Continued from part 1: Luke 2: 8-14
A shepherd had a dangerous job. Jesus, the good shepherd, spoke about people who were hired to watch sheep but who ran away when wolves attacked the flock. Protecting sheep is hazardous. King David, as a young man, was a shepherd in the same area as these shepherds of Luke 2. David had to fight off lions and bears. To be a shepherd who kept the watch over the flock you had to be tough.
Wolves, lions and bears these shepherds could handle, but not an angel. It is only in Christmas plays that angels are cute. When confronted with a lion, the shepherds knew what to do – grab it by the mane and kill it. When confronted by a messenger from God, they knew what to do – they feared greatly.
More than that, they feared GREAT FEAR. *The* great fear. Namely, the terrifying thought that God was calling them to account right now. Even complacent shepherds in those days and parts would have understood that death was not the end for a sinner. The sacrificial lamb was not only killed in the temple, but burned. The picture is that, after death, judgment and condemnation come.
They realised that this angel had come from the Holy One, the God who is the righteous Judge. They realised that they had offended this God in everything they had done, and they knew that they deserved to be condemned. They believed death and judgement stood before them. So they feared Great Fear.
And, if it were not for the message that the angel was actually bringing, they would have been dead right in that belief.
Instead of what they expected, they were told to stop fearing. The angel had a happy message of great joy. More than that, the message was ‘GREAT JOY’. In place of GREAT FEAR, God sent them the message: “GREAT JOY”.
But it was not a message that God would simply ignore their sinfulness. Rather, God himself would deal with sin and its due punishment. The GREAT JOY was that “Today, in the city of David, is born for you a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.”
This tells us at least three things:
- That the Saviour is the Lord God
- That the Saviour is now also a human being
- That this one will save
This Saviour will take the role of substitute for the human race. He came to take responsibility; to live a righteousness human life for sinners, and he came to receive God’s judgement in the sinner’s place.
The saviour had to be the Lord God, because mere human beings can only be good or bad for themselves. I can’t transfer my badness to you; any ‘good’ that I might do (for the sake of the argument) I can only do for myself. As God, the saviour can do good that may be donated to others.
The saviour had to be a human being, because we need to appear before God in human righteousness which only a human can provide, Jesus the second Adam. If our death and condemnation is to be averted, a human substitute has to be condemned and die for our sins.
This Saviour saves, because we have no part at all bringing about this rescue. Sinful humans cannot mess up the salvation that Christ the Lord alone has provided. That’s good news.
The birth of Jesus is unlike any other of the extraordinary birth in the bible – Isaac, Samuel, Sampson, John the Baptist — these were all special, they all involved God acting against what was expected, but only the birth of Jesus was announced with the whole armies of heaven’s angels singing:
Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth, peace, good will to men.
God is Glorified in this salvation. The Lord Jesus, in his prayer (John 17) he said that he had Glorified the Father, that he had done the work that he had been sent to do, and that he (Jesus) is glorified by it. The Eternal God says it is glorious to rescue his enemies from his own holy and fierce anger. Think about this. God says that he will not share his Glory with anyone, but he has freely joined his glory to our salvation.
God gives peace, and reveals his good will to sinful humans by the coming of Jesus Christ.
In this way God’s love to shown to the world (John 3:16), that he sent his only son so that whoever trust him will receive eternal life.
Now, what did the Shepherds do? Two things.
– They believed the message.
– Told the message to others.
They believed the message – they did not say, “Let’s go to Bethlehem to check if the angel is telling us the truth”
They did say, “Let as go and see this thing (reema — word) that has happened, which the Lord has told us about”.
As I said, these guys would know how to find an animal’s feed-box in Bethlehem, and when they found one with a baby in it, they knew what they had found – this was the sign to them that this baby is the Saviour.
What message did they repeat? “Don’t be afraid, for today, in the city of David is born for you a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.” This means God is Glorified and he brings his peace and goodwill to us. They didn’t embellish the message; they didn’t muck around with the message they’d received. They told it plainly as it was delivered to them.
We also have received this happy message of GREAT JOY — Jesus Christ is saviour.
We need to believe it, and, if we believe it, we can pass it on.