Prince of Peace

Scriptures: Luke 8:42b-48 & Luke 19:41-48

Title: Prince of Peace

Structure:

  • Introduction
  • Luke 8:42b-48
  • Luke 19:41-48
  • Conclusion

Introduction:

On the wall here we have a number of phrases…

–         Bitter sweet, old news, civil war, jumbo shrimp, lead balloon, working holiday, great depression, original copy

–         What do these phrases have in common? [Wait]

–         I’ll accept two answers for this – they are all examples of paradox or oxy-moron – putting together seemingly contradictory words or terms to create an innovative thought

 

Today we continue our series on the royal titles ascribed to the Messiah in Isaiah 9, verse 6

–         Isaiah 9 is often read at Christmas time as Christians believe this prophecy is talking about Jesus – verse 6 is familiar to many of us…

–         For unto 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 Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 

–         Two weeks ago we considered the title Wonderful Counsellor

–         Jesus is the embodiment of God’s wisdom – he reveals the Lord’s wonderful plan of salvation

–         Today we think about the title Prince of Peace and how this fits for Jesus

In the original Hebrew Prince of Peace is sort of a paradox

–         The word translated as Prince suggests an army commander – like a General – only this army commander is one who brings peace [1]

–         So Jesus is an army general who makes peace and brings an end to war

 

The Biblical concept of peace (or shalom) is more positive than just the absence of conflict

–         Peace has to do with the wellbeing of the whole person – including health, prosperity, security, friendship, salvation and justice

–         Peace isn’t just about an individual’s inner tranquillity – it’s about the well-being of the whole community

 

Luke 8:42b-48

Please turn with me to Luke chapter 8, verse 43, page 88 toward the back of your pew Bibles [2]

–         To set the scene Jesus has just returned from the other side of Lake Galilee after calming a storm and delivering a man from a legion of demons

–         In other words he has used his power to restore peace

–         On arriving back he is welcomed by a crowd eager to see him

–         Jairus, an official of the local synagogue, is there and begs Jesus to come and heal his 12 year old daughter who is dying

–         We pick up the story from half way through verse 42…

As Jesus went along, the people were crowding him from every side. 43 Among them was a woman who had suffered from severe bleeding for twelve years; she had spent all she had on doctors, but no one had been able to cure her. 44 She came up in the crowd behind Jesus and touched the edge of his cloak, and her bleeding stopped at once. 45 Jesus asked, “Who touched me?”

Everyone denied it, and Peter said, “Master, the people are all around you and crowding in on you.”

46 But Jesus said, “Someone touched me, for I knew it when power went out of me.” 47 The woman saw that she had been found out, so she came trembling and threw herself at Jesus’ feet. There in front of everybody, she told him why she had touched him and how she had been healed at once. 48 Jesus said to her, “My daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace.”

May the Spirit of Jesus illuminate this reading

 

Generally speaking Christians in the east are more inclined to think collectively while Christians in the west are more inclined to think individually

–         We, in the west, often think of salvation as inviting Jesus into our heart, personally, so we can go to heaven when we die

–         But in the east Christians are more likely to think of themselves in relation to others – so salvation of the individual affects the community as a whole

–         Both the eastern & western perspectives have something valuable to offer and are needed but we (in the west) do well to remember, the Bible came from the east

 

In his book ‘The End of Suffering’, Scott Cairns tells a story which illustrates this difference between east and west

–         A western evangelist visited a Christian monk in the east and asked if Jesus Christ was his personal Saviour, and the smiling monk replied without hesitation saying, ‘No. I like to share him’ [3]

–         The point is, we are not saved in isolation from other people

–         The salvation of one individual affects the whole community

 

We, in the west, might think of salvation as inviting Jesus into our heart and while that is true in a sense, the Bible also thinks of it the other way around

–         It’s more like God is inviting us into his heart – that is into Christ

–         Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches” – so when we become a Christian we are like a branch that is grafted into the main trunk of Christ’s body, alongside a whole lot of other branches that have been grafted in

 

The woman with the bleeding complaint lived in an eastern culture

–         Her situation at the beginning of this story represents the opposite of peace

–         She is not physically healthy and hasn’t been for a long time – she is unwell

–         She is not prosperous – she is poor having spent all she owns on doctors

–         What’s more the woman’s bleeding made her ceremonially unclean so she couldn’t participate in religious rituals and couldn’t even touch other people because that would make them (temporarily) unclean as well

–         From an eastern perspective she is like a branch that is separated from the tree of the community – she lives in isolation from others

–         This woman’s situation is the opposite of peace because, in a Biblical understanding, you can’t have peace (or wholeness) without being in right relationship with those around you

–         Not only that but the community can’t be whole without her

 

Wishing herself invisible, the woman squeezed through the crowd behind Jesus, saying to herself, “If I just touch his clothes, I will get well”

–         By reaching out to touch Jesus the woman was breaking the Law of Moses, but at the same time she was seeking peace with God

–         Because if she was healed she could then participate in the community rituals of worshipping God

–         Her action was a form of prayer in so much as she was seeking a connection with God

–         And she is not disappointed – the moment she touched Jesus’ clothes her bleeding stopped and she knew inside herself that she was healed

Jesus also knew at that moment that power had gone out from him

–         The woman’s peace cost Jesus some of his power

–         Peace comes with sharing the power of Christ (his Spirit of grace & truth)

 

Lots of people were touching Jesus – the crowd were pressed in on every side – but only one person drew a current

–         Jesus turned round and asked, “Who touched me?”

–         The disciples don’t understand

–         But Jesus waits and watches – he is giving the woman a choice here

–         Jesus doesn’t force her to come forward – he invites her to respond

When the woman realised that Jesus knew she acted in faith again

–         Coming forward she knelt at Jesus’ feet and told him the whole truth

–         Not only was this embarrassing – sharing the intimate details of her life so publicly – it was also dangerous

–         What if the crowd turned on her for making them unclean – she must have touched dozens of people getting to Jesus

–         And what if Jesus was angry with her for stealing his power – what if he made the bleeding come back or something worse?

 

But Jesus is not angry – A bruised reed he will not break and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice [4]

–         You know there is a strong connection between justice and peace

–         We can’t have peace without justice

–         It was completely unfair that this woman suffered so much because of her medical condition those 12 years

–         The bleeding wasn’t a morally bad thing – it wasn’t her fault, she couldn’t control it and yet she was punished by being excluded

–         By healing the woman Jesus puts right what is wrong – he does justice for her so she can have peace

 

Then Jesus refers to her tenderly as his ‘daughter’

–         One of the titles ascribed to the Messiah is Everlasting Father

–         Jesus looks on this woman with the love of a father for his daughter

–         Leon Morris says, she is the only woman Jesus is recorded as having addressed in this way [5] – it is a special term of endearment

–         To call this woman ‘daughter’ is to say there is a strong bond between us – we are deeply and inseparably connected

–         What a beautiful thing to say to someone who has been disconnected for 12 long years – you can never stop being someone’s son or daughter

–         It’s like Jesus is saying, you’ll never be lonely again

“My daughter, your faith has made you well.

–         In other words, it wasn’t my clothes that made you better – my cloak is not magic – your courageous trust was the key

–         Faith is the conduit for salvation and peace

–         As far as Jesus is concerned the woman is not untouchable because of her bleeding – rather she is clean because of her faith

–         By making her healing public in this way Jesus has restored the woman to her community with honour – he is grafting her back into the tree

 

Jesus finishes his conversation with the woman by saying, “Go in peace.”

–         The woman came to Jesus for physical healing but there is so much more to peace than mere physical healing (as important as that is)

–         Jesus helps the woman to make the shift from shame to honour

–         From superstition to understanding

–         From isolation to inclusion

–         From secrecy to confession

–         From anonymity to intimacy

 

Jesus isn’t just bringing about peace for the woman though

–         He is also creating peace for the whole community through her healing

–         Personal salvation affects all of us collectively

–         As long as the woman was segregated the community wasn’t whole

–         It was like the body of the community was missing a hand or a kidney or something

–         By healing the woman and restoring her to her community Jesus had made the community more whole – he is the Prince of Peace

–         Whenever someone leaves the church I always feel sad because the congregation is less whole – our peace is being eroded

 

Luke 19:41-48

Please turn with me to Luke chapter 19, verse 41, page 107 toward the back of your pew Bibles

–         In Luke 19 Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey as the crowds shout ‘Hosanna, God bless the king who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory to God’ [6]

–         Riding a donkey (as opposed to a war horse) is a sign of peace

–         Clearly the crowds see Jesus as the Messiah – the Prince of Peace, even if they misunderstand what that means

–         We pick up the reading from verse 41 of Luke 19…

41 He came closer to the city, and when he saw it, he wept over it, 42 saying, “If you only knew today what is needed for peace! But now you cannot see it! 43 The time will come when your enemies will surround you with barricades, blockade you, and close in on you from every side. 44 They will completely destroy you and the people within your walls; not a single stone will they leave in its place, because you did not recognize the time when God came to save you!”

45 Then Jesus went into the Temple and began to drive out the merchants, 46 saying to them, “It is written in the Scriptures that God said, ‘My Temple will be a house of prayer.’ But you have turned it into a hideout for thieves!”

47 Every day Jesus taught in the Temple. The chief priests, the teachers of the Law, and the leaders of the people wanted to kill him, 48 but they could not find a way to do it, because all the people kept listening to him, not wanting to miss a single word.

May the Spirit of Jesus illuminate this reading for us

 

If you build a house you need a variety of tools and materials

–         Not just a hammer, but a saw and a spade and a measuring tape and a chisel and so on

–         Not just wood & nails but concrete & glass & gib & paint and so forth

–         Likewise if you are fixing an engine you need a diverse tool kit as well as a varied skill set – you need to know about carburettors and brakes

–         And if you are playing 18 holes of golf you don’t just carry one club – you have a range of different sized clubs, including a driver, a wedge and a putter to suit the changing conditions

–         Driving off the tee requires a different technique from putting on the green

 

Like building a house or fixing an engine or playing golf, making peace is a complicated business and requires a variety of tools and strategies

–         Jesus has more than one approach for creating shalom

–         In Luke 8 Jesus created peace by healing a woman and gently restoring her to her community

–         In Luke 19 Jesus takes a different approach, overturning the tables of the money changers and clearing the temple for prayer & teaching

 

Before getting to the temple though we read of Jesus’ lament over Jerusalem

–         Jerusalem means something like ‘city of peace’ – which is quite ironic when we consider the conflict surrounding Jerusalem over the centuries

–         As he came closer to the city Jesus wept over it – not just a quiet tear or two but huge gut wrenching sobs

–         Jesus sees into the near future when the Romans would besiege the city in AD 70 and then destroy it due to a Jewish uprising

–         The tragedy is, the loss was avoidable – it didn’t need to happen that way

–         God tried to prevent this violence by sending Jesus but the people missed the point. If only you knew today what is needed for peace

–         If only you recognised the time when God came to save you

 

So what is needed for peace?

–         Well, a number of tools are needed, for example: justice, mercy, forgiveness, confession of the truth, humility, faith and so on

–         We saw some of those things in the healing of the woman in Luke 8

–         The woman demonstrated courageous faith in reaching out to touch Jesus and in confessing the truth before everyone

–         Just as Jesus demonstrated mercy & justice in healing the woman and restoring wholeness to her and the community

–         But before we can have peace for ourselves and with others we first need to make peace with God – we need to pray

At the beginning of Luke 18 Jesus tells two parables about prayer

–         In the first parable a poor widow persistently asks a judge for justice

–         Eventually the judge gives her justice so they can both have some peace

–         In the second parable a tax collector humbles himself and makes a true confession, asking God for mercy, and he is given peace with God

–         Putting these two parables together, prayer is characterised as the persistent pursuit of justice[7] and humble openness to God’s mercy

–         Prayer is the pursuit of those things which lead to peace

The temple, in Jerusalem, was meant to be a place for people to pray and make peace with God but when Jesus arrived he found the court of the gentiles choked with merchants selling animals for sacrifice and changing money

–         They had made the temple a hideout for thieves – a place in which people of violence retreat to escape justice

–         Cleary this is the opposite of what God intended for the temple and so Jesus was rightly angry at the abuse

–         Jesus is having an emotional day – he goes from sobbing uncontrollably to angry outrage and indignation

–         Jesus clears the temple, reclaiming God’s house for its legitimate purpose: the pursuit of peace through prayer, healing and teaching

 

Joel Green observes that through his teaching Jesus was reforming Jewish conceptions of God’s salvation [8]

–         The Jews thought of God’s salvation in military / political terms

–         They thought peace would be achieved by overthrowing the Romans

–         They imagined the Messiah (the Prince of Peace) would be an army commander (a general) who would lead them to victory in battle

–         Jesus means to replace that fantasy with a more accurate picture of what peace-making looks like

–         Peace-making involves turning the other cheek, forgiving people who don’t deserve it and going the extra mile for your oppressors [9]

–         Paradoxically peace requires the peace-makers to suffer injustice, at least temporarily

–         It is painful, costly and vulnerable work – not attractive or easy at all

–         Sadly, the leaders of the people didn’t recognise what is needed for peace and plotted to murder Jesus, the very one sent to save them

 

Conclusion:

The temple building in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in AD70

–         Jesus replaces the temple – he is the new temple

–         Jesus is now the one we enter, to make our peace with God

–         Jesus is the one we enter, to pray in good faith – seeking God’s justice & mercy in a spirit of humility

–         Jesus is the one we enter, to receive healing and wisdom and wholeness, not just for our own benefit but for the sake of those around us as well.

 

Questions for discussion or reflection:

1.)    What stands out for you in reading these Scriptures and/or in listening to the sermon?

2.)    In what sense is the title Prince of Peace paradoxical?

3.)    How is the Biblical understanding of peace (or shalom) different from our contemporary western concept of peace?

–         List some of the ways we see Jesus bringing peace (shalom) in the gospels

4.)    Discuss / reflect on the two ways of understanding salvation: i.e. us inviting Jesus into our heart personally and God inviting us into his heart (into Jesus)

–         What insights on salvation & peace does each perspective offer?

5.)    Why did Jesus pause to ask who touched him (in Luke 8:45)?

– How does Jesus bring a more holistic peace to the woman personally?

– In what sense does the woman’s healing bring peace to the wider community?

6.)    What are some of the tools and strategies needed for peace?

–         How is Jesus’ approach to peace different in Luke 8 & Luke 19?

7.)    What do the two parables at the beginning of Luke 18 show us about the nature of prayer?

8.)    Take some time this week to reflect on what it means that Jesus replaces the temple?

 

Footnotes:

[1] John Goldingay, NIBC Isaiah, page 71.

[2] Walter Brueggemann refers to the woman with the bleeding complaint, in relation to Jesus’ peace, in his book ‘Names for the Messiah’, and in an article on peace in the Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels.

[3] Scott Cairns, ‘The End of Suffering’, page 75.

[4] Isaiah 42:3

[5] Leon Morris, Luke, page 160.

[6] Luke 19:38

[7] Joel Green, Luke, page 693.

[8] Joel Green, Luke, page 692.

[9] Refer Matthew 5:38-48

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