Cat Stevens recorded these very famous words in 1971:
I’ve been happy lately
Thinking about the good things to come
And I believe it could be
Something good has begun
Oh, I’ve been smiling lately
Dreaming about the world as one
And I believe it could be
Someday it’s going to come
‘Cause out on the edge of darkness
There rides a peace train
Peace train take this country
Come take me home again
This song, “Peace Train” has become one of the most famous so-called “peace songs” in American music history. Stevens obviously wrote this song in the context of the Vietnam conflict in the early 1970s. But it has subsequently been used in many other contexts. The film Remember the Titans used this song as a call for peace amidst the turbulent racial conflicts that transpired during school desegregation in America. The song was sung during the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize presentation, by Cat Stevens himself. The song has also been recorded by other artists, including the American ROCK band, 10,000 Maniacs and COUNTRY singer, Dolly Parton.
Why do you believe a song like this has endured for more than two generations in America? And why have so many others like it endured? Calls for peace resonate with us, don’t they? Perhaps that is because our world seen so little peace. Since that dreadful day in the Garden of Eden, our world has been without, yet searching for, peace.
So, cries for peace are nothing new, really…
There were at least a couple of times, however, when those cries became louder…more pronounced. As God entered this world as an infant child in the shadow of a Bethlehem Inn, angels sang this song for all the world to hear:
Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace to men,
On whom His favor rests. (Luke 9:14)
You see those angels had been watching for some time. They recognized then what you’ve recognized in your time here. Earth is a place without peace! Their beautiful peace song that evening had to compete with a lot of other noise. Some Jews were anticipating a great war with Rome! Herod was hatching a plan to send his troops from door to door in the Jewish ghettos, killing all the baby boys. There was a lot of noise that night! But still they sang for peace!
And Peace did arrive that evening.
But He was hardly recognized. As He was born, the “No Vacancy” sign still shined brightly in the Bethlehem Inn parking lot. And aside from a few shepherds, this “king” of peace entered the world without much fanfare.
The second time the cries for peace became more pronounced that infant had grown to be an adult. Here is how it happened:
The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting,
“Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord—the King of Israel!”
Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it; as it is written:
“Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion. Look, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!” His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of him and had been done to him. So the crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to testify. It was also because they heard that he had performed this sign that the crowd went to meet him. The Pharisees then said to one another, “You see, you can do nothing. Look, the world has gone after him!” (John 12:12-19)
The calls for peace were there, but you have to dig a bit to hear them. John alludes to a text here from Zechariah 9.
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
Righteous and having salvation is he,
Humble and mounted on a donkey,
On a colt, the foal of a donkey.
I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim
And the war horse from Jerusalem;
And the battle bow shall be cut off,
And he shall speak peace to the nations;
His rule shall be from sea to sea,
And from the River to the ends of the earth.
When the crowds saw Jesus enter the city on the colt that day. They called Him “king” for a reason. Because they longed believe that:
When the Messiah arrived…
When the “king” arrived…
He would finally bring the peace that Zechariah talked about!
They had a big parade to welcome “Peace” into town! Did you know that at about the same time, there was another parade heading into town? Pontius Pilate was arriving from Caesarea, the capital of Judea—the Province over which he was governor. The governor of Judea came to town every year around the time of the Jewish Passover. You see, times of religious festivals were ripe for revolt! So, the governor traveled to town every year, just in case…
And he always arrived with pomp and circumstance: A long parade of horses, regality, nobility, power! The symbol of Rome…the protector of peace! You see, even the Romans wanted “peace”!
But across town, the small band of Jesus’ disciples welcomed their “king.” He didn’t have a parade of horses…only one colt. No symbols of power or regality…only a rag tag band of poor, homeless apostles. And all of these disciples, calling for “peace”.
You do understand, don’t you, that by “peace” most of them meant war! In calling Jesus “king,” and by spreading palm branches on the ground, many of these disciples thought their warrior king had finally arrived in the city! Now, there would be peace…because he would lead them to victory in war!
As all of creation calls for peace…
The Romans seek peace with the arrival of Pilate.
These disciples seek peace with the arrival of their “King.”
As all of creation calls for peace…
Here is Peace riding into town on a colt.
And still, so very few people see him, or even take notice.
Peace was right in front of their eyes, but they couldn’t see it! They couldn’t see it, because their own visions of what peace should look like were blinding their eyes.
On this Palm Sunday, I wonder, have our eyes been opened to see true Peace?
The choruses crying for peace have continued. They were there at the moment of Jesus’ birth. They cried out as Jesus rode into Jerusalem a week before his death. And people continued to cry out for peach through 20th century peace songs! Even today, I imagine that many of us are searching for peace. Maybe you’re looking for it today…
Why is it that peace seems to elude us? I think the answer to that universal, timeless question comes to us in a wonderful passage from Luke. Jesus said the reason they could not find peace is because they did not recognize the time of God’s visitation to them (Luke 9:51). They couldn’t find Peace because they couldn’t see God. They were looking for peace…but in all the wrong places…
Rome was looking for peace through the Roman government and military. The Jews were looking for peace through their military Messiah. In short, they were looking for peace through their own human power.
I can’t help but wonder if that is why peace so often eludes us as well. We seek peace…all of us at some points in our lives. And we wonder why we can’t find it! Maybe we are looking for peace through our own human power.
“I want peace with my children, but I don’t need God to raise my children.”
“I want peace with my money, but I don’t need God to help me manage my money.”
“I want peace with my business, but I don’t need God in my workplace.”
“I want peace in my school, but I don’t need God to follow me into the classroom.”
“I want peace in my marriage, but I can handle that without any help from God.”
“I want peace as I grow older and prepare to die, but I don’t need God’s help with that.”
Where is the peace? It comes from only one place. And here He comes riding into town on a colt. On this Palm Sunday, we are reminded that the Palm Branches were laid down before the King. Are we ready to do more than lay palm branches down?
As you begin to celebrate Easter week, consider these questions with your family.
Are you, as a family, ready to swear your allegiance to King Jesus?
Are you ready to trust this King?
Are we ready to rely on this King for everything…including our peace?
In what way(s) is your family not experiencing peace right now?
How can your relationship with the King of Peace help you find the peace you are looking for?