Shepherds were some of the most marginalized people group of Biblical times…they were relegated to an unimportant and distasteful position within Jewish society. But yet, God saw fit for them to be the first to hear about the birth of the Messiah. But why? We have only to search Old Testament Scriptures to see the clear correlation between the shepherds on that dark hillside and Jesus Christ. Probably one of the best known Psalms, the 23rd Psalm, starts out, “The Lord is my Shepherd I shall not want.” Isaiah 40:11 talks of Jesus like this, “He tends His flock like a Shepherd; He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart…” And if we look in the New Testament, Jesus Himself says, “I am the good Shepherd.” (John 10:14) And elsewhere we find, in Hebrews 13:20 Jesus is called the Great Shepherd. This scruffy group of men might not have had much notoriety before men…but before God, He chose to honor them in the same way He honored His Son…the Shepherd of all mankind.
For a moment, put yourself out on that grassy mountainside next to a campfire as you take your turn watching for wild animals that might attack the flocks. Some of your fellow shepherds are dosing…some quietly talking….when suddenly this brilliant being stands in front of you, declaring the Messiah has come! And before you can even start to take this in… a great company of heavenly host appear. It would be like bottling every flash of lightning that’s ever happened…and then turning them all loose at the same time! And as if that wasn’t enough, these heavenly beings perform a song for you…saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests.” But as quickly as they appeared…they disappear…and you’re left to collect your wits and take a deep breath, all the while thinking about what you’ve just witnessed. Someone suggests traveling down to Bethlehem to see if this is true…and so off you go. And sure enough, just as the angel said, you find this tiny baby in a cattle stall… sleeping in a hay filled manger. So what do you do with all this good news? You have to tell others about what you saw and heard, right? That’s when common, uneducated men boldly started declaring the fulfillment of God’s Word…and when lowly shepherds told others about the coming of the Good Shepherd.
The shepherds had just experienced the greatest light show ever…more sensational than the biggest fireworks display…more glorious than anything the world had ever seen. Mixed with their awe and wonder was excitement…they had just been told about the coming Messiah. No wonder they all agreed to, “go to Bethlehem and see this thing,(Rhema) the Lord has told us about.” They had been given God’s Word…the Greek word is Rhema…and their enthusiasm was infectious. And after they had found the Christ child, their elation didn’t wane, for in Luke 2:17 it tells us that, ” When they had seen Him, they spread the Word ( Rhema) concerning what they had been told about this child.” These plain, ordinary men were the very first missionaries, spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ. They had no Theological degrees or advanced education… God’s Word had touched them and couldn’t contain their elation. They were compelled to tell others just as we should be. For the greatest story ever told is the one they spread…a Savior has been born to you; He is Jesus Christ the Lord.
Why did God choose to proclaim the coming Messiah to the shepherds? They were far from the politically elite…and at the other end of the spectrum from the powerful religious circle. So what did God see in that rag-tag group of blue-collar workers in that field outside of Bethlehem to warrant such a grand and glorious display to announce the coming of His Son? In a word, He saw us. He didn’t wish to address the political or religious bigwigs…He chose rather to tell the working class…people like you and me the good news of Jesus Christ. And this holds true today…the Lord Jesus Christ has come for you and me… common, ordinary people who need a Savior.