THE GOOD NEWS: Jesus, Prince of Peace and Prince of War
Jesus said, “Do not imagine that I came to cast peace upon the earth; I came not to cast peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34) With these chilling words, Jesus gave tone and tenor to the work of the Church. That there may be peace with God in heaven, there must be war on earth. And that is precisely what Jesus went on to describe. “A man in alienation against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.” (Matthew 10:35-36) The image is of a family of five torn apart beyond recognition. And the line of division in Jesus’ example was not politics, as though the son could be a never-Trumper and the father a Trump supporter, or the daughter COVID cautious and the mother COVID careless, or the daughter-in-law marching with Black Lives Matter and the mother-in-law serving in law enforcement. The line of division is Jesus Christ. How can it be Jesus is both Prince of Peace and Prince of War? First, if Jesus had not come to take away the sin of the world, the world would have gone undisturbed in its sin until its Judgment Day doom. In other words, with his sin in the Garden, our first father, Adam, declared war on God. And since the moment of his sin, every single person’s notion of peace is to be left alone in their sin. Imagine. Our nature is so at home in sin that we will believe peace comes from being at war with God. Second, because Jesus did come to take away the sin of the world, the world went to war with him to keep it. That is to say, as the addict fends off clinical intervention and fights to keep his dependency, so the sinner fends off divine intervention and fights to keep his sin. Imagine. Our nature is so willful to reject true peace that we will fight to remain at war with God. Therefore, because man is by nature friendly with sin and hostile to God, Jesus became both Prince of Peace and Prince of War. There must be war on earth, that there may be peace with God in heaven. After all, heaven is what this is all about. Not this earth where, even if everyone’s skin was the same color, there will never be peace. Where trust in princes, including Donald Trump, is always misplaced. Where we are destined to die, if not of COVID, of something. So God went to war. That is, Jesus Christ left his heavenly Father to come to earth. “For us and for our salvation, [Jesus Christ] came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary and was made man.” And, there was war. “He came to his own, and those who were his own did not receive him.” (John 1:11) Instead, from them, he received his cross. And on that cross greater war broke out. On that cross “(God) made him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf ...” (2 Corinthians 5:21) That is, the sin in which we make our peaceful rest, the sin to which we fight to cling, God placed on his sinless Son and condemned him for it. In this way it is accurate to say on Calvary God went to war with himself. God the Father in alienation against God the Son. And there, on Calvary, God died. Jesus Christ, cause of war, poured out his innocent blood to lose his life, casualty of war. “He suffered and was buried; and the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures” — to bring peace. Imagine. Jesus Christ fought our war for us so that we would be forever apart from our sin but never apart from him. You see, with resurrected and living Jesus Christ, the war is over. Apart from him, there is no peace. That is all about war with God in hell. But with him, through faith trust in him, there is peace with God. And that peace is evidenced in the work of the Church. That is, that there may be peace with God in heaven then, in Christ, there is peace with God on earth now. The tone and tenor of the work of the Church is God giving his peace to people on earth, delivering them from the certain peril of their misleading feelings of peace to the certain promise of his declaration of peace through the forgiveness of sins. Imagine. In this war-torn and riotous world, the Good News is that in the Church we have peace with God on earth through Jesus Christ. And peace with God on earth will bring us to peace with God in heaven. Kevin Wendt is pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in Destin.