Glory to God, Peace for Men
Luke 2:1-14, Romans 5:1-11
Let me show you four of the earliest known drawings of Jesus Christ:
- Alexamenos graffito – 1st to 3rd century: This image is carved in plaster on a wall in Rome and is dated between the 1st and 3rd centuries. It depicts a man looking at a person with the head of a donkey who’s being crucified, and it says, “Alexamenos worshipping God.” It’s believed this was intended to mock the faith of a Christian named Alexamenos.
- The Good Shepherd – 3rd Century: “The Good Shepherd” image is found in the St. Callisto catacomb in Rome and is believed to have been painted around the 3rd century.
- Adoration of the Magi – 3rd century: here we have one of the earliest Christmas drawings. It shows the scene of the magi adoring the Christ child and is dated to the 3rd century.
- Healing of the Paralytic – 3rd century: This painting is on the wall of a church baptistry in a long-abandoned, ancient city in Syria. It depicts the story of the healing of the paralytic found in Mark 2, and it is dated to the mid-3rd century.
This time of year we celebrate the undeniable fact that Jesus entered into human history. Whether people like Him or not, there is more historical documentation for Jesus than for any other person in all of ancient history. There is such a vast amount of evidence that points to Jesus’ existence that every serious historian must acknowledge the reality of His existence and influence. Not only does history prove Jesus’ existence but it also proves that He was a really remarkable man. An article in Time Magazine ranks Jesus as #1 in their list of “The 100 Most Significant Figures in History.”. They are not alone in that assessment.
Jesus’ birth is historically documented – Luke 2:1-14, Romans 5:6
Some mythological gods of ancient cultures are associated with fantastic stories. These gods lived in unseen, mystical places. They supposedly had supernatural powers, but no demonstration of these powers could ever be truly authenticated.
- In myths, these entities often acted more like naughty little boys than like gods
- They often acted both selfishly and shamefully.
- They certainly didn’t care too much about people and none of the ancient mythological gods can be historically documented. All of them have been completely discredited as historically invalid.
The records of Jesus’ life are quite different from the ancient tales of the gods. When we read the account of Jesus’ first coming, it is very gritty and real. Luke 2 reads nothing like ancient mythology. Luke talks about the birth of Christ in a time and place well-known to the original readers. Verse 11 says, “11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
Unlike many of the myths about various false gods who have been worshipped over the years, Jesus did not come outside of time and space. He entered real, human history.
- Luke 2:1-2 says that Jesus was born at the time when Quirinius was governing Syria. We know when that was. He was born on an exact date in a specific place.
- In fact, all of history is still seen in relation to the birth of Christ – every historical event is thought of in terms of either before Christ or after. (BC or AD)
Our faith in Jesus as a historical person is verified by many trustworthy sources. It is not a blind faith. It is a faith based on facts, evidence and eye-witness accounts. His life is well documented in the most trustworthy history text of all time – the Bible – as well as by other secular sources.
We’ll begin with what the Bible has to say about Jesus because in God’s Word, we have the most important and most authoritative evidence for Jesus’ existence. The Bible is the most reliable book in the world. It has proven over and over again to be accurate in its history, its archeology, its science, and its prophesy.
- The Bible is so widely regarded as an authoritative source that over 150,000 copies of the Bible are either bought or given away every single day.
- It has been translated into over 2,932 languages so far and is widely considered the most accurate and trustworthy book that has ever existed.
- The Bible not only testifies about the existence of Jesus, but is centered on the person of Jesus. Every one of its forty authors is, in some way, pointing forward to the coming of Jesus or recalling the implications of the ministry of Jesus.
The Bible is the most tested and verified book in all of history. It has never been found lacking. Every conversation about the existence of Christ must begin with what the world’s most trustworthy book has to say about Him.
With that being said, secular sources prove Jesus’ existence as well. Ancient writers and historians from Rome, Greece, Babylon, Asia Minor, Syria, and Israel attest that Jesus was not only real, but that He was remarkable. Although the Bible has the most accurate and detailed account of Jesus’ life and ministry, we can historically confirm many important facts about Jesus from secular, historical sources as well as from sacred sources.
The Christmas narrative, in places like Luke 2, points out that Jesus was not just an ethereal idea, but He came into the real world, in a real time, in real history. Speaking of the historical timeline of Jesus’ ministry, Romans 5:6 says, “6 For while we were still weak, at the right time [at a specific time in history] Christ died for the ungodly.”
Jesus was born in a real place – Luke 2:11
“11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
The City of David is refers to the town we call Bethlehem.
- It is a real place that is still in existence today.
- Here is what it may have looked more like in Jesus’ time. This is a rare sketch of Bethlehem drawn in 1698 by Dutch artist, Cornelius de Bruijin. It depicts the city as well as the nearby herding grounds at he saw them as the time. Perhaps the shepherds were in these pastures. 
We’ve now established a basic historical basis for the existence of Jesus. History confirms Luke 2:11 to be accurate. Jesus was a real person. He was born in a real place and all of history hinges upon His arrival.
Look at the next phrase in Luke 2:11. It says, “11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” The verse says that Jesus was born to be a savior. He is the Christ, the Messiah. The Bible explains that if you have ever sinned – even once – you are in trouble and you need someone to save you from the consequences of sin! People in the Old Testament were looking forward to a Messiah. The Messiah was revealed in the New Testament as Jesus, our Savior.
Jesus came to be the Savior – Luke 2:11, 1 Thess. 1:9
You might ask, “why didn’t God just wipe out human sin? Why didn’t he just say to the guilty ‘FORGIVEN’ and be done with it? Why was the birth of Jesus necessary and why did there need to be such a bloody, painful sacrifice at the cross?
Every person who has ever sinned needs a savior because sin is a really big deal to God. Sin is completely incompatible with His perfection. If the Lord had simply passed by sin, then He would be saying that sin was not a big deal, which is not true.
God is perfectly just, and in His perfect justice, sin has to be accounted for. A good judge does not let criminals go free without penalizing their crimes. In the same way, God could not be good and let guilty men go unpunished for their unrighteousness. Letting guilty men go free without penalty is wrong. God never does the wrong thing. Instead, He always acts in a way that is consistent with His character and in line with His glory and perfection.
If we were to pay for our own sin, the Bible indicates that it would take an eternity of God’s judgment poured out on us in order to pay the price. In 1 Thessalonians 1:9, Paul is talking about those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel. He says, “9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.” However, God made another way, a way that caused Him a great deal of pain.
In His infinite love for us, God offered His own Son as the payment for our sins. Instead of justly condemning us for our sins, God willingly poured out His wrath upon Jesus at the cross. All who call upon Jesus as Lord and Savior are forgiven from the penalty of their sins and have peace with God.
You may have noticed that Romans 5:6 said that Jesus came to die for the ungodly. He wasn’t seeking out good people to give His life for. He laid down His life for the bad people.
God’s loves us in spite of our unworthiness – Romans 5:6-8, John 3:16, 1 John 4:10, Luke 2:9-13
Paul wrote in Romans 5:6-8, “6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us..”
Notice the tense of the verbs in verse 8. The word “shows” is in the present tense. The word “died” is in the past tense. That is not a grammatical error. The verse reads the same way in the original language. This verse is saying that God shows us His love today (right now) by what He did on the cross in the past.
When God wanted to put His love for us on display, He gave a tremendously valuable gift in the person of Jesus. That gift was first delivered to mankind one evening in a stable. He proved His love for mankind by meeting our most desperate need with a gift of unfathomable worth. God shows His love for us when He gives of Himself for our wellbeing.
- John 3:16 says that “God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son…”
- 1 John 4:10 says, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation [atoning sacrifice] for our sins.”
Now with God’s gift of His Son in mind, let us again consider our text in Luke 2, verses 9-10:
“8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.”
A single angel appeared to a group of shepherds in a field and directed them to the animal shed where Jesus was born. Verse 9 describes how the appearance of this angel overwhelmed the shepherds.
The angel appeared and the glory of the Lord shone all around him. I’m not sure what that looked like, but it frightened grown men. Luke says, “they were filled with great fear.” These outdoorsmen were accustomed to dealing with wild animals and the dangers that lurk about in the late hours of the night. Yet, when they saw this angelic creature, they were struck with fear.
Evidently, one angel was adequate for getting the attention of a group of shepherds and directing them to a barn to see a baby. However, it was completely inadequate for just one angel to respond to the significance of the coming of Jesus. The meaning of the news the angel brought and the ultimate outcome for mankind demanded an army of angels to proclaim!
Verse 13 describes a scene that must have been truly awesome to behold. Here a multitude of “heavenly host” appears and proclaims the huge significance of Christmas.
- I wonder if there were so many angels that it filled the entire sky?
- I wonder if the glory that surrounded this group shone so brightly that it was brighter than daylight?
Whatever it looked like, it must have been an incredible sight! In verse 14, we have their exact words:
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
This was the appointed day, the right time. It was the right place – exactly where the prophets predicted. History documents it. A Savior was born. What is the significance of that Savior being born? The angels told us in no uncertain terms that:
- God’s Glory was revealed in the highest way – “Glory to God in the highest”
- Peace is available to those with whom God is pleased – “on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
Let’s take a closer look these two grand purposes for the first coming of Jesus.
Two purposes for the first coming of Jesus
#1 Jesus’ birth glorified God – Luke 2:14
Glorifying God can be simply understood as the attributes of God put on display. When God’s attributes are displayed, God is glorified. When something like unlimited power, infinite wisdom, or perfect love is displayed, it is a spectacular thing to behold!
The angels made it clear that God was glorified when Jesus was born. The birth of Jesus made a huge display of God’s attributes: His majesty, power and perfection. His perfect love was put on display in the highest form possible.
God’s love, as it is displayed in the person of Jesus Christ, is utterly unique. Jesus is infinitely valuable and we are totally underserving. God gave everything for us and we deserved nothing. By sending Jesus, God displayed a depth of love that is vast beyond measure.
Both the stable and the cross were God’s will and God’s plan. God’s plan was to satisfy His wrath against our sins and clear His holy name through the punishment of His own Son, Jesus. Here is what blows me away in this passage: Jesus did not make the ultimate sacrifice and give His life for perfect, warm, lovable, deserving people. Jesus came and gave His life for those who were totally unrighteous, undeserving, and unlovable. In a word, Jesus gave His life for His enemies.
I’m not naturally prone to make peace with my enemies. I used to live and minister at a church in Phoenix. As I was driving down the road one day, I came to a stop and the person behind me ran into the back of my car. As I got out of the car to assess the damage, the person who had run into me backed up, turned hard to the left, and kept on driving.
- My first thought was not, “Man, I’d like to have that guy over for dinner. I wish I had his number… Too bad he drove away… bet we could have been friends….”
- It was more like, “Hey you dirty rotten scoundrel, get back here and pay for my car.”
Honestly, I was angry. He ran into my car, it was 100% his fault and didn’t even stop to see if I was ok. My first response, even as a Christian, was not to love the guy.
If Jesus had been rear-ended in Phoenix, do you think He would have responded like I did? The proof we have from scripture is that Jesus took every opportunity He could to direct attention to God the Father and to make a display of God’s love. I think Jesus would have been disappointed if the man drove away only because He wouldn’t get the chance to show that man a love that he did not deserve.
Before the Lord, you and I were guilty of something much more serious than hit and run. Even worse, as guilty people, we were shaking our fists with contempt at the Judge Himself as rebels against His law. Paul said we were “enemies” with God.
Jesus came to offer salvation to God’s enemies. Even if a person openly hates God, God’s redeeming love and His offer of salvation is still extended to that individual until the end of their physical life.
The offer of salvation extends to all of mankind – regardless of their rebellion toward God in the past. Jesus didn’t come to offer salvation to God’s friends. God sent Jesus in order to extend the offer of salvation to His enemies.
#2 Jesus’ birth and his payment on the cross made peace with God possible – Romans 5:1,10
Romans 5:1 says, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Skipping down to verse 10, Paul continues by saying, “10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.
Christmas represents how God reclaimed His creation for our good and His glory. Through Jesus, we can have peace with God and God is glorified by the display of His perfect love. Our joy is brought about because of the greatness of God’s demonstration of love towards us. The point of creation and redemption is for God to be known and praised by a new, spiritual family: peace-filled and joyful.
Application: The Gospel of Jesus results in peace and joy – Romans 5:11, Luke 2:14, Philippians 4:4-7
Romans 5:11 says, “More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”
When Christ opens up our eyes spiritually we see who God is and the tremendous opportunity we have to be His children. It results in rejoicing for all God has done to make a way for us to be saved through the blood of Jesus Christ.
God is pleased with those who receive His free gift of eternal life. He receives, forgives, and blesses those who are reconciled to Him through the person of Jesus. Peace on earth is found by those who please God. The multitude of angels declared,
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” Luke 2:14
Trying to find joy apart from the gospel is a fruitless endeavor. Many people try to find the joy of the Lord, without receiving Him. Or they try to find freedom from anxiety without going to the God of peace.
The joy of the Lord and the peace of God can never be separated from God Himself. To have peace with God, He must rule in your heart.
The Christmas carol says, “Let every heart prepare him room.” Perhaps it would be better to say “Let every heart prepare him a throne.” God’s purpose is not to give you peace through a pill, a treatment, a hobby, or a distraction. He wants to be the author of your peace and to give you that peace by offering you the gift of salvation through the work of His Son.
As we end, consider Paul’s words to the Philippians about the joy and peace uniquely found in the person of Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7 says,
“4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Now that we’ve considered Christ’s great sacrifice for us, let’s take a moment for communion. Let’s recall afresh how Jesus not only came to live a perfect life, but to deliver us from the bondage of sin and give us peace with God
Jesus secured our freedom from sin and delivered us from the condemnation of the law, but there’s more. Jesus didn’t just come to rescue us from sin’s slavery. God’s ultimate goal with both the manger and the cross was to turn sin’s slaves into sons and daughters of the King. Because of Jesus, God offers to adopt us as sons and daughters
That brings a whole new light to Galatians 4 when Paul says, “4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”
Or in Romans 8:1-2 when it says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.”
At the cross, God paid the price necessary to rescue us from our captivity to sin. We were in the inescapable grip of sin and could not break free. But God did at the cross the very thing that we were incapable of doing on our own. He paid the price so that we could be free to serve Him.
The night before Jesus went to the cross, He was eating a last meal with his disciples. Luke 22 says,
“ 19 …He took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
Let’s remember Christ’s broken body on the cross as we take the bread together
20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.
Let’s remember the price Jesus paid for our ransom as we take the cup together.
  https://churchpop.com/2015/03/09/6-of-the-oldest-images-of-jesus/
  https://churchpop.com/2015/03/09/6-of-the-oldest-images-of-jesus/
  https://churchpop.com/2015/03/09/6-of-the-oldest-images-of-jesus/
 According to a Spirit of Martyrdom publication in December 2016
 By Cornelis de Bruyn (1652–circa 1726/1727) – http://www.geographicus.com/mm5/cartographers/bruijin.txtThis file was provided to Wikimedia Commons by Geographicus Rare Antique Maps, a specialist dealer in rare maps and other cartography of the 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, as part of a cooperation project.Deutsch
+/−, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14619576