Shepherds and Angels

Isaiah’s beautiful poetry about child’s birth is greatly exceeded by the reality of his presence.

For a child has been born for us,
a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
and he is named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

His authority shall grow continually,
and there shall be endless peace
for the throne of David and his kingdom.
He will establish and uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time onward and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
(Isaiah 9.6-7)

Shepherds and Angels

If we weren’t familiar with the story of the angelic visitation to the shepherds, we would expect the revelation of Jesus’ birth to occur in the Temple.

The Temple was the customary place where God met with humans, but not on this occasion.

Luke tell us that the glory of God’s angels came to shepherds who watching their sheep at night. Shepherds were among the peasant class in Israel and were generally not trusted by society.

It was to the shepherds that the angels gave this message: “Do not be afraid; for see — I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people:

“To you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.

“This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger” (Luke 2.10-12).

The angels proclaimed the good news that Isaiah’s promise of a son had been fulfilled. They used three terms to describe Jesus.

(1) Savior

(2) Messiah

(3) Lord

As we study the Gospel, along with people who follow Jesus or who reject him, we will discover the full meaning of these titles.

The sign that the angels gave to the shepherds is important. A newborn lying in a feed trough was a different kind of king than the world had ever seen, and was good news.

The Angel’s Chorus

The angel, presumably Gabriel, was joined by “a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”
(Luke 2.13-14)

The first readers of Luke’s Gospel would be quick to notice the contrasts.

— Emperor Augustus was called “savior,” but the angels declared the true Savior to be a baby lying in a manger.

— The Roman army provided the Empire with the “peace of Augustus,” but the newborn King came to give the whole earth peace.

— God’s favor and peace was not the sole possession of Israel, but for all the world.

The Sign Confirmed

The announcement of the angels was confirmed when the shepherds found Jesus in the manger. Their experience followed the frequent pattern of Luke’s writings: promise + fulfillment + response.

Their response to the fulfillment of the promise was: “When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child” (Luke 2.17).

A witness does exactly what the shepherds did. They make know what they have seen.

When we see someone who has been enslaved to sin delivered by the love of God and transformed into a new person, we make this known to the glory of God.

Luke leaves room for people to understand the response of the crowd to the witness of the shepherds. He wrote, “And all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them” (Luke 2.18).

When Shane Kampe was healed from a traumatic brain injury, everyone was amazed but not everyone responded in faith. To my knowledge, the only person who fully trusted God with Shane’s healing was Whispering Danny.

(There are two excellent videos at that tells the story of Shane and Danny.)

Mary’s Response

Let’s recall that Mary is a young woman between the ages of 12 and 14. She has experienced a visitation from the angel Gabriel and the birth of John the Baptist.

Mary has traveled in the latter days of her pregnancy from Nazareth to Bethlehem and has given birth in a stall.

Shepherds have come to see the newborn Savior, Messiah, and Lord.

What the angel has told her has been fulfilled.

Luke records her inmost thoughts: “But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2.19).

Our Response

Jesus didn’t enter the world to “tickle our minds” with interesting facts or to provide a backdrop for Christmas pageants. He came to elicit a response from people like you and me.

Let’s respond in prayer and commitment today.

Dear Jesus, You are my Savior, my King, and the Lord of my life. I fully rely on you to guide my life, both now and forever.

YouTube Video

Rudy Ross and I have a 9 minute video on this passage. We explore more about the status of shepherds and the humble birth of our Savior. You view the video on the Bob Spradling YouTube channel.

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