Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
The ancient prophet Isaiah wrote the following about the promised Messiah:
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end.” (Isaiah 9:6,7)
When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey Matthew called it a fulfillment of what the prophet Zechariah had written (Matthew 21:3):
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the war-horses from Jerusalem, and the battle bow will be broken. He will proclaim peace to the nations” (Zechariah 9:9-10).
Peace signifies perfection and completeness
The peace the prophets spoke about is not merely the cessation of war. We tend to speak that way about nations that are no longer locked in battle. We say they are finally at peace or they have reached a peace agreement. The peace the Messianic King will usher in is much more comprehensive and positive than that. It signifies completeness, perfection or more precisely, a condition in which nothing is lacking. The concept comes from the Hebrew shalom which we translate as peace. The verbal form of that noun signifies such things as to finish, to complete, to pay a debt.
Instead of our hello (stop) or goodbye (God-be-with-you), the Hebrew greeting was usually shalom, peace to you! Such peace was conceived of as a gift of the Lord. All who are united with him have this peace. So the priestly blessing, used weekly also in many Christian worship settings, was:
“The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
The Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace” (Numbers 6:22-26).
Thus, peace is a gift of the Lord to his faithful people. He teaches what is best for them. He directs them on the correct pathways. They who submit to his rule and obey his commands prosper. Their peace is like a river and their righteousness like the waves of the sea, said the prophet. Their descendants are like the sand and their children like its numberless grains. Their names will never be cut off nor destroyed before the Lord (Isaiah 48:17-19).
is the Peace Maker
Jesus is the promised Messiah, the long-awaited Prince of Peace. He has come to guide the feet of his people into the path of peace (Luke 1:79). According to his human nature Jesus was a descendant of King David, the Messiah (Anointed One) of Israel. Matthew makes this very clear in his gospel. He opens with a genealogy of Jesus Christ (Messiah), tracing his lineage back to David, the son of Abraham (Matthew 1:1-17). At his birth the angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14). He is also revealed as the Son of God through a series of events: his call from Egypt (2:15), his baptism (3:17) and his transfiguration (17:5). So, he is both the son of David and the Son of God.
Peace is the gift of this Messiah. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives” (John 14:27). Jesus is the supreme Peacemaker, sent to reconcile all mankind with the heavenly Father. This is why he came among us as a man. His work of reconciliation is the clearest indication of his divine sonship. In this task, he shows who he is by what he does. His identity as the Son of God was further confirmed when God raised him from the dead with his almighty power (Romans 1:4).
God’s blessing rests upon his peacemaking Son. In the entire New Testament the verb, ‘to make peace’ is used only once. When used it speaks about Jesus reconciling all things on earth and in heaven to God by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross (Colossians 1:20). Thus, the making of peace is connected to the concept of reconciliation.
From the very beginning, the union of a man and a woman in marriage was an image of the relationship between God and his people. This image is often used in the writings of the Old Covenant (Testament) to speak about the marriage of the Lord to his bride, the children of Israel:
“No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate. But you will be called Hephzibah (my delight is in her), and your land Beulah (married). As a young man marries a maiden, so will your sons marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you” (Isaiah 62:4-5).
The prophet Isaiah speaks in this quotation about a marriage relationship that needs to be reconciled. Husband and wife need to be reunited, to be made one again in body, mind, heart and soul. This is what the union of marriage is all about. The wife belongs to her husband and he belongs to her. This is why the Lord commands reconciliation rather than divorce (1 Corinthians 7:2-5, 10-11). Christ reconciled the church to himself, writes the Apostle Paul, when he “loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, to present her to himself as a radiant church without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless” (Ephesians 5:25-27). By the grace of God, this wondrous unity, foreshadowed from the beginning in the marriage of Adam and Eve, is now restored in Christ Jesus, the ultimate Peacemaker (Genesis 2:24; Ephesians 5:28-32).
The church is that body of Christ, the community of believers united by faith with him. She is his bride and she has peace because he is ever with her. And no matter where she is scattered, he is with his bride, the members of his body. In spite of their troubles in this world, the disciples of Christ always have peace (John 16:33).
Therefore, we who are the church, united with him by faith, now share with him the great task of reconciling the world to God. Not only do we proclaim Christ’s great peacemaking work, but we also are engaged in the work of peacemaking. Jesus’ Spirit empowers us. That Spirit teaches us to pray, “Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12). This work of reconciliation is so critical that Jesus says we forfeit our own forgiveness if we do not forgive men when they sin against us (Matthew 6:14-15). Forgiving and reconciling is what we sons of God do (the term sons is generic and not gender specific; it refers to children). We give to those who use force to intimidate us. We love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:38-47). Our work of reconciliation is declared by Jesus to be even more important than bringing an offering to God’s altar (Matthew 5:21-26).
In the life of the individual believer as well as in the life of the community of faith, there is thus a rich and indissoluble unity between the inner life of faith and the outer life of deeds. The entire letter of James is dedicated to demonstrating this. We dare not speak about God’s reconciling mercy and then fail to be a part of it ourselves. Our task and privilege is both to proclaim the reconciling work of Christ and in the power of his Spirit to work to reconcile all men to God and to one another. This involves such things as looking after orphans and widows in their distress (James 1:22), clothing and feeding the poor (2:1-17), controlling our tongues (3:1-12) and sharing our earthly blessings with the unfortunate (5:1-8). These are but illustrations of how we demonstrate to the world around us that we are the sons of God. We are the children of God, reborn by the Holy Spirit at work through the Gospel. We are peacemakers. When Christ returns we peacemakers will share fully with him in his blessings upon the sons of God. In that eternal day, the reconciled bride will rejoice forever with her husband at the everlasting wedding feast prepared for her by his cross.
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