Tuesday, December 18, 2018

The Peace of Christmas

The punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” – Isaiah 53:5b

A wise man once gave a young, discouraged coworker this advice: “The way to achieve inner peace is to finish all the things you’ve started." So the young man went home and took his mentor’s advice. The next day at work the man asked his young friend if he felt more at peace, and he responded, “You have no idea! I went home and looked around the house to see all the things I had started but hadn’t finished. And before I left this morning, I finished off a bottle of red wine, a bottle of white, some cheesecake, a box of chocolates, and the rest of my Prozac. I totally feel at peace!”

Well, that’s not REAL peace, is it? Let’s take a look at the REAL peace that Jesus offers us at Christmas. A marvelous prophecy about Jesus is recorded in Isaiah 53:5, where God tells His people, “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”

Think about these powerful words for a moment: “The punishment that brought us peace was upon him.” The Hebrew word for peace is “shalom”--one of the most important words to the Jewish people. For centuries, orthodox Jews have greeted each other with the one-word greeting “Shalom!” To the orthodox Jew, “Shalom!” is used both for a “Hello!” and a “Goodbye!” But it means so much more. Shalom is most often translated into English as “peace” or “harmony.” But shalom more literally means “wholeness.”

So, when a Jewish man wishes his neighbor “shalom,” he is wishing him wholeness—in his health, in his marriage and in his walk with God. And when God tells us in Isaiah 53:5 that “the punishment that brought us shalom was upon Jesus,” He is telling us that because of our sin, our relationship with God was shattered into a million pieces. Our relationship with God was hopelessly broken. And because our broken relationship was absolutely, 100% our fault, we rightly deserved to be punished.

The wages of sin is death. But because of God’s amazing grace through Christ, we don’t have to experience eternal brokenness and punishment. Because Jesus never sinned, he didn’t deserve any punishment and his relationship with God was perfectly whole. Jesus traded us his reward for our punishment, and his shalom with God for our brokenness. Is there any doubt that Jesus got the short end of the stick on that trade?

When the angels shouted in the Bethlehem sky, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth shalom to men on whom His favor rests” (Luke 2:14), they were talking about wholeness. Yes, they wanted us to know that Jesus offers us peace with God! Yes, they wanted us to know that Jesus offers us harmony with God! But perhaps most of all they wanted us to know that Jesus offers us wholeness with God. Jesus had come into the world to put back together what we had irreparably broken.

But I find it interesting that Jesus, at times, gives a mixed message about the shalom that he brought to mankind. In John 14:27 Jesus tells his disciples, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” But then he says in Matthew 10:34-36, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’”

Well, that doesn’t sound very peaceful, does it? But think about it. When it comes to true peace, the world doesn’t get it. The world thinks that peace comes on the heels of anti-bullying campaigns and by eliminating politically incorrect words from our vocabulary and reducing greenhouse gases. And this Christmas season, many seem to think we’ll have more peace if we stop singing “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” and stop watching “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”!

None of these things can bring true, lasting shalom. Anti-bullying campaigns can’t make a person whole. Stricter emissions standards cannot make a person whole. Only Jesus Christ can make a person whole. That’s the truth. But the problem is, many of our family members and coworkers and neighbors don’t want to hear the truth. So, when we embrace the shalom of Jesus Christ and receive peace with God and peace with others, many unbelievers around us will say, “Thanks, but no thanks! I want nothing to do with you or your Jesus.”

The Prince of Peace came to bring wholeness, but to those who reject Him, he actually ends up bringing division. The Good News of Jesus Christ is rightly called the Gospel of peace. But the Gospel of peace—when it is bitterly rejected—becomes more like a gospel of war. The gospel of peace does not bring peace to those who harden their hearts.

But to those who are willing to accept it, the word of God is clear: Jesus IS the Prince of Peace. Jesus is the only One who offers true, lasting peace—peace and wholeness within our own broken lives, peace and wholeness within our relationship with others, and peace and wholeness in our relationship with God.

Dane Davis is the Lead Pastor of First Christian Church in Victorville. For more information,
visit www.YourVictorvilleChurch.com and join us for church Sundays at 10 a.m.

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