“Glory to God in the highest and peace to his people on earth” a phrase that sends many of our brains directly into song “…Lord God, heavenly King, almighty God and Father, we worship you, we give you thanks, we praise you for your glory…” Glory to God song from Luke 2:14.
Yet, I’m not sure my brain really understands that Glory is not only to worship, thank and praise our Lord, but also to be in awe of the beauty and in awe of the grandness of what comes alongside everything He does. When I pause to catch the glimpses of God’s glory in creation and in life, I get a small taste for what our Almighty God is capable of: from majestic mountain tops to perfect spider webs. From perfectly-knit newborn babies to transformed lives from His salvation.
And there is more. The Luke verse above are angels singing at Christ’s birth. They were praising our heavenly King for lowering himself to take on human form, to redeem us from sin and bring peace to the time we spend on earth. To think, all these years I’ve celebrated Christmas as the holy day our Lord was born on earth, without really thinking of all that He left behind. How many rulers or politicians would willingly leave their power & authority, wealth and body guards to live a humble, unknown and servant existence?
Jesus left glory to come live humbly. For thirty-three years, He walked in our shoes, not so he could better understand us, but to give us perfect examples of how to be more like Him: how to pray (Matthew 6:9-15), act with goodness and mercy (Matthew 7:7-12), be generous (Proverbs 3:9-10, Luke 12:16-21) and resolve arguments (Matthew 18:15-20).
He based his ministry on performing miracles, healing sickness (Peter’s mother in law in Matthew 8:14), teaching and building relationships. He wept (John 11:35), possibly his first time as we know there isn’t death, mourning, crying or pain in Heaven (Revelation 21:4) and with his human emotions, Jesus reminds Mary and Martha “If you believe, you will see the glory of God” and brother Lazarus walked out of the tomb.
With all these life-giving lessons, what happened?
He was misunderstood, he is tempted by the devil (Matthew 4:1-11), denied by his hometown (Matthew 13:57), and questioned numerous times by the officials. He was flogged, mocked, beaten and crucified, yet one of his last words and actions was giving grace to the prisoner on the cross by his side (Luke 23:43) *! That is how amazing and perfect Jesus is. When I’ve been crossed, am fatigued or simply lacking sleep, I get cranky…not Jesus. He shows grace, and still does when we mess up today.
Jesus was with God as the earth was created, he experienced Adam and Eve’s sin, he knew how humans would treat him and how he would have to suffer. And he still said yes to his dad’s request and willingly came to earth. He left his position of power and lavish living, so that the world may have the full measure of his Joy (John 17:13).
It’s amazing that we have 27 books of the New Testament to tell us about the life of Christ, and prophesy from the Torah to confirm His Kingship. It’s a little intimidating though, right? Which is why I love getting to know Simon Peter better. As one of Jesus’ best friends, we can see how us humans mess up!
I picture Peter as a burly, stinky-fish smelling man. He was one of the first disciples (John 1:42) and obediently left his livelihood and family to follow Jesus. In his efforts to become more like Christ (sanctification) we see Peter’s faith ebb and flow: from making bold moves like walking on water, then freaking out and beginning to sink (Matthew 14:28-33). To defending his friend by cut off a soldier’s right ear (John 18:10), then denying knowing the same best friend three times (John 18:27), and finally redeeming his denial with three solid agreements (John 21:15-19).
I envy the closeness that must have existed between the two of them: Peter ran to the empty tomb and was the first to enter (Luke 24:12), Jesus appeared to him first before the other disciples (1 Corinthians 15:5), Peter impulsively swims to the Jesus when he appeared again to the disciples (John 21:7) and most glorious, Peter witnessed the transformation (Matthew 17, Mark 9:2-13 or Luke 9:28-36).
When Peter boldly declared Jesus as Messiah, he receives an eternal blessing:
“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16:15-20
Jesus lived alongside Peter for many adventures. Imagine the number of offenses that had to be overlooked! But in giving the gift of the Holy Spirit (John 20:22), God remained alive in Peter. Allowing Peter to be the Rock that church is built on, to converts thousands to get baptized (Acts 4:4), that Peter’s shadow alone would heal people (Acts 5:15), and love and belief in Christ allows Peter to humbly dies a martyr death, all so that Peter would glorify God!
Peter gives us confidence in the grace God provides each one of us, as we try to walk in His perfect shoes. What more encourage do we need to continue on our path of becoming more like Jesus?