The first war recorded in history was between Sumer and Elam, modern day Iraq and Iran. The world has always been at war, and tension was high between Rome, Herod, and the Jews when Jesus was born in a village of about 300 people and angels sang these words:
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Luke 2:14
Peace has generally been guaranteed by a strong king, so how could the birth of a baby end wars and bring peace? Consider all the obstacles of peace that this child would need to overcome.
Rome was the all-powerful force that assured peace in the world at the time of Jesus’ birth. Judea was not a Roman province, but rather a client kingdom governed by Herod, an independent king. Herod the Great did for Judaism what Constantine the Great did for Christianity. As a powerful king, he strengthened the religion. He rebuilt the temple to make it “one of the architectural marvels of the ancient world”.
But Herod was ambitious, brutal, and prepared to commit any crime in order to succeed. In fact, he murdered the babies of Bethlehem just to keep Jesus from growing up. The symbolism is striking. The most powerful king tries to kill a helpless baby to assure his rule, that is, to “maintain the peace”. How can inoffensive goodness overcome ruthless evil?
The first way is to teach insufficiently good people how to be individually reconciled with a perfectly good God. Getting right with God brings inner peace. Countless martyrs have faced gruesome torture and death with peace in their hearts. Goodness wins on a personal level when we make peace with God.
The second way to have both peace and goodness is for a good king to be more powerful than evil kings. Herods beware! He’s coming for you.
Handel’s Messiah quotes Revelation 11:15,
“The kingdoms of this world are become
the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ:
and he shall reign for ever and ever.”