Why the Shepherds?
Introduction: It is that time of the season when there is a desire to observe Christmas, give, show acts of charity and cling to those church traditions of the birth of Christ. Luke 2: gives us a clear truth that God intentionally broke the conjecture of man to bless, call and use those beyond the church structure. Jesus being the King of kings, humanly thinking, He would be born to royalty. Jesus being the King of the Jews - might have looked for Him to be born in the holy city, Jerusalem, not Bethlehem. And surely, not born in a stable and laid in a manger. (Luke 2:12; Barclay, W. (Ed.). (1975). The Gospel of Luke (p. 21). Philadelphia, PA: The Westminster John Knox Press.)
Proposition: I would propose to you, though much debate, speculation and misrepresentation surrounds the birth of Christ. There are Biblical truths that must be grasp if one is going fulfill their place in the proclaiming of the birth of Christ, like that of the shepherds.
William Shakespeare penned these words in his play, As You Like It, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: They have their exits and their entrances…” Through the pain of delivery of the birth of Christ, Mary, Joseph and the angles had their appointed time in history. The shepherds had their public proclamation to give as well. You and I have our place in this play of life.
Interrogative Sentence: What Biblical truths have there foundation in the public proclamation of the Birth of Christ? Just how did the shepherds play their role and what influence should their way of worship have on us today?
Transitional Sentence: When a child is born into royalty, the media is all excited and we are publicly informed through news releases, internet, TV, radio with a list of ways of getting information out growing each year.
When Christ was born, God His Father sent a public announcement like no other. The Bible says, "And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ [the Messiah] the Lord.'" (Luke 2:8-11)
Through heavenly revelation, an angel of the Lord, gives the first public announcement about the birth of Christ to ordinary people, common folk, shepherds not setting in a temple, but out in the fields. One would think, the birth of Christ would first be announced in the temple of God, to the Pharisees, the preachers of the day. The birth of the King of kings would be announced to the Royal courts, those in elite power of government. Then through the media of the day, the public heralds, the ones sent out to make public announcements.
When one sets his focus on the reason for the season, Jesus Christ, he begins to ask questions, "Why?" What was in the heart of the preachers and teachers of Jesus' time that would cause them to be out of the loop of heavenly things? What had such a control over governmental affairs that excluded them from hearing about the birth of the King of which some day everyone will bow their knee to. It is an wonderful revelation that God sent His message about the birth of His Son to the shepherds, simple people, who were often looked down upon by the orthodox good people of the day. Barclay, W. (Ed.). (1975). The Gospel of Luke (pp. 22–23). Philadelphia, PA: The Westminster John Knox Press.
In all likelihood, these shepherds had already seen how in the Temple, morning and evening, an unblemished lamb was offered as a sacrifice to God. These lambs came from Temple authorities, which had their own private flocks, so the best offerings could be purchased by travelers coming to Jerusalem, to make the sacrifice required by law in the Temple of God.
Studying the Scriptures in the time they were written, we know that the flocks were pastured near Bethlehem. It is not out of reason to think that the shepherds, the Angel of the Lord spoke to were in charge of the flock from which the Temple offerings were chosen. If this is the case, what a lovely thing the Lord had done, in allowing the shepherds who over-saw the Temple flocks, to be the first to see the Lamb of God, Jesus in the manger, who was born to be the perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world. -- (Barclay, W. (Ed.). (1975). The Gospel of Luke (pp. 22–23). Philadelphia, PA: The Westminster John Knox Press.; The Bible Knowledge Commentary)
Some truths to focus on about the these shepherds: 1.) These were men who were able to grasp the things of God in their minds and hearts with a servants attitude. -- Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (p. 1828). Peabody: Hendrickson. In the Birth of Christ announcement in Luke we read, "...When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, 'Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.' So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger." (Luke 2:15-16)
In Exodus 3, we read of this same character trait in Moses, while attending his father-in-law's flocks, the angle of the Lord gave him heavenly truths which Moses believed and lived out those truths - knowing that God was with him. (Exodus 3:12) David, had this spiritual character, Psalm 78:70-72 says this, "He took David His servant and took him from the sheep pens; from tending the sheep be brought him to be the shepherd of His people... His inheritance. And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands and led them." The shepherds, Moses and David were holy men able to hear and obey Godly truths.
2.) The shepherds had the character of heart which moved them to diligence in their callings, watching over the flock in the night, not sleeping. Even when frighten they held their ground, kept their watch, heard the Word of the Lord . (Luke 2:8-9) They got to see the one Whom Isaiah wrote about, "He tends His flock like a shepherd; He gathers the lambs in His Arms and carries them close to His heart." (Isaiah 40:11) The shepherds had the Godly character like Jesus, He said, "I am the good Shepherd. The good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good Shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know Me." (John 10: 11-14) .
Life application - "Christians, who stir themselves up to be about their business for the Lord in their callings are able to receive divine revelations from the Lord as long as they know Him, love Him and are willing to obey His Word."
Transitional Sentence: The shepherds had spiritual hearts which enabled them to receive and obey God's truth, thus they were enlisted into His service. When they had seen Him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. (Luke 2: 17-18)
Many call the shepherds the first evangelist, (Commentary Critical and Explanatory) They were not ashamed of the gospel, not allowing it to be watered down with religious slogans or over shadowed by the issues of the day, but proclaimed what the angles had told them, "The Messiah has been born."
Christians have their place in the play of life, here and eternity. They must apply themselves to the call God has set before them with all diligence, keeping watch over all they are in charge of. Practical Applications to expressing the heart of the shepherds at the time of the birth of Jesus Christ:
1.) Be a birth place for Christ to be spiritually born. Jesus told Nicodemus, we must be born again, to enter the kingdom of God. (John 3:3) Born "again" (ἄνωθεν ánōthen) "meaning to be born from above" (The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament; Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Greek (New Testament) (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) This is a spiritual birth, done by God. So clearly explained by Ezekiel, "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you: I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit into you and move you to follow My decrees and be careful to keep My laws." (Ezekiel 36:26-27)
2.) Be a temple of the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul writes, "Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwell's in you?" "Dwell's" (οἰκέω oikéō) means a dwelling place were the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ abides, resides, lives. (The Complete Word Study of New Testament; The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament) No literal temple is recognized by the New Testament in the Christian Church, (Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the whole Bible) Only those who have Christ as their personal Savior and Lord, exercising their Spiritual gifts for the good of the gospel and others.
3.) Be a modern day evangelist for Christ. Jesus was laid in a manger, most likely born in a stable. Not in a side private room in the temple nor a hospital run by a church denomination. The shepherds on their way back to their work place - told others about Jesus, the Messiah has come. We can do the same by:
A.) It is the time of the year we have chosen to celebrate Christmas in this country, it is not happy holidays.
B.) Send Christmas cards that clearly proclaim the reason for the season.
C.) Publically, listen to music that glorify Christ.
D.) Give at least one gift that points people to the Christ of the Bible, give a Bible, a Christian Cross, Christian music, films or rap one gift in Christmas rapping paper that is clearly Christian.
E.) Make sure we keep focused, by watching movies or listening to music, or studying the Word of God, so we can worship the Christ of Christmas. Our key text says, "...But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart." (Luke 2:19)
In Closing: The shepherds kept their focus, so should we this Christmas. In a time when the world is making merchandise of the Gospel, we should remember: 1.) The Holy Spirit of Christ is omnipresent, one of the worlds hero, Santa lives in the North Pole, and comes only once a year. 2.) Jesus stands at the door of your heart knocking, willing to enter when you invite Him in. Santa, only comes if your nice. 3.) Jesus is as close as the mention of His Name, Santa, you might have to wait in line for a while. 4.) Jesus says cast all you cares upon me, Santa says, you better not cry. 5.) Jesus enables you to live a new life, can mend broken hearts, repair a broken home and build mansions. The world's view of Christmas often gives gifts that will some day fade away. The Bible says, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever lives and believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16)