Guest blogger, Stan Nussbaum, takes us on a journey through the messianic year calendar.
Welcome to the journey of our Messiah through the year with Dr. Nussbaum."Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to all whom God favors."
Luke 2:14 (NLT)
“Peace on earth”—what a fitting way for the angels to declare the birth of the Messiah, issuing the “Declaration of Peace,” gift-wrapped in glory and grace. The glory terrified the shepherds but the angels calmed them with news of peace. Yes, the glory was approaching but no, it was not going to kill them. It was going to arrive in Bethlehem as a harmless newborn baby.
This baby would bring peace to earth. Neither the angels nor the shepherds were thinking this was a religious announcement about peace in some far-off future in heaven. The declaration was that the peace of heaven was coming to earth right then and there. To announce the baby is to announce the peace. In fact, the baby is the peace. The glorious future of the world was wrapped up in that one little child. It only takes one Messiah to change everything.
This messianic peace, like everything else in the Messianic Year, was God’s gracious initiative, not anything that humans had concocted, earned, or promoted. God by his own choice out of his own goodness made the Declaration of Peace in his way and his time.
As the Messiah and all his blessings are propelled by God’s grace, so they all lead to his peace. Grace and peace are like two parentheses bracketing the Messianic year. Grace and peace are the defining framework that all the other blessings come from and lead toward. They are the alpha and omega of blessings. The apostles knew what they were saying when they started out their letters, “Grace and peace to you.”
The “peace” we look forward to is much more than the end of a war. Peace, or “shalom” as the shepherds would have heard it, basically meant utopia. Peace meant life, plenty, fulfillment—perfect people in perfect circumstances and perfect harmony with God. At last everything becomes what God in his grace intended it to be when he made it in the beginning.
This comprehensive peace was what the Messiah was talking about when he himself re-issued the Declaration of Peace as an adult. Peace is what you get when God is in charge, and Jesus’ declaration was, “God is taking charge now” (“The reign of God is beginning,” or in King James English, “The kingdom of God is at hand.” Mark 1:15)
Jesus’ purpose in coming to earth was to issue the Declaration of Peace.
"I must preach the Good News of the Kingdom of God in other places, too, because that is why I was sent." (Luke 4:43, NLT)
We miss the centrality of this work of declaration because of the English word, “preach.” The root meaning is to herald or proclaim, not to give a sermon in a religious gathering. John the Baptist was a herald. Jesus was a herald. He sent his disciples out as heralds. They were all heralding the arrival of peace on earth, just like the angels outside Bethlehem.
Ironically it was his Declaration of Peace that almost got Jesus killed the first time he announced it in his home town (Lk. 4:16-30) and eventually did get him killed on the cross. Not just anybody can declare peace. Only kings do that. If you go all over the country declaring peace, if you send out seventy-two of your followers in pairs as an advance party to inform every town and village of your peace declaration before you get there (Lk. 10:1-6), if you follow up your peace declaration by calling people to follow you, you are acting like a king even if you mysteriously refuse to come right out and say it. People can connect the dots.
Jesus told the seventy-two to look for “people of peace” (Lk. 10:6), that is, people who would welcome the Declaration of Peace and welcome him as the Declarer. This is why every one of the weekly readings in the Messianic Year ends with a welcome message. We want to be those “people of peace” (peace-welcomers) today.
Not everybody wants to welcome Jesus and his messengers, as we saw throughout the past season. That explains Mt. 10:34,
"Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! No, I came to bring a sword.”
The Declaration of Peace brings peace to those who welcome it, but it radically divides the welcomers from the refusers.
John 3 paints the picture clearly. God loves the world and sends his Son to bring life (v. 16) not to condemn anybody (v. 17). But when people refuse the Son and the light he brings, they are condemned (v. 18-19). Their negative reaction to the light shows that they prefer the darkness, and darkness is what they get (v. 19-20). They are not the people God “favors” (Lk. 2:14). His grace comes to them and they turn it down flat.
For the time being they continue their evil ways, pumping more death, lostness, oppression, helplessness, bitterness, fear, and shame into the world—the defiant opposites of all the Messiah’s blessings. It is as if they are trying to prove that peace has not arrived yet and Jesus’ declaration means nothing.
But the King of kings is coming to enforce the Declaration of Peace. Those who live by refusing him will die by refusing him (Rev. 19:11-21). And there will be peace on earth. Once that glorious baby arrived, the die was cast and things could not turn out any other way. Merry Christmas!
Welcome: Jesus, Messiah, we welcome your Declaration of Peace. Let it reign in our lives. Make us people of peace.
Affirmation: Peace has been declared by the Messiah. Peace is arriving. Peace will be enforced when he returns. I will do whatever it takes to spread the Declaration of Peace.
Labels: Stan Nussbaum