As Jesus came to the city [Jerusalem] and observed it, he wept over it. He said, “If only you knew on this of all days the things that lead to peace. But now they are hidden from your eyes…” Luke 19:41-42 (CEB)
Peace. It is one of the four pillars of the Advent season. According to the liturgical calendar, the Peace candle will be lit this coming Sunday, the second Sunday of Advent. And yet, as I look around at the world this morning, I see no peace. Mass shootings, acts of terrorism, homicides, and drug violence dominate news headlines.
I think it’s no coincidence that my Bible reading this morning found me in Luke 19. As Jesus looks out over the city of Jerusalem, he weeps. He knows that the triumphal entry he is embarking on will lead, ultimately, to violence and death.
“Jerusalem!” Jesus cries. “If only you knew the things that led to peace!”
I find myself thinking that we have forgotten the path of peace. But then I wonder…did we ever really know it?
On Christmas Day in 1863, during the height of the Civil War, poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow penned the carol “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”. Longfellow had spent the past month nursing his son who had been nearly paralyzed in the battle of New Hope Church. Even though his son was home, there was no peace. The cannons of war raged on throughout the land.
Stanza three of the carol encapsulates Longfellow’s feelings:
And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said.
“For hate is strong, and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, goodwill to men.”
I have to think that this is the same despair that led Jesus to weep over Jerusalem–the same despair that perhaps still causes him to weep over the world.
I’m struck by Jesus’ words in Luke 19:42: “If only you knew the things that lead to peace…”
Jesus understood fully the path to peace, for it was a path he had set himself on since the beginning of his ministry. Jesus knew that path to peace was one of love–a love so great that he would sacrifice himself to share it with a humanity that would forsake it time and time again.
At any point in his ministry, Jesus could have called on the army of heaven to come down and establish his kingdom. He could have led the people he ministered to into an uprising–a violent rebellion against the Roman empire. And yet, Jesus never even touched a sword.
Instead, Jesus used his hands to bring healing. He used his lips to proclaim a message of love and hope. He used his body to bring salvation.
As Christians, we know the path to peace. The path to peace comes through love. It comes through valuing human life–all human life–above ourselves. It comes in acts of selflessness, acts of generosity, acts of mercy, and acts of forgiveness. It is a rough and difficult road to walk. We have to leave our weapons behind–those weapons of fear, hate, and selfishness. The path to peace is one of vulnerability, but one of ultimate victory.
The fourth stanza of “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” is my favorite, for it shows us the ultimate victory that is God’s.
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, goodwill to men.”
Right will prevail with peace.
If only you knew the things that lead to peace…
We do. Let’s use them.
Blessings and Peace,