December 6, 2020

In Christ… Peace Endures

Passage: Isaiah 2:1-5, Ephesians 2:11-20

Epictetus, a philosopher of the first century, made an expression about the Pax Romana – the Roman peace that existed in the civilized world at the time, and about which Caesar boasted,  “While the emperor may give peace from war on land and sea, he is unable to give peace from passion, grief and envy.  He cannot give peace of heart, for which man yearns more than even for outward peace.”  Epictetus was right – there was and is no man or woman who could ever give peace of mind that will last.  It's only Jesus Who was man and Who is God forever Who can bring Peace to human minds.  We just heard from Ephesians 2: 14a, “For He Himself is our peace...”  Today on the Sunday of Peace in Advent, we come with assurance in our hearts to tell a world that yearns for Peace – “In Christ...Peace Endures.”  Isaiah must have thought of the same reality when he prophesied about Peace that was going to be established forever.  In chapter 2: 2&4 we read, “In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it...He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples.  They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.  Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.”  Some Bible commentators say that one day the peak of Mount Moriah, the mountain on which the temple once stood, will literally be raised thousands of metres – even higher than Mount EverestThough God is more than capable to do something like that, Isaiah was only using figurative language here.  It was like the prophet wanted to tell his people 2700 years ago – “God is going to raise up something far more superior than a mountain!  It will be the throne of His Son and nations will stream to Him as the Prince of Peace, the One anointed by the Father.”  “The last days”  Isaiah referred to are the days we live in now.  It's the time since the birth of Jesus till the end of the world.  In this 'kairos' or God's time it's wonderful to know that God has a plan for the world in 2020.  His plan is that Peace will become a reality for all people as they turn to Jesus Christ.  And then when the world comes to an end those who accepted Him as Lord will experience heavenly Peace in His presence forever.  My friends, at the table of the Lord, which is also a reality for you who are at home, there is a wonderful affirmation – Jesus Christ came to bring Peace; Peace between God and us...and Peace between all people on earth.  This Peace between people is something that has to be embraced as Peace between God and us is embraced.  But the problem is that the human race has always looked at Peace as something conditional.  It reminds me of two nations that were at war.  It was Christmas and the unthinkable happened – one soldier started singing Silent Night.  Soon, all his comrades joined in...and then the enemy joined in as well.  The two groups met in the middle of the battle field.  But when they were singing about Peace on earth one soldiers fired a shot in the air.  All the soldiers scattered back to their trenches.  They reminded themselves why they were there – to fight in war.  Isn't it perhaps the perception people have in our world – we are meant for the opposite of Peace – conflict.  That wasn't God's plan for the world.  His plan was to establish Peace in Christ.

When Jesus came as Prince of Peace, what was His plan to establish Peace?  First He Rose Up His Church.  From our reading in Ephesians 2: 13 we learn, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”  At the table of the Lord, we are reminded that we have been bought with a very expensive price – His own precious blood.  Ephesians 2: 13 affirms that – “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” In a few minutes we will drink from the vine and it will connect us with the place called, “The Skull”, where Jesus' blood was spilled for us.  And with that my friends our Lord made Peace between us and His Father.  And from that moment His Father became Our Father.  Isn't that a wonderful blessing to know that we are right with God?  Just like Isaiah prophesied that nations will stream to the temple of the Lord, people after Jesus died on the cross can stream to God.  There is no wrath of God that will consume us – Jesus took the punishment we deserved.  Prof. Herman Bavinck, Dogmatics professor at Kampen in the Netherlands, had a lecture on the Peace of God one evening.  A few students in his class questioned whether we can be really at peace with God.  He asked them to follow him as he led them to the Seminary chapel.  It was dark in the chapel and he turned on only the spotlights that illumined a crucifix at the front of the chapel.  He told his students, “What you see on that cross, is the Peace with God His Son secured.”  Friends, we are a part of the Church Christ rose up for Himself and we are at Peace with Him and His Father.  That assurance we received from His Spirit that dwells in our hearts.

Isaiah received the vision of how God in His Son would Settle Disputes Between Peoples.  In the last days, swords will be pounded into the iron tips that were placed on wooden plows.  Spears will have their blades bent and be used for pruning trees.  There will be no more soldiers marching and training for battle.  There will be no need to go to war any more.  We don't know exactly when our Lord will settle all the disputes we see between nations and people.  Some would say, “It's wishful thinking to even hope that war will come to and end.”  But my friends, it will and Peace will be the only reality.  To assure that, God gave an indescribable Gift to the world.  It was the Baby in the manger.  And just as He made Peace between us and His Father, He will bring Peace between people.  Ephesians 2: 14 affirms that – “For He himself is our peace, Who has made us both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility.”  If God, through His Spirit had come on a young virgin to conceive and bear the Saviour of the world, just as much it's in His power to change a world from war and conflict to a place where Peace will be enduring.  You see, Peace isn't an illusion – it's a reality.  It came to us in Jesus and it will increase until God finished to establish His Kingdom of Peace.  In His Son, this Peace has to be embraced; it has to be lived.  As we celebrate the Season, let's ask ourselves, “What will I do with the Peace Jesus brought?”