For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Is. 9:6
When Jesus is portrayed on TV and in the movies as the Prince of Peace, as many see Him, it’s as if He’s some kind of hippie, shimmering white robes and surfer dude hair, a kind of first century John Lennon calling on us all to just get along, give peace a chance. That’s far from what Scripture portrays the Prince of Peace to be, and to gain a full appreciation for Christ’s coming, we have to understand that peace He brings.
The peace over which Christ presides is both like and unlike any peace we have ever known. It is unlike anything we have known before in that it is lasting. All of man’s attempts to bring peace come through war; peace is ephemeral. It brings with it new oppressions, new wars, ever more “bloody coats” and “tramping boots”. Conversely, Christ brings final peace. Jurgen Moltmann: “His innocence redeems us from the curse of the evil act that is bound to breed ever more evil. We no longer have to go on like this. And His birth opens up for us the future of a life in peace that is different from all life hitherto since that life was bound up with death.”
The peace Christ brings is just. Every other peace we’ve known bears with it the risk of abuse, of injustice, of oppression—peace in name only, surface peace. Christ is wholly peace and wholly just, operating together simultaneously and always. He brings peace from God’s wrath, peace with God forever, and the peace of God which passes understanding, peace that not only remains in the face of trial and tribulations but, paradoxically, is activated by those challenges, gaining strength and rising to meet and overcome them.
The Prince’s peace is like what we have known before in that it comes at a cost. Peace is never free. There is always a price to pay. The greater the peace, the dearer the price. For perfect peace, the price was the Cross.
It wasn’t so much the physical suffering, as terrible as that was. If you look through the gospel accounts, Christ was remarkably at peace as He went through the events of that horrible evening: “Peter, put down your sword”; “It is you who say who I am”; “what you must do, do quickly”; “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak”. He endured as much physical trauma as any human ever had with supernatural composure.
But, on the Cross, He lost it. He shrieked, He cried, “My God, why have you forsaken Me?!?”. Everything else He had endured to that point paled by comparison.
As Tim Keller has said, there’s no greater agony than to lose a love that really matters to you—the longer and deeper the love, the worse it is. If a friend betrays you, it’s bad. If a spouse or a child, it’s horrible. Jesus had been together with His Father, as one, throughout eternity. Their souls had been intertwined together forever, since before time. This shriek, this cry is the greatest love and peace that had ever existed being ripped away. Not just one punishment, but like billions of eternal hells compressed and placed on Him at once. Like the worst loss of love ever, times a trillion. The suffering was infinite, not bound by time and space. His peace was torn from Him infinitely and absolutely.
Why? What did He get in exchange for the torment that makes the deepest hell seem like Club Med? What did He get that He didn’t have before? You. What did you get that you didn’t have before? Peace.