Messiah the Peacemaker
“Peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” (Luke 2:14)1 These were the words used when angels announced the birth of the Messiah so long ago. Today, it is still painfully evident that our world is in great need of peace.
Our world is burdened by an incurable HIV/AIDS pandemic. The world economy has been badly shaken. Religious radicals take pride in killing others in the name of God. Yes, we need peace.
In 2008, barely one month before Christmas, the very day when the birth of the Messiah is commemorated, the United Nations convened a “High-Level Meeting on the Culture of Peace.” The Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, gave an urgent appeal, saying, “the need for dialogue among religions, cultures and civilizations has never been greater.” Interestingly, this 'high-level meeting' was called a 'Dialog Conference'.
Peacemaking has been a cornerstone of the UN charter. Did you know that the UN charter contains a quote from the Bible about “beating swords into ploughshares” – a prediction of the peaceful situation during the Messiah's reign?
It seems fitting, therefore, that interfaith dialog should consider Jesus Christ who is recognized by all faiths as an outstanding peacemaker and 'messianic' figure.
Christians are not the only ones who believe Jesus Christ was a peacemaker. Muslims believe he will return to earth in the end times to conquer evil and usher in a period of worldwide peace. One Muslim writer has noted Islamic sources that confirm Al Masih (Jesus) will abolish Jihad; "Sayyidina Salamah bin Nufayl has said that the messenger of Allah said, ‘The (command of) Jihad will not be abolished until the descent of Isa Ibn Maryam.’ (Seerat al-Mughlata', Musnad Ahmad)" 2
One can see similarities between these quotes and Bible prophecies telling how the Messiah as Prince of Peace “will settle international disputes. They will hammer swords into ploughshares... Nation will no longer fight against nation nor train for war anymore.... Your king will bring peace to the nations." (Isaiah 2:4; Zechariah 9:10).
The Ahadith mentions other Messianic prophecies such as, 1) the wolf and the lamb living together and 2) worldwide peace during Messiah's reign.3
It is appropriate to consider the peacemaking work of Christ in the context of our polarized world because many Muslims and Christians interpret current events as signs of the end times. However, it is also true that many aspects of Christ's life on earth, that is, his first coming, show him to be a peacemaker.
Messiah's first coming
Before Jesus was born it was foretold that he would “guide us to the path of peace.” (Luke 1:79) Peacemaking was a theme in His teaching, “God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.” (Matthew 5:9)
Jesus promoted peace when he healed a woman plagued by an incurable disease. After healing her, he said, “Your faith has made you well. Go in peace.” (Luke 8:48) Another situation prompted Jesus to speak the same reassuring words, “Go in peace.” In this case, however, it involved a different kind of problem – the person was an “immoral woman”. After forgiving her sins, Jesus said, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Luke 7:50)
Both these examples ended on a happy note but on a different occasion near the end of his earthly life, Jesus twice mentioned the tragic results that will ensue when peace is not achieved. We read in Luke 19 that a crowd of onlookers loudly acclaimed Jesus saying, “Blessings on the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in highest heaven.”
The Jewish leaders were offended by this and urged Jesus to stop such things being said. Jesus refused. Then, as he “came closer to Jerusalem, and saw the city ahead, he began to weep. ‘How I wish today that you of all people would understand the way to peace. But now it is too late, and peace is hidden from your eyes. Before long, your enemies will build ramparts against your walls and encircle you and close in on you from every side. They will crush you into the ground, and your children with you. Your enemies will not leave a single stone in place because you did not accept your opportunity for salvation.’” (Luke 19:38-44)
Bible commentators have noted that “Jerusalem's utter destruction (in 70 A.D.) was divine judgement for their failure to recognize and embrace their Messiah when he visited them.” (John MacArthur) Muslims are inclined to agree, feeling confident to do so because Islam acknowledges Jesus as the Messiah ('Al Masih' is found 11 times in the Qur’an).
While it is true that Christ's prophecy underscores God's judgement of the Jews, it does not give anyone permission to feel bitter hatred against them, nor to believe their wickedness is so great they should be “wiped off the map” (as some Muslims are inclined to feel). Scripture tells us that one day God will restore a remnant of the Israelites. Not only will they survive the painful consequences of God's discipline, they will be saved and will bring great blessing to the rest of the world. “As the scriptures say, 'God has ... shut their eyes so they do not see ...' Some of the people of Israel have hard hearts, but this will last only until the full number of Gentiles comes to Christ.” (Romans 11:8,15,25; Zechariah 12:10; Joel 2:28-32)
God will gather his people again from the ends of the earth. He also promised, “With a little wrath I hid My face from you for a moment; But with everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you ... For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but my kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall my covenant of peace be removed,” (Isaiah 54:8-10, NKJV)
What is this 'covenant of peace'? In ancient times, covenants were ratified through the offering of a sacrifice. Isaiah 53, which immediately precedes the above mentioned promise, foretells how the Messiah will be “an offering for sin”. “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him ...” (vv. 10,5, NKJV)
It should come as no surprise then, that Jerusalem, which literally means ‘city of peace’, is the very place where Messiah accomplished his supreme peacemaking mission. Jesus Christ predicted that Jerusalem would be the place where he would be killed and three days later rise again. He specified this city as the place “where all the predictions of the prophets concerning the Son of Man will come true.” (Luke 18:31-33) Furthermore, Scripture says, “through Jesus Christ God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ's blood on the cross.” (Colossians 1:20)
Peter, one of the disciples, confirmed that reconciliation and peace was accomplished through Christ's death. He proclaimed, “In every nation God accepts those who fear him and do what is right. This is the message of Good News ... that there is peace with God through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. ... And we apostles are witnesses of all he did throughout Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a cross but God raised him to life on the third day. He is the one all the prophets testified about, saying that everyone who believes in him will have their sins forgiven through his name.” (Acts 10:35-43, note: bold font emphasizes Jerusalem as the pivotal place where peace with God was achieved)
Exploring the connection between peacemaking, sin and forgiveness
Do you recall the incident mentioned earlier where Jesus forgave the sins of the immoral woman? How could he forgive such sins? It is significant that Peter says “sins are forgiven through his name” that is, the name Jesus. Both the Qur'an and the Bible teach that Mary gave her miracle child a name chosen by God himself. As it is written, “you are to name him Jesus for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)
Muhammad I. A. Usman, a respected Mufti, writes in his book, ‘Islamic Names’ that Jesus' name means 'God is salvation', a definition consistent with other scholars. Decide for yourself: “Do I believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Prince of Peace? Am I willing to accept that Jesus brought God's salvation and that he alone is able to forgive my sins?”
Two articles explaining the peacemaking work of Messiah in more detail are available. A short one titled "Signposts to Paradise" and a long one titled "Converging Destinies: Jerusalem, Peace and the Messiah"
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