This is the fifth article in my 2017 Christmas series, ‘The Christmas Names of Jesus‘, in which I’ll spend the last few weeks before Christmas looking at the various names for Jesus we find in the Christmas stories in Matthew and Luke, but turning back time for four weeks to the prophecy of Isaiah to look at the child who “will be named Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.”
We come now to the last of the four Christmas names of Jesus given to Him hundreds of years before His birth through the prophet Isaiah. Jesus’ birth was promised long ago and with that promise came names that He would be born with and into – Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, and finally, Prince of Peace.
It is this last name that solidifies the position of all four names, for surely God the Father would not be named “Prince” of Peace. J. Alec Motyer explains that “Prince corresponds to our idea of ‘administrator’.” It is used primarily through the Old Testament in reference to human leaders who are commanders of the army or, in the case of the Genesis story of Joseph, of the chief jailer, cupbearer, and baker (Genesis 39:22, 40:2 – chief being the operative word).
This promised child is not simply a symbol who will point to God and His works – for God the Father cannot be the Prince, the subservient administrator. This is a role specifically moulded for His Son, Jesus Christ, who “did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life—a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)
But what Peace does this Prince bring?
The word translated as “Peace” is the Hebrew word “shalom” which can be described as to be whole or complete. The word first appears in the Bible in Genesis 15 when God promises Abram that “you will go to your fathers in peace and be buried at a ripe old age” (15:15) and appears repeatedly through the Bible and refers to several different kinds of ‘peace’ – all of which are held within the word ‘shalom’.
Peace from War
It is important to look at the immediate context of the Isaiah prophecy, just as we should to seek understanding of any passage. The preceding verses describe the coming of this child amidst the work of the Lord. In verses 4 and 5 we see that the Lord has “shattered” the “oppressive yoke” that enslaved His people, Israel. He destroyed “the rod on their shoulders, the staff of their oppressor” and made it so “the trampling boot of battle and the bloodied garments of war will be burned as fuel for the fire.”
These verses are part and parcel of what the child will do and bring about when He is born. He will eventually bring a peace from war, so much so that the accoutrements of warfare – the “trampling boot of battle and the bloodied garments of war” – will no longer be needed and can instead be used “as fuel for the fire.”
Peace as Well-being
Another way in which Jesus brings ‘shalom’ is on a personal level. As God said to Abram in Genesis 15:15, and as was said again to King Josiah via the prophetess Huldah, “I will indeed gather you to your fathers, and you will be gathered to your grace in peace.” (2 Kings 22:20) Here the Lord promises a peace given through a life given over in service to God. Motyer says that, “to ‘die in peace’ is to have lived a fulfilled life, to have achieved all God planned”.
But there is more to personal peace than simply peace in death. “Peace is well-being … and freedom from anxiety”. We see a sense of this when the Apostle Paul tells the people of Philippi,
“Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7
It is only through Jesus Christ that we can achieve real and lasting peace. Jesus offered such peace when, in Matthew 11 he said, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (11:28)
Dependence and trust in Jesus Christ is the only way to have real and lasting peace in this life, and beyond. As God said through the prophet Isaiah, “You will keep the mind that is dependent on You in perfect peace, for it is trusting in You.” (Isaiah 26:3)
Peace with God
But maybe most importantly is the peace which Jesus orchestrated between His Father and us. In the letter to the Ephesians Paul explains the work that Jesus accomplished to bridge the gap between sinful humanity and His Father, and our vital need for intervention. Without it, humanity is “dead” in its “trespasses and sins” and beholden “to the ruler who exercises authority over the lower heavens, the spirit now working in the disobedient.” (Ephesians 2:1-2)
However, because Jesus Christ came to earth as a child, lived life as a man and went to the cross willingly to die for our sins, “God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses.” (2:4-5) Paul explains further, explaining that Jesus “is our peace” who made both Jews and Gentiles “one new man from the two, resulting in peace” both between Jew and Gentile and also between humanity and God.
Without Jesus’ saving work, there would be no peace between God and humanity and no hope of salvation for us.
Prince of All Peace
Jesus Christ, when He was born, was born the Prince of Peace. He came bearing eventual peace from war and the peace that comes from serving God and the knowledge of where we will go when we die. He came to give us His peace so that we may live lives of rest and peace – our hearts and minds guarded in Christ Jesus.
He came first and foremost, however, to make peace between our sin and His Perfect Father so that we might be saved and one day live with Him in heaven.
Jesus Christ came as fully man and fully God – at once both so that He might bring us peace. There was no other way for peace to be made between God and sinful humanity but for Jesus Christ to come and die in our place. This was a promise long in the making – well before even Isaiah prophesied about it 700 years before Jesus’ birth. Before time began God had purposed to save humanity and Jesus Christ volunteered and was willing to come for us.
When we sing of the birth of Jesus Christ this Christmas, let us not forget that He came to be our Prince of Peace, to orchestrate peace between us and His Father, and to bring us a lasting and supernatural sense of peace in the here and now.