Good Shepherd

Good Shepherd

Luke 2:1-18

Luke 2:1  Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth.
Luke 2:2 This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.
Luke 2:3 And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city.
Luke 2:4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David,
Luke 2:5 in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child.
Luke 2:6 While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth.
Luke 2:7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
Luke 2:8  In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night.
Luke 2:9 And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.
Luke 2:10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people;
Luke 2:11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
Luke 2:12 “This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Luke 2:13 And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
Luke 2:14  “Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”
Luke 2:15  When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.”
Luke 2:16 So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger.
Luke 2:17 When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child.
Luke 2:18 And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds.
  • If you open your Bible to almost any page and begin reading, you will soon come across a mention of shepherds or sheep

    • The Bible uses the example of shepherds and sheep perhaps more than any other metaphor to describe our relationship with God

      • Probably the best known example is Psalm 23

Psa. 23:1  The LORD is my shepherd,
I shall not want.
Psa. 23:2  He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
  • Over and over again, the Bible likens our Lord to a shepherd and we, His people, to a flock of sheep

    • You don’t have to be a rancher or to have grown up on a farm to appreciate the comparison

    • Beginning with the reality that sheep are not particularly bright animals

    • We tend to wander, we need someone to care for us, showing us where to find good pasture, protecting us from harm

    • While shepherds are portrayed as tireless keepers of the flock, feeding and protecting sheep from dangers including getting lost

  • Sheep and their flocks often bond together, and as Jesus said, the flock will know the shepherd’s voice and come when he calls

    • You may have heard of one particularly dramatic example of the connection between shepherds and sheep recently in Israel

      • When a shepherd lost his Bible in the field one night while standing guard over his flock

      • In the morning, he searched the hills for where he set down the book, but never found it

    • Then three weeks later, a sheep came up to him carrying his Bible in its mouth and proceeded to deposit the book at the shepherd’s feet

      • The shepherd couldn't believe what he was seeing, and he dropped his staff, fell to his knees and hugged the sheep

      • As he raised his eyes heavenward he glorified the Lord saying, “What a miracle…this sheep knew to bring this Bible back to me!”

      • At which point the sheep whispered in his ear, "Not really…your name is written inside the cover."

  • Shepherds in ancient Israel were (and still are) humble young men who toil quietly caring for flocks

    • They typically work alone or in small groups, they are isolated, away from family for days at a time, working in lonely places

      • Their work is hard and not at all glamorous

      • Despite the importance of their essential work, shepherds were often unappreciated and even scorned in ancient times

      • The ancient world saw shepherds as lowly and even repulsive

    • We’re told in Genesis 46 that Egyptian culture loathed shepherds, which is why they thought so little of Jacob and his family when they arrived

      • Even in ancient Israel, shepherding wasn’t held in particularly high esteem

      • And that’s why the job was mostly filled by children or teenagers

      • It was easy to take a shepherd for granted

    • But while the world looks down on shepherds, the Bible upholds shepherding as honorable and important work worthy of God Himself

      • In fact, our Lord Himself adopted the picture of shepherd for Himself

John 10:11  “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.
    • Jesus appropriated the qualities of shepherding to represent the love and care that God showed for His people in sending the Messiah

    • Jesus leads us to good pastures, meaning He is giving us spiritual truth that brings us eternal life

      • And like a good shepherd, He gave up up His own life to save us

      • And the leaders within the church are called under-shepherds in the Bible

      • Paul says that the elders of a church are shepherding the church of God in Acts 20:28

  • And then we have the role of shepherds in the story of Jesus’ birth

    • God thought so highly of shepherds that He included them among the very first people on earth to witness the birth of Christ

      • Just like the Christmas carols we sing, the shepherds were in the fields near Bethlehem when the angel appeared

      • And as we read in Luke 2 tonight, the Lord sent an angel to those  young boys announcing that the Messiah had arrived

      • These young men, whoever they were, gained the honor of being the first apart from Mary and Joseph to hear the Lord had come

    • Not only were the shepherds first to know, they were also the first to see Jesus, because they immediately left the flock to see Him for themselves

      • I find it humorous that they abandoned their post watching the sheep to go find the Good Shepherd who never forsakes His sheep

      • As they follow the angel’s direction, they ultimately come upon Jesus in the iconic manger scene

  • To help you picture that scene, remember that the magi and their gifts and camels didn’t arrive until at least a year or two after Jesus’ birth

    • So as you imagine the nativity scene, remember the only human audience present at Jesus’ birth were Mary, Joseph and some teenage shepherds

      • In Luke 2:17 we’re told that after the shepherds see the Messiah’s birth, they leave immediately to “make known” everything God revealed to them

      • Shepherds normally spent their days and nights alone in the fields with their flocks

    • But now filled with the excitement of learning Who their Savior is, they enter the towns and villages proclaiming the good news

      • They told family, friends and probably strangers, anyone who would listen to the good news

      • What a display of child-like faith on the part of those shepherd boys…they had seen nothing more than a newborn baby

    • The baby Jesus wasn’t glowing or levitating in that manger, and there was no halo over His head

      • Moreover, He was not born in a palace nor were His parents rich and famous

      • One could not possibly imagine a more humble and unassuming  beginning for the Savior of Israel and the world

      • And perhaps most humbling of all was who attended at His birth: shepherds

  • Have you ever stopped to consider why God chose to include only shepherds at the birth of the Messiah?

    • There were no religious leaders present, no kings or governors, not  even the middle class of Jerusalem witnessed Jesus’ birth

      • Only the very lowliest of Israel’s society were blessed to have that privilege

      • In fact, everything about the Lord’s arrival was humble and unadorned

    • For example, Jesus arrived as a baby, not as a conquering, ruling King

      • He was sleeping in a place intended to house animals, not in a palace

      • He was born into a family that had endured public ridicule because of Mary’s pregnancy out of wedlock

      • Even His family’s hometown, Nazareth, was the punchline to a Jewish joke of the day, according to John 1:46

      • And to make matters worse, the only people God sends to congratulate the family and glorify His Son were shepherds

    • The Father set aside pomp and circumstance befitting a King, preferring instead to announce Jesus in a manner consistent with shepherds

      • He entered the world in a quiet, isolated place surrounded by animals

      • Unassuming, humble as Zechariah told Israel He would be

Zech. 9:9  Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
He is just and endowed with salvation,
Humble, and mounted on a donkey,
Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
    • And Isaiah says the Messiah would ultimately be despised by His own people

Is. 53:3  He was despised and forsaken of men,
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
And like one from whom men hide their face
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
  • So God intended and appointed our Messiah to enter the world in a humble manner, but that doesn’t mean Jesus’ birth was to remain a secret

    • The angels announced the birth to shepherds so that those shepherd boys, the least among the people, would carry the news to others

      • Notice the impact those shepherds had upon the people who heard their proclamations

      • In v.18 Luke records that the people wondered about the things they heard from the shepherds

    • The Greek word wonder means to be amazed and astonished by the news of the shepherds

      • Even though they learned the news through lowly shepherds, the news itself was wondrous and welcome

      • Their experience reminds us that the power of the Gospel message to save is not found in the skill or reputation of its messenger!

      • It comes from the faithfulness of the One who authored it

    • Therefore, how appropriate was it that God should use shepherds to proclaim the arrival of the Good Shepherd

      • The Lord chose the least of society to announce the arrival of the One Who would Himself be despised and stricken for our sake

      • In a sense, they were announcing the arrival of one of their own

      • A Messiah who later declares that those who are least among us here will become the greatest in the Kingdom

  • The Father arranged Jesus’ first coming in a way that reflected His earthly ministry, even to the point of including shepherds at His birth

    • And the symbolism couldn’t be clearer…the Messiah’s ministry would be to seek and save the lost…the lost sheep of Israel and of all nations

      • God brought Jesus as a child in a manger to reinforce the truth that He didn’t come to condemn us nor to conquer earthly kingdoms

      • Those things await His return at His Second Coming when He will fulfill all things written in the prophets concerning the Christ

    • Those shepherds were an important part of that message…come to your God and Savior as sheep come to their shepherd

      • Know He cares for you and that He has made a way for you to return to Him

      • Do not fear God if you come to Him as your Shepherd now, in the time He has made available to receive His mercy

    • The good news is a Savior born to us, God in the flesh, come to save us from our sin and the penalty of death

      • God becoming man to live a sinless life so that He might earn our entrance to Heaven on our behalf

      • And then to die a sacrificial death on a Roman cross dying a death we deserved to take the penalty for our sins

    • And then after three days, His dead body was resurrected to new life, never to die again

      • Demonstrating to the world the proof of His claims and His power over death

      • So that by our faith in Him, we too will be resurrected to live with Him in His Kingdom forever

  • The shepherds were the first to declare that message, and here we are 2,000 years later and the message hasn’t changed

    • Jesus is still calling the world to know Him and to believe in Him and to follow Him

      • And the Lord is still using humble, lowly servants like you and me to proclaim that good news

      • To share what we have heard and experienced to our family, friends and even strangers

    • We may be unimportant and even despised messengers, at least in the eyes of the world

      • But we bear a message of unequalled power (1 Corinthians 2:1-2), with the power to deliver a person from condemnation to eternal life

      • Tonight I proclaim to you Jesus of Nazareth, the promised Messiah, the Savior of the World, the King of Israel, Lord God!

      • Let us receive our King!