Title: The Shepherds’ Story Text: Luke 2.8-20
Introduction: Ps 119.18… Lord, open our eyes that we may behold wondrous things out of your Law. Amen
Read the traditional story; Lk 2.8-20; though there are many characters in this story, and the most important character is Christ, this little section, this pericope is framed and hemmed in with the Shepherds (v 8, 20);
You see my Title: I’d like to look at their story, Last week we looked at the Wise Men (Magi) as shared by Matthew. Luke chooses to tell us of a different group of people. Whereas the Magi were prominent, probably wealthy foreigners – servants to the King; these shepherds represent the poor and socially outcast. So, first, I want to answer some questions about who they were and what they were doing. 2nd, I want to explain their experience concerning the sign they were given by the Angel. And 3rd, We’ll look at what they found when they followed their curiosity, believing what the Angel had proclaimed.
I. The Shepherds (8-11)
- Who were they?
- The lowest class of people – socio-economically – like I mentioned earlier, the polar opposite of the Magi; consider the Magi entering into Jerusalem. They get entrance to the king. The Shepherds? I don’t think they would have an audience with the King. The Magi – well dressed and having an entourage. The Shepherds? Probably dirty and surrounded by sheep! But here’s a similarity for you: the Magi were foreigners. And so probably, too, were the Shepherds. I honestly never thought that through – I always just assumed the Shepherds were from Israel. Let me show you in the text.
- Where were they from? Rd v 8a; In the same region; does that mean that they weren’t normally from that region, they just happen to be there? Isaiah 60.1-7; Jeremiah 49.28; Genesis 25.13;
- What are they doing? Rd v 8b; most literally: watching watches; ill.: isn’t that how it is when you work all night long? Working in the fields w/ their sheep,
- What did they see? Rd v 9; An angel of the Lord; appeared; 21x’s in NT; All by Luke except Paul uses it three times; 1 Thess 5.3 – in the return of Christ; there is a sense of suddenness, catching one off guard; So, there, the shepherds are, minding their own business, and shoomp, there’s an angel standing there; but there’s something accompanying the angel which adds to the scene – what is it? Rd 9b: God’s Glory; No wonder they were sore afraid; lit.: they feared a great fear; Think Peter, John, Isaiah; read v 10-11; Wow! What a message! Rd v 12 a;
t.s.: this is our 2nd point this morning… the way the Shepherds would know what the Angel said was true is that there would be a sign for them.
II. The Sign (12-15)
exp.: rd v 12; Isa 7.14 told us to look for this: 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. The context in Isaiah would lead someone to think that he’s talking about his own son (as mentioned in Isa. 8), but we come back to the promised son in 9; Why would the Shepherds need a sign? To help us understand this, let’s look at the sign.
1st, a baby: how many were in Bethlehem? When Cameron was born, he was the only baby born that day. There was another baby there who had been born the night before. And, when we left, there was another lady walking around ready to deliver… New Braunfels has more than 100,000 people in that vicinity – maybe more. I’m guessing in Bethlehem, a newborn baby would have been easy to find.
2nd, wrapped in swaddling clothes; this word, here in the Gk, is a word derived from the Gk word meaning strip, as in a strip of cloth; further, that word is a derivative of the word σπαράσσω [sparasso /spar·as·so/] v. Prolongation from spairo (meaning “to grasp”, apparently strengthened from 4685 through the idea of spasmodic contraction); the picture this word creates is a cloth contracted tightly around the baby. One of my elders in Tyler said their family calls this: a baby burrito! What a great description! The 1st part of this sign is you’ll find a burrito baby.
In Ken Bailey’s book, he said the angel anticipated their anxiety and told them not to be afraid: The angels anticipated this anxiety (remember, they feared a great fear) and told the shepherds they would find the baby wrapped in swaddling clothes (which was what peasants, like shepherds, did with their newly born children). But there is a third part to this sign – rd 2.12 – lying in a manger;
3rd, Lying in a manger
app.: this is their sign – a baby tightly wrapped in a strip of cloth, lying in a manger; And then, all of the sudden, there was with the angel… rd v 13-14;
t.s.: Now, rd v 15; and that brings us to this last part… the scene
III. The Scene (16-20)
exp.: rd v 16; 1st we note how they went with haste; 2ndly, we note they find, found; rd v12; they found the baby, just as the angel had said; lying in a manger.
Excursus: I’d like to take a moment and revisit our Bible Study from Wednesday night – when we looked at the passage just before this one (2.1-7). The Scripture says in these first 7 verses that:
1st of all, this most likely wasn’t in a barn and it wasn’t in a cave. It was probably all taking place in a house in Bethlehem. These ideas of Mary’s abandonment and struggle come from tradition – not from Scripture. The most likely source is a story written around 200 AD (cf. Bailey). Luke 2.6 clarifies that they had been in Bethlehem when Mary went into labor. Rd 2.6
2nd, there was no inn. Inn is a very poor translation and probably has just kept being used by new translations because it really messes up the traditional story. It isn’t wrong per se, just there is a better word in English that we could use here. The word used here is translated more closely as a “guest room”. Let me show you what I mean:
- Most houses were one-room – those homes of common people were one room: consider Lk 13.5
- 2nd, these homes would house their animals, too. Most people didn’t have barns. The Parable of the Wealthy Fool describes a man who built storehouses – not barns. A barn is really a western idea.
- Kataluma κατάλυμα; Mk 14.14; Luke 22.11; wealthier folks had a 2nd room – a guest room. For the wealthiest, it would oftentimes be on top – like a 2nd floor – which is what we find at the Last Supper; Luke 22.12
- The word ‘room’ in 2.7 means space; there is no room on the table.
- Added to this: Luke has a story about an Inn and an Innkeeper; Luke 10.34 – The Parable of the Good Samaritan. If Luke meant an inn, why didn’t he use that word?
exp.: I’d like to demonstrate for you what a typical house might look like. When we understand, other passages become clearer. For example, Judges 11.29-40; Jephthah; It never crossed his mind that a person would come out of the door! He thought it would be a goat or a cow or some other animal that was housed up! In the story of the Magi, when they get to Bethlehem, where do they find the Messiah they’ve been seeking: And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him.
Apologies: listen, I know this is kind of strange – after all of the years you’ve probably had visions of Mary all alone and crying in a dark alley, Joseph taking her to some barn to deliver her baby because she’s been rejected by the people of Bethlehem – that’s all great staging for storytelling, but it isn’t what the Bible communicates.
Mary and Joseph stay with their relatives in Bethlehem, but apparently so did some other relatives who are in the guest room. Because there is no room (space) and because Mary is pregnant, she’s in need of care… She’s in the house. When the baby comes, she wraps Baby Jesus in cloths and lays him in the perfect bassinet next to her – a manger, a feeding trough.
Here’s what I love about this story: they went with haste to see what the Angel had proclaimed to them – and they found things just as the Angel had said. I think of the story of the wise men, who sought the one born King of the Jews. And, now, we see these men doing the same thing! I reminded of Deu 4.29ff: But from there you will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul. 30 When you are in tribulation, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, you will return to the Lord your God and obey his voice. 31 For the Lord your God is a merciful God. He will not leave you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers that he swore to them.;
Can we pause right here and post our 1st observation?
- Seek: You will find Him if you search after Him with all of your heart and with all your soul! Did you know that promise still holds true for you today? The context for that passage was for the Jews who had abandoned their God. God promised them, that even after that failure, he would be found by them – if they searched for him with all their heart. That means in your state right now, if you seek him, you’ll find him, if you search w/ all your heart. You’ve got to do what these guys did – you’ve got to respond to the message you’ve heard. Notice they didn’t just say: Wow! That was cool! So, where were we? Oh, yeah… No, they went with haste! What a perfect time of the year to seek Christ. What a perfect time in your life – right now, to seek him!
- Share: Rd v 17-18; I love this. They didn’t keep quiet about it. They shared! That’s what we should be doing! We should be sharing, too. This is observation #2: Share this wonderful, good news of the Savior you’ve found. Can I ask you…has God been good to you?
Maybe you’re thinking no. Maybe you tried trusting the Lord, but it just didn’t seem like he answered you. Can I be blunt – God will not bless you in your sin. I know some folks think that God hasn’t been good to them because he hasn’t blessed them in their sin. I wouldn’t say God does that. But, seek him – his kingdom and his righteousness (and all of these things shall be added unto you, as well). Tell others of his goodness toward you.
- Give Glory: Rd v. 19-20; 3rd observation – I think this is what God wants in the Christmas story – the glory! He wants us to praise and glorify him!
- The Reason we Hope. Russel Moore, President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission Of the SBC: Article on Atheist’s advice to Lie to Your Children… Jesus told us to have a child-like faith. Even the Atheists see it. For many without hope, the holidays can be a sad time. But it is the same for those who hope.
Often times our expectations of what once was and our experience, in reality, differ so greatly that it hurts and we get depressed. I watched a video of the Chapmans. For those of you who don’t know, Steven Curtis Chapman and his wife, Mary Beth, lost their youngest girl in an accident. Their youngest son was driving back up to the house and in the excitement, little Maria ran out in front of the car. Will Franklin never saw his little sister. Their grief is inexpressible. As they pulled out ornaments to adorn their Christmas Tree, they have very special ornaments made by Maria. As they videoed the time of Christmas preparation, they talked about how hard Christmas is, but just what it means to them. I hope and pray I never have to experience what they went through, but what a message. The Reason for this season – God with us, is so that we can have the hope of one day being with him forever. And, added to this, we will be reunited with those who’ve gone before us. The pain is real and present. But the pain will not last forever. We celebrate what God has done because of the hope he has given us.
If you don’t have this hope, come talk with me.