Intro – Gold was discovered in California in 1848 which led to its becoming a state in 1850 with the motto “Eureka – I have found it!” Today we have a true Eureka moment -- the first announcement of the best news ever heard by any man anywhere. It’s all about Jesus and it’s all about the gospel. And the excitement and joy it generates is so fantastic that it blows the boundaries of the physical universe – pulling back the curtain of space and time to give us a backstage glimpse of spiritual realities rarely seen by human eyes. “And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” >> Luke 2:10-11 The good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ is a show-stopper, even in heaven. Angels were standing in line to celebrate! It’s just as earthshaking today as it was on that first night. But familiarity has bred cold hearts. I pray God will renew our joy at the extreme measures He has taken to reach us. Good news of great joy. The Recipients, the Revelation and the Results.
I. The Recipients of Good News
“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.” >> Luke 2:8-9 The first recipients of the gospel – not the priests, not the Pharisees, not the king or the emperor or the elite. But shepherds. Obviously not planned by a PR firm! What a picture! The sheep in the fold for the night. The shepherds around the campfire like their fathers and their fathers before them for the past 1300 years. They discuss next day’s pasture – talk about family and doze off. Just like hundreds of nights before.
But suddenly the place lights up like an atomic explosion! It’s the glory of the Lord, seldom revealed in human history! There’s another body around the fire, and he’s no shepherd! Mere words can’t capture the impact. When heaven breaks in, it’s a big deal! And these guys are scared to death.
Shepherds were not exactly the upper crust of society. Because sheep required 7-day care, they could not keep the ceremonial law. They could be unsavory characters, who, as one author said, tended to confuse “mine” and “thine”. But they get good press in the Bible. The greatest figures in Jewish history, Moses and David, were shepherds. Jesus likens himself to the good shepherd, and David called God his personal shepherd. These shepherds were undoubtedly men of faith as their actions will prove.
These men were also special for another reason. According to law, the only animals pastured between Jerusalem and Bethlehem were sacrificial ones. These sheep were for temple sacrifice – each one an extension of unblemished lambs offered since the time of Moses – each teaching “sin means death” and each pointing to an ultimate sacrifice who would do in reality what they could only do symbolically – take away sins. To the condemned (the lambs) and the outcast (the shepherds) sthe angel exclaimed, “I have good news of great joy. He’s here! – the lamb that your lambs symbolize -- the ultimate lamb -- He‘s here, and you can see him in Bethlehem -- now!” What a bombshell! No wonder heaven broke open on these hills. No wonder angels came first to shepherds. Who better to go from image to reality?
There is a lesson here. God does not come to the proud or self-sufficient. He comes to those who know they need a Savior – they need Jesus. Three times in the Gospels Jesus says, “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matt 9:13). He’s not suggesting that there really are “righteous” people. He’s just aware that there’s a class of people who think that they’re not sinners – or better, not sinful enough to need Jesus. There is a class of people who think that they don’t need the grace of God – sometimes very religious folks. And Jesus is saying, “I’ve come for sinners, like those shepherds you despise and look down on. Those are the kinds of people that I announce the good news to.”
I want you to pause and think about this for a second; it’s hugely important. Entitlement…entitlement…kills our sense of need. If we think God owes us, if we think we deserve mercy, we’ve thrown God over. If we think we’re pretty good and that ‘Of course God will cut us some slack; that’s His job; He’s here to forgive us’…then we will never understand grace; we don’t get the gospel at all. Bottom line: you can’t be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ if you’re a good person. Good people eliminate themselves from grace! Grace says from the heart, “I deserve God’s displeasure” – that’s who God saves. God’s coming to shepherds shows that He is gracious to sinners! But He cannot help the self-righteous. Good news is for sinners!
II. The Revelation of Good News
The theme of this passage is 11 The heart of the gospel -- the good news. A Savior is here. But there are implications to that statement. So, like peeling an onion, I want you to see some of those implications.
A. There is Need of a Savior
The first layer of the onion -- A Savior presupposes a need. Suppose Eaton is plastered with billboards: “Good news. A Savior has come!” Ads run on the radio: “Good news. A Savior is here.” That would catch our attention. But we’d ask, a savior for what? We’re told it’s a doctor who’s found a cure for Lou Gehrig’s disease. Wonderful news -- for the1/100 of 1% of the population that has ALS. But, I don’t have it; I don’t know anyone who has it. So while I’m glad for those who have ALS, it has no relevance to me personally. It is not good news to me because I do not have a need. Only those with the disease have the need of a Savior. So, when we find the angel in Luke announcing “Good news. A Savior is born”, we must ask “Good news” for whom, “a Savior from what?”
B. The Need is Universal (all the people)
The second layer of the onion is that the need is universal. 10 All the people. Everyone. So, if this Savior is good news for all, then all must need a Savior. No one can say, “Well, Jesus is fine for you, but I don’t need him.” The Bible says we all need Him. Perhaps you think there is no hereafter, or you think there is a heaven but no hell, or you think eventually God will save everyone or you think you are good enough without a Savior -- that God is obliged to honor your good efforts – but the Bible says you are part of “all the people” ; you need a Savior. The need is universal. No one is good enough. Paul makes it crystal clear in Titus 3:5, “he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy.” To be saved, you must have a Savior. Rom 3:23, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Not some – all. Some may fall shorter than others, but all fall short.
A man visited a psychiatrist. He explained, "I’ve been doing wrong, Dr., and my conscience is bothering me." The psychiatrist says, "So you want something that will strengthen your will?" The fellow replied, "No, no, I want something to weaken my conscience." The truth is, most of us don’t need much help weakening our conscience. Our rationalizers work 24/7. We’re in denial about sin. We’re better than our neighbor, so God must take us. But God sees us clearly. He says in Isa 64:6, “and all [y]our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.” I see through the façade of goodness to the selfishness beneath. You need a Savior -- like everyone else. The need is universal!
C. The Need is Spiritual
The next layer. The Jews were looking for a political Savior – someone to free them from Rome. They saw the OT Messiah as a political deliverer. And the Bible is clear – that will happen. But many today tell us that is all He came for – to take up the cause of outcasts and the disenfranchised. He came to bring justice and equality. And He did all those things. But is that what the angel meant when he said in 11 Absolutely not.
The need for political deliverance is not universal. His mission is to address the universal need expressed in Zechariah’s hymn of praise in 1:77 when he said Jesus was coming, “to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins.” Sin – that’s the universal problem that demands a Savior. The angel tells Joseph in Matt 1:21, “[Mary] will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus (Savior), for he will save his people from their sins.” There were a lot of Jewish people named Jesus, but this is the one and only one who can live up to the name. He will save people from their sins. That is the universal need and that is the sense in which He is Savior.
Luke 3:3 tells us concerning Jesus’ forerunner, John: “And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” Why is he doing that? Why forgiveness? Because the Jews in Jesus’ time looked for a political deliverer. But they ignored passages like Ezek 36:33 speaking of the New Covenant: ““Thus says the Lord GOD: On the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities, I will cause the cities to be inhabited, and the waste places shall be rebuilt.” Political deliverance was in the plan – but first a new, clean heart was required. John is preparing the people for this. Jesus came foremost to save people from their sin.
D. The Solution is a Person
End of Lu 2:11, “a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Who is the Savior? Christ the Lord. What is salvation? To know Him. It is not a set of rules; it is not a creed or ritual or way of thinking. It is not baptism or going to church or giving money. Salvation is knowing Him. Jesus says in John 17: 3) And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” Good enough isn’t good enough. You must know Christ. Salvation is a person – the person is Christ. The terms Christ and Messiah mean anointed one. Prophets, priests and kings were anointed in the OT. Christ, the Messiah, the anointed one is all three rolled into one. Jesus is prophet, priest and king – the fulfillment of every OT promise.
But He is more than that. How is that possible? He is also “Lord.” Lord is the covenant name for God in the OT – Yahweh. The Jews so revered that name they would never say it aloud. So, here we see that Jesus is not just the Messiah, He is Lord – God in the flesh. That is who the Savior is. Lord of the universe. Lord in human form. That’s what it took to make a Savior. But you still say that you can be good enough on your own? Really!! Then you are mocking God. You think God would go to this extreme to provide a Savior -- and it is not necessary?! You can make it on your own?! Surely you don’t think God would be that foolish.
Suppose you get sick. At great expense I fly in world specialists to treat you. But they all say, “Take two aspirin and call me in the morning.” You’d think I was crazy, wouldn’t you? So would everyone. Why a doctor when you were going to get well on your own. Dumb. But it would not look so dumb if your life was threatened by a rare form of cancer. Then the specialists would be needed, wanted, appreciated and accepted. Beloved, we all have cancer. God didn’t send a Savior who was unnecessary. The solution is a person. That’s why Peter said in Acts 4: 12) “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” The solution to sin is a person – the person of Christ.
You know, the Romans came to refer to the emperor Augustus as “Savior.” But he could not save them from their sins. Budha cannot save you from your sins, nor did he claim to. Mohammad cannot save you from your sin. Nor can Vishnu nor any of the Hindu devas. Neither can the atheistic philosophy professor who stole your faith. Only Jesus can save you from your sins. But -- good news; He came to do exactly that. He alone is Savior.
E. The Solution is Personal
This is the final layer. It is critical because the others are meaningless to me personally without this one. Note Lu 2:11: “For unto you is born a Savior.” Interesting phrase - “unto you”. You’d have expected, “unto a girl named Mary” or “to the family of Mary and Joseph”. Instead, the shepherds heard, “Unto you.” This is personal. Unto you. You’ve got a need, but unto you a solution has come. The Savior is theirs. Their Lamb of God. Their Lord. We had some friends who went to Yosemite National Park in CA occasionally. One year, they took a 2 or 3 year old granddaughter for the first time. They kept talking to her about going to Yosemite. They’d tell her, “Get ready, Honey, we’re going to Yosemite.” Finally one day she couldn’t take it anymore. She said, “But Grandma, it isn’t just my Semite – it’s your semite, too!” And may I say this morning, He wasn’t just the Savior for the shepherds or for the nation of Israel or for those in ancient times. He is your Savior too. Did you know, if you had been the only person in the world, He’d have died for you?
It’s not enough to hear good news; you have to act on it. Notice Lu 2:12, “And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” The angel says, “Here’s how you’ll know Jesus. You’ll find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths.” Probably were a few of those in Bethlehem. But “lying in a manger”? Only one of those. Beloved, there is only one Jesus. But you must find Him. He came to you – now you must come unto Him. You must make Him your Christ and your Lord and your Savior or His coming is useless to you. You must come. That is the nature of salvation. The news is good, but you have to make it your own.
III. The Results
Luke 2:13-14, “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying.” Again, words fail to deliver the glory of this occasion. “Multitude” implies numberless. I think God designated a few angels to go, but every angel in heaven wanted to join in, so God finally said, “All right, all of ya’ all go on ahead!” What glory this was. Literally, the veil that normally separates heaven from earth, time from eternity, physical from spiritual is rolled back. Natural law is suspended. Whether the angels sang or spoke the words, it was glorious. The word host means army. So here is God’s army more powerful than a million atomic bombs praising peace through the only One who can bring peace. The sky was filled with angels, awestruck by what was going on. Who better than they to understand the need? Who better to appreciate the wisdom of God’s plan to provide salvation for man and yet preserve God’s perfect holiness? Who better to understand the cost to God? To understand what Jesus was giving up to become a Savior? So, tho they would never need nor experience salvation, they rocked the world with praise. Their joy reflects God’s joy! Imagine God being this excited about making forgiveness available to you. Surely you don’t want to turn that down. Do we have even a fraction of their joy at the plan of God and the good news that a Savior has come? What a moment in history! Now, in closing, note two results:
A. God Receives Glory
Lu 2:14) “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” Now, there are two results in this verse, but first notice that the last phrase is not talking primarily about peace between men as it is usually taken. It is describing peace “among those with whom he is pleased.” Who is that? Is that all people? Not even close. God has made it abundantly clear that God is not pleased with mankind apart from Christ. Those to whom peace comes is those who are believers – those who have believed in God. First comes salvation, then comes peace. This is Ephesians 2 where the first half of the chapter tells how we become believers, thus getting peace with God – and the second half showing how peace with God leads to peace among men.
Now, let’s look at the first result – the glory of God. We think of our salvation in very personal terms. This is what is going to get me to heaven, but ultimately it is about God getting glory. God is glorified for providing a Savior and He will be glorified by every person who accepts that Savior, for it will be clear that it is all grace. Not one of us will deserve it apart from Him. So, God gets glory through this good news.
B. Believers Receive Peace With God
Those outside of Christ have a great enemy. That enemy is not a person and it is not Satan. It is God. That’s right. Rom 5:2 states, “But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.” But there is good news. In 590 BC the Persian king Darius landed his army on the plain of Marathon in Greece with the goal of destroying Athens as he had just destroyed Eretria. Had Athens been destroyed, the whole of Greek culture would never have happened. The Persians seemed unbeatable, but in a fierce battle, the Greeks emerged victorious. Legend has it that a Greek soldier named Pheidippides was then sent as a courier to Athens to spread the news. Running all of the 26 miles (the inspiration for today’s marathon race), he arrived exhausted to proclaim, “Joy to you, we've won", and then with his last words “Joy to you”, he died.
These angels had even better news in Lu 2:14, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” Good news. The war is over. For those with whom God is pleased (believers), there is peace. This is not primarily a message of peace between men; this is a message of peace with God. Our greatest enemy has provided a way that He can become our greatest friend, and this birth was step one in the process. Rom 5: 8) but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” That’s the good news. The Savior has come; He has paid the price, and now by accepting His verdict about our sin, and by inviting Him to be not just the Lord, but our Lord, we can have peace with God. Romans 5:1 “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Are you at peace with God this morning? Has this event that so enthralled and excited the very angels of heaven and the heart of Godpenetrated your heart and brought repentance and joy to you?! The good news is, He has come to us. The question is, have we come to Him in humility and faith? Has the Eureka moment of these angels become our personal Eureka moment? Let’s pray.