“Here am I, the servant of the Lord;
let it be with me according to your word.”
He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.
Peace! Ah, what a lovely word. There are over a million words in the English language and surveys show that the word peace is one of our favorites. Peace sounds good in other languages too: paz, paix, pache, mir, fred, shalom, and salaam, to mention a few. The whole world longs for peace. Many Christmas cards carry the longing for “peace on earth”. Thus, it is a remarkable phrase in today’s scripture from which we learn that God is “making peace through the blood of the cross.” Such a bold announcement of peace is not just for the world, but also for “all things, whether on earth or in heaven”!
The ancient world longed for peace, and the Romans prided themselves as providers of peace for that world, calling it Pax Romana (“Roman Peace”). They built grand monuments to Roman Peace and even issued coins with the word pax (peace) alongside images of various Roman emperors. The Age of Caesar Augustus was hailed the age of gold as the empire stretched to the furthest reaches of Britain, North Africa, and Persia.
But for the Romans peace meant subjecting other peoples to Roman rule. Roman armies and outposts were funded by taxes from nations defeated and allegedly defended. Thus, the Christmas story begins with familiar words from Luke’s Gospel: “And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed” (Luke 2:1, King James Version). That meant money to go for so-called Roman Peace! The irony of Roman Peace is illustrated in the impressive “Temple of Peace” (Templum Pacis) built in Rome from spoils of war, and decorated with the golden vessels plundered from the obliterated Jewish temple. (See Josephus, Jewish Wars, VII) Caesar Augustus did not have a clue that the only hope for world peace was sleeping in a manger.
Today’s scripture sets forth the peace won for us by Christ “through the blood of the cross.” The Roman Empire, like all other empires, made peace through overwhelming defeat of the enemy; God makes peace with His enemies through His blood on the cross. At His birth the angel host sang about the peace Christ brings: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favours!” (Luke 2:14).
Rome thought of peace as merely the absence of war. Through His cross Jesus brings a peace that is both peace with God and the peace of God. This peace is not a momentary good feeling, but an eternal reality. All enmity between God and humankind has been removed by the blood of the cross!
Paul speaks elsewhere of “peace with God” through Jesus Christ: “Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). Then Paul speaks also of the “peace of God” belonging to every believer: “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).
Amazing grace! Jesus brings peace not through defeating His enemy, but by reconciling the enemy to God. Those who were once hostile to God He adopts into His family (Ephesians 1:5-9), making them forever His children (John 1:12)! As believers in Jesus we get to live in His peace:
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid” (John 14:27).
It is peace won by the blood of the cross!
- What does peace WITH God mean for you today?
- What does the peace OF God mean for you today?