Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me,
even so I am sending you.
By Stephen W. Hiemstra
When we focus solely on peace as reconciliation among feuding folks—relief of the tension with our brothers and sisters, we miss the significance of God’s peace—shalom—breaking out throughout scripture. Remember that shalom means “completeness, soundness, welfare, peace” (BDB 10002). It also implies healing, restoration, reconciliation, and salvation—not just hello and goodbye (as it is often used in Hebrew), but a return to Eden. Shalom implies inner peace, peace with God, and peace between brothers and sisters—a trinity of peace.
If this Trinitarian interpretation of peace seems far-fetched, remember that the Beatitudes and Jesus’ call sermon at Nazareth (Luke 4:14–21) start with the words of the Prophet Isaiah:
The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion—to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified. (Isa 61:1–3)
Notice the inner peace referenced with the phrase: “bind up the brokenhearted”; notice the peace with God referenced with the phrase: “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me”; notice the peace with brothers and sisters referenced with the phrase: “to proclaim liberty to the captives”. In effect, God himself has initiated a trinity of peace—inner peace, peace with God, and peace among brothers and sisters—which broke out with the coming of Christ, as Isaiah prophesied and to which we will now turn.
What could bring peace more quickly than physical and mental healing, as Jesus’ miracles attest? Jesus’ first miracle after leaving Nazareth occurs in the synagogue in Capernaum, Peter’s home town, where Jesus drives out a demon out of a man (Luke 4:31-38). After that man was healed, demon deliverance ministry becomes a common occurrence (Luke 4:41).
Jesus’ healing transformed a person so dramatically that it was obvious just looking at them, as we witness with the healing of the man with the unclean spirit in the Gerasenes: “And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man, the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid.” (Mark 5:15) The healed man immediately becomes an evangelist (Mark 5:20), much like the woman at the well (John 4:28–30), because the presence of God—the shalom of God—is news that we cannot keep to ourselves.
Peace with God
Many people today take peace with God for granted, as if sin and the wrath of God were suddenly of no consequence. However, the Bible reminds us that Jerusalem was destroyed first by the Babylonians and later by the Romans for the sin of refusing, ignoring, and killing the prophets (Matt 23:34-47); events provoked by sin and God’s response to it.
This problem of sin persists. In the Old Testament, prophets reminded the people of their obligations under the Mosaic covenant—in other words, their sin. In the New Testament, Jesus Christ atones for our sin with his death on the cross, as Paul writes:
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas [Peter], then to the twelve. (1 Cor 15:3-5)
Of first importance, Christ’s atoning sacrifice makes peace with God possible. If we claim to have no sin (or deny its importance) and refuse to acknowledge Christ’s atoning sacrifice, then our sin and guilt remain. If unrepentant sin led to the destruction of the temple and the city of Jerusalem, then why would God spare unrepentant and sinful people in Corinth or, for that matter, in Washington or New York?
Sin still matters and the unrepentant still must face judgment before a wrathful God, but: “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) God provided for our salvation through Jesus’ death on the cross which brings us to peace with Him.
Peace with Others
We normally think of peace in terms of reconciliation, in part, because peace on earth is so hard to obtain. The Apostle Paul admonishes: “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (Rom 12:18) Here Paul is focusing on interpersonal conflict, not the more generous shalom of Christ that we see, for example, in Jesus’ first miracle where he rescues the wedding of an impoverished couple of newlyweds from social embarrassment:
Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, Fill the jars with water. And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast. So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now. (John 2:6-10)
Notice that Jesus’ miracle has both a quantitative and a qualitative dimension. Quantitatively, we are talking about a lot of wine—six times twenty is one hundred and twenty gallons of wine. Qualitatively, the master of ceremonies, whose role is to monitor hospitality standards, is surprised by the wine’s quality. Quantitatively and qualitatively, Jesus’ generosity enabled this young couple to avoid social embarrassment and to live at peace within their community.
As in the wedding at Cana, Jesus delivers so much more peace than we expect or deserve.
BibleWorks. 2011. Norfolk, VA: BibleWorks, LLC. <BibleWorks v.9>.
Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius (BDB). 1905. Hebrew-English Lexicon, unabridged.
Trinity of Peace
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Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net
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