Summary: Why did God choose to let shepherds be the first to hear the news of the Messiah?
Over the past few weeks we have been taking a new look at some of the figures of the Christmas story. We’ve taken some time to study the stories within the story. We’ve looked at the story of Mary, the teenaged girl that God chose to be the mother of His Son. Last week we discussed the story of Joseph, the carpenter that was chosen to be Jesus’ earthly father. And there has been a common question that keeps popping up. What in the world was it about these people that God saw to cause Him to choose them? I mean, really there is nothing extremely special about Mary, is there? She was a young girl from a bad town. She wasn’t famous. She wasn’t the child of anyone famous. She wasn’t rich. She wasn’t the daughter of a priest or anything like that. If it weren’t for the Christmas story we probably would never even have heard of Mary. What was so special about her that caused God to consider her highly favored among women? What was it that caused God to choose her to be the one to whom the Messiah would be entrusted? In her story we found what was so special. She was a woman or courage, purity, and faith.
And what of Joseph? What was so special about this poor carpenter? He wasn’t someone that the normal person would consider to be worthy of being God’s earthly father. He wasn’t a prince. He wasn’t a priest. He wasn’t a prophet. He was just a simple carpenter from a bad town. What was so extraordinary about him? Well, as we have come to understand, man looks on the outward, but God upon the heart. And when He looked into Joseph’s heart He saw that he was a man of character, mercy, and obedience. That’s what made him so special in God’s eyes.
Tonight I want us to again look to a story within the story and draw the lessons that we can from it. The story I want us to look at tonight is found in Luke 2:1-20…
As we look at the story of the shepherds I want to again ask you this question… What was so special about them? Why did God choose shepherds? I mean, think about it, you have the two extremes of Jewish society. You have the Messiah being born. The King of all kings. The Son of God. The Great I AM. And the first people to find out about it are a group of shepherds.
You would think that the first birth announcements would be given to the prestigious of the land. You would think that the first to be given invitations to come see the Christ would be the religious leaders or the political rulers or the rich and the powerful, maybe the war hero’s. At least to family members. But no, the first people to hear the good news were not the political or religious leaders or the rich or even the family. The first to hear the good news and receive invitations to come and see the newborn king were shepherds.
There’s nothing special about shepherds. In fact, in the days from which this story comes shepherds were looked upon like we would look upon gypsies. I realize we don’t have too many gypsies here, but in Eastern Europe they do. And gypsies are sort of the social outcasts. They are not trusted. They are looked upon as thieves. Their word is not trusted. They live secluded from the rest of society. They are poor. They are generally unclean. They are on the low end of the totem pole. They are viewed as the shepherds were viewed in Bible times.
Shepherds were the poorest of the poor. They had no education. They were ceremonially unclean so they were isolated from the rest of society. This lead to mistrust and contempt for them. They were the low ones on the Jewish totem pole.
So why did God choose to let them be the first to hear the news of the Messiah? Why were they the ones to whom the angelic choir was sent? What was so special about them? I think, just like the stories of Mary and Joseph, we can find the answer to that question within the verses we’ve just read. Let me try to point them out to you.
I. They Recognized The Savior
I think the first reason that God chose to reveal the news to the shepherds was because they were the ones who would recognize the Savior. Think about it… the first Christmas was just as busy as any other Christmas. I mean, the whole reason that Mary and Joseph were making their way to Bethlehem in the first place was because they, along with everyone else within the Roman empire, had to travel to their hometown in order to complete a census. The whole empire was hustling and bustling. Everyone was busy.