Christ the Preacher of Peace
He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
According to Ephesians 2:17, Christ came as the preacher of peace. When we try to unpack the meaning of this claim, we might at first think of the literal preaching of Jesus. He did promise to give peace to his disciples (John 14:27). And he did begin the Sermon on the Mount by saying, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God" (Matt. 5:9). Yet, in the context of Ephesians 2, it's likely that preaching serves as a metaphor for the crucial work of Christ, who actually brought peace through his death on the cross (2:15).
Paul's language of "preaching peace" is inspired by two passages from the Old Testament prophet Isaiah. In Isaiah 57:19, the Lord speaks to his people, offering "peace, peace to those far and near." Isaiah 52:7-10 celebrates the coming of the Lord to Zion, where he will comfort his people and redeem Jerusalem. Verse 7 celebrates the messenger of this good news, the one "who proclaim[s] peace, who bring[s] good tidings, who proclaim[s] salvation, who say[s] to Zion, 'Your God reigns.' " Christ fulfilled the prophecies of Isaiah by being the one who not only proclaimed peace, but who actually brought God's peace to the whole world. Thus, Ephesians 2:17 says of Christ that "He came and preached peace to you who were far away [Gentiles] and peace to those who were near [Jews]."
And what was the essence of Christ's "sermon"? As we have seen, his death brought peace between Jews and Gentiles by removing the barrier that had once separated them. But, the immediate context of verse 17 suggests that the peace Christ "preached" was, first of all, an announcement of peace between God and all of humankind. We'll see this more clearly in tomorrow's reflection.
For now, I want to consider the metaphor of preaching peace. Jesus was, to be sure, a unique preacher of peace. He alone forged lasting and pervasive peace through his death on the cross. Yet, as followers of Jesus, we, too, have been called into the ministry of preaching peace, or, if you will, peacemaking (Matt. 5:9). In our words and deeds, in our desires and intentions, we are to be people who commend, embody, and foster the peace of Christ. We are to do this, not only in church and family, but in every place God sends us: in our offices and shops, in our neighborhoods and nations.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: In what ways are you a "preacher of peace"? Where, in your life, is there a need for the peace of Christ? How might you be a peacemaker today?
PRAYER: Thank you, dear Lord, for "preaching peace" to all people, to those far away as well as those who were near. Thank you for being the one who inaugurated the peace of God on earth through, not just your words, but even more through your death on the cross. Thank you for allowing me to enjoy peace with God and to share God's peace with others. Help me, Lord, to imitate you by being a "preacher of peace" in my part of the world. Amen.
Image courtesy of Laity Lodge, one of our sister programs in the Foundations for Laity Renewal.