By Mary Wenzl
“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government will be upon His shoulders, and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.”
Every time I hear this scripture I want to burst into song as this scripture is the basis for one of the beautiful songs in Handel’s musical choral piece, Messiah. I sang this choral piece for many years as part of the choir at my previous church. I even had a solo part. I cannot read this scripture without hearing the tune echo in my head. It brings back wonderful memories for me. But, other than great lyrics of a wonderful piece of music, what does the 4th title in our Advent series, “Prince of Peace,” really mean?
My research led to three different ways to interpret what the phrase means, all equally compelling. The first answer I found in my research was that “Prince of Peace” means having, literally, peace on earth. This is to happen when Jesus comes to earth the second time as is spoken and prophesied about the Messiah (Jesus) in the Book of Isaiah. Bible prophecy tells us that, under Jesus’s rule, peace will increase with no end. He will return as the King of Kings, Lord of Lords, and the Prince of Peace.
When Christ comes to rule, the entire planet will learn to understand what “peace” is in its fullest sense. All vestiges of war will be removed. No more starving children, no more mass migrations of people under persecution; no more destruction of buildings, crops, livestock, or lands from the practices of war. People will feel personally safe, no matter where they live.
The second answer I discovered in my research is that “Prince of Peace” means that Jesus serves as the vehicle or means for us as human beings to have peace with God–to have peace restored between God and humanity. Man lost peace with God through the actions of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Man continued to disappoint God by being disobedient after leaving the Garden of Eden. Countless times man refused to follow God’s laws and to worship God, choosing instead to worship false gods, and to indulge in activities that were harmful to man and against God’s laws.
Yet God wanted to have a relationship with mankind, the kind of relationship which God had initially intended to exist between man and God. To accomplish this, God devised a plan that would allow mankind to be forgiven its sins. The “Prince” of establishing this peaceful relationship was Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 2:15, states that the reconciling of both Jew and Gentle into one body is accomplished through Jesus’s sacrifice. Peace is the presence of Jesus in one’s life. If you wish peace with God, you MUST accept Jesus as the savior of the world. “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ”. Romans 5:1
Finally, my favorite interpretation of the meaning of the phrase “Prince of Peace” is the promise given to us in scripture of having inner personal peace in our daily lives. We are promised in God’s Word that if we believe in Jesus, believe that the gospel is true, we will receive the gift of peace–the peace that “passes all understanding.” Philippians 4:7 states: “And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (NASB)
I particularly like the Message version of this verse: “Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.” Another favorite verse is Psalm 119:165 which says: “Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble.” [See also 1 Peter 3:9-11; Romans 12:17-21.] To me, the phrase “Prince of Peace” has meant having a sense of peace and serenity inside my soul, in my thoughts (mind), no matter what is going on in the world around me: good or bad.
My first experience of having “the peace that passes all understanding” happened during a time of great stress in my life. I had been trying to draw closer to God by reading a lot of books on faith, listening to evangelical preachers on TV, as well as going regularly to church. I was separated at the time from my husband of 15 years and was really struggling financially. I had a lot of creditors and not enough income. Bankruptcy was a possibility that I did not want to accept. My 2 kids were middle-school aged and were having a lot of behavior problems. Home life was NOT serene. Plus, I was struggling with clinical depression. It seemed like I had a big “kick me” sign on my back as almost everything that could go wrong, did go wrong.
Yet, it was at this period of time of almost insurmountable stress that I experienced the “peace that passes all understanding” promised in the scriptures. I remember marveling at how I was feeling. I should have been crying all the time, screaming at everybody; instead, I had moments of inner peace I felt were not normal. How could I feel calm inside when every aspect of my life was in turmoil? My life was like the ultimate roller coaster ride, but my “inside” thoughts and feelings were like the calm waters of a sparkling pond on a lazy summer day.
I was just beginning to learn how to put my trust in God. I was not able to live that way every moment of the day, so the feelings of inner peace did not cover every waking moment of my life, but did frame my days enough times that it made a difference. The financial issues were constant, and it was very difficult not to worry or ruminate on my problems. But, during those periods of inner peace, I experienced wonder and awe that I could feel so calm inside even when I did not know how I was going to pay rent, or pay my staff’s salaries.
Well, I continued my studies, learning more about God and how to place my trust in Him. Through the next years I got many more opportunities to practice putting my total trust in God to provide for my needs. As I got better at trusting God, leaning on Him, my inner sense of peace and serenity deepened and lasted longer.
Now, having calmness as my primary inner sense of being is my constant companion. I know I can lean on Jesus whenever I am troubled or have financial needs. I have received God’s gift, “the peace that passes all understanding.” I know as long as I continue with daily prayer and seeking God, I will continue to enjoy this gift from the Prince of Peace. I spent a lot of my life in inner turmoil due to depression, so this gift of “peace” is a true gift that I cherish more than anything money can buy.