Luke 2 - The Shepherds (v. 8-20) by Josh Higdon
Each year I dive into this chapter during the Christmas season, and each year I am newly fascinated by the shepherds. I try to imagine the sights and sounds and wonders of their interrupted night-watch through their eyes and ears. Imagine for yourself the darkness and silence of midnight in the open field shockingly and suddenly replaced by an angel, the radiant glory of the Lord, and then through a fractured sky, a singing army of thousands of angels. Like the shepherds, your mind would have been blown, you would have questioned what someone put in your barley bread and you would have been absolutely terrified.
Scripturally speaking, shepherds were amongst God’s favorite targets for important roles. For example, when looking for a leader to bring about the Exodus, God spoke through a burning bush to an exiled, desert dwelling shepherd named Moses. Upon Israel becoming a nation, God anointed a shepherd boy named David to become king. Amos, the prophet, was another shepherd that God called out of cultural irrelevance and into a Kingdom Assignment. And on the night of His Son’s birth, it was not to the elite, powerful rulers of the day that God chose to speak. Instead, He delivered “good news of great joy for all people”, otherwise known as the Gospel, to these simple, rough, humble-hearted shepherds.
Many lessons can be taken from the shepherds in this text:
1.) Fear God, but be not afraid - The shepherd’s initial response was that of terror. Like Zechariah and Mary in chapter 1, the angel reassures his audience by telling them to not be afraid. God is not interested in our terror that would cause us to flee His presence. Instead, our fear of God should be rooted in respect, reverence and wonder. Proof of the shepherd’s Godly reverence is the fact that they were obedient to do all the angel asked of them. Obedience is the mark of healthy fear. When we are tempted to sin or called by God to do something, do we obey? We should.
2.) Receive and Share the Gospel - These shepherds were the first to hear the preaching of the Gospel, which 2000 years later continues to be “good news of great joy for all people.” Upon completion of their faith-filled walk from the field to the manger, where they witnessed Jesus, their natural response was to make “widely known the saying which was told to them concerning this Child.” So, not only were they the first to hear the Gospel, they were also the first humans to share the Gospel. Our response should be the same. We tend to naturally share good news in our lives. When we have a child, we tell the world. When we get a promotion, we tell the world. When our favorite team wins a championship, we tell the world. Yet with the greatest news, the Gospel, we are more hesitant, more guarded. This should not be. Be like a shepherd. Believe Jesus. See Jesus. Share Jesus.
3.) Respond in Praise - The shepherds praised God “for all the things that they had heard and seen." We should copy them in this response. The fact that we’ve heard of Jesus and the salvation He offers should cause our hearts to bow and our praise to rise. Yet how much more should our songs of thanksgiving echo when we see Jesus move in our lives? When we are weary and He gives us rest, we should praise. When we worry and He provides us peace, we should praise. When we are sick and He restores health, we should praise. Imagine with me again. Imagine when we, like the shepherds on that night, make the journey from the field of this life into His heavenly presence. When all that we’ve heard and all that we’ve seen becomes audible, visible, tangible. On that day and every day after, we will praise. Forever, we will praise.