to accept the terrible price that was paid to buy peace for us. The terms of peace are unconditional surrender to the One who has conquered for you: the terms of peace are to allow the Prince of Peace to conquer you.
To receive this peace, therefore, we must be united to the Prince of Peace. And here is where we sometimes don’t understand. Being united with Jesus Christ means we partake of all of Him. Will we be baptized with the same baptism with which He was baptized? The baptism He is talking about in verse 50 is His Passion and Crucifixion for us: it meant His death. And if we want to be baptized with Him we must also die, but die to self that we might be raised to life with Him.
This is sometimes a deeply disturbing and terrible thing. You won’t hear many TV preachers – or preachers anywhere – talk about this. It may not be a popular teaching, and yet we all know in our hearts that it’s true. But making peace with Jesus Christ may actually be painful and difficult. Making the choice to do the will of the Father and give up self causes a great deal of turmoil in our souls. It hurts, it disturbs me, and it’s sometime odious to turn from what I want to do in order to serve God. And making a choice to love and serve God with all of your heart and soul and mind when others around you are not making this choice will be the source of distress in your life.
But do not be afraid. When your soul is in trouble over the things that God has asked you to do, be at peace, knowing that you are at peace with God through the Prince of Peace. The Christ who suffered for you also rose for you, and the Christ with whom you must suffer is also the Christ with whom you will be raised up.
For the world which still rejects the Prince of Peace there can be no peace on earth. But blessed are the peacemakers, those who seek peace with God, for they shall be called the sons of God!
Prayer: Father, may You, through Jesus Christ the Prince of Peace, give to me the peace that passes all understanding and keep my heart and mind in the knowledge and love of You and of Your Son, Jesus Christ. May Your blessing, the blessing of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost be with me and remain with me always. Amen.
Point for Meditation: Examine the causes of distress in your life. Which ones are caused by running away from God like Jonah? Which ones are caused by the worries and cares of the world? Which ones are caused by the heaviness of what God has asked you to do?
Resolution: I resolve to settle with God whatever I know is not settled with Him in my life. Choose the one thing that most distresses you in your relationship with God and in the things He has asked you to do, and offer that to Him as a peace offering.