Hundreds of years before the birth of Christ, the prophet Isaiah made many claims about the coming Messiah. One of those prophecies we often reflect on during the advent season is from Isaiah 6:3, which says, “For to 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.”
Based on prophecies like these, the Jews were expecting a political leader as a Messiah, one who would overthrow the Romans who ruled over them. In first century culture, the idea of a ruler was closely connected with fighting and winning battles. Because of this, those waiting for the Messiah missed the part of Isaiah’s prophecy calling Him the “Prince of Peace.”
Honestly, they had no category for that kind of leader. They focused on the part of the prophecy that said the government would be on His shoulders. They focused on the Mighty God part. They focused on the parts that made the coming Messiah sound really cool. And honestly, who could blame them?
So when Jesus showed up as a baby in a stable in a remote corner of the Roman Empire, most people missed it. That seemed like the opposite of a mighty leader. The angels came and proclaimed peace on Earth when Jesus was born. The Prince of Peace had arrived, and those waiting for Him couldn’t believe that this lowly Jewish boy was the Messiah. For them, the Prince of Peace was not nearly as cool as a ninja warrior who would kick some Roman backsides.
But before I judge the Jews too harshly for their error, I have to confess that I think I often miss Jesus too. I focus on the parts of Jesus that I like, and I conveniently leave out the ones I don’t. Now I may not expect my Jesus to fight literal wars for me, but I do sometimes want a Jesus to help me “win” a political debate or be right in a disagreement with family or just feel like my way is better.
Turns out that’s not who Jesus is. Jesus’ leadership is a very different one. His victories come in humility. He leads by bringing people together who seem to have nothing in common. The way of Jesus isn’t about taking control of an actual political kingdom but in finding ways to love and serve those who feel like our enemies.
As we go through this week, let us remember that we serve the Prince of Peace. Ask God to overwhelm our hearts with a sense of the radical peace of Christ and help us bring that same peace to our everyday lives. When we are tempted to “win” or be right or defensive, may we instead humble ourselves and offer grace and love and walk in peace today.