Notice the irony between these two passages from Luke’s gospel…
“An angel of the Lord appeared to [the shepherds] and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord…’ Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests.”
“Do you think I [Jesus] came to bring peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” -Luke 12:51-53
In the first account we are told that a Savior has come to bring peace. Praise the Lord! Yet, once said Savior begins His ministry He tells us plainly that He did not come to bring peace. So what is the deal? Did Jesus forget His mission? Did He decide on a better idea? How do we reconcile these two passages of Scripture?
We do this by understanding the type of peace Jesus came to bring. By implication this means there are certain categories of “peace” that He did not intend to bring. For example, and contrary to popular opinion, Jesus was not simply a good moral teacher whose mission was to show us a better way to live so that we could all just get along (anyone who thinks that betrays the fact that they’ve never read the gospels!)
Rather, His mission was to restore the peace which has been broken between God and man. This is why the angels proclaimed that this was good news of great joy for all people. The favor that God has freely placed on man is expressed through His giving His Son to die for their sins. He provided the means for our reconciliation.
The New Bible Dictionary defines reconciliation with God in these terms…
“The Bible tells us bluntly that sinners are ‘enemies’ of God (Rom. 5:10, Col. 1:21, Jas. 4:4) and we should not minimize the seriousness of these and similar passages… Now the way to overcome enmity is to take away the cause of the quarrel. We may apologize for the hasty word, we may pay the money that is due, we may make what reparation or restitution is appropriate. But in every case the way to reconciliation lies through an effective grappling with the root cause of the enmity. Christ died to put away our sin. In this way He dealt with the enmity between man and God. He put it out of the way. He made the way wide open for men to come back to God.*”
But even though this good news is for all people, not all people see it this way. And this is what explains our second passage. When we repent and exercise faith in Christ, Jesus tells us plainly that this could mean a split in even the most intimate of relationships. I know that some of you reading this have felt firsthand the truth of these words. Those who have been reconciled to God usually become the enemies of some of those who haven’t been. Interesting irony here, indeed.
Jesus is the Prince of the most important kind of peace there is, the peace between God and man which has been absent since Genesis 3. He alone is the way man is reconciled to God because He alone has adequately dealt with our sin. Some will realize that this is good news of great joy for all people, while others will scoff and lament our exclusivity.
But this Christmas, let us press on in faith in Christ, remembering the preciousness of our reconciliation. Though it may mean temporal pain here, it will mean glory for all eternity!
*Marshall, Howard I., Millard, A.R., Packer, J.I., Wiseman, D.J. The New Bible Dictionary, 3rd edition. Nottingham England, Inter-Varsity Press, (1996): p. 1002.