Luke 2:8 “And there were shepherds watching their flocks by night.” Who were the shepherds and why would they be the first on earth to hear the news about Jesus? We know that the job of shepherd was not a one of status, but I tend to forget that many of the great names from the Old Testament were also at one time, shepherds. Shepherding became an undesirable occupation Abraham, Moses, Jacob, David.
Shepherding is also a prominent theme in Scripture. Remember Psalm 23? “The Lord is my Shepherd . . .” God as shepherd is all over the Old Testament, and Jesus is described as a shepherd in the New Testament. Believers are comforted by Jesus’ words in John 10, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays his life down for the sheep… I know my own and my own know me . . . I lay my life down for the sheep.”
In many respects, shepherding is a noble occupation. But there is a downside to shepherding. Shepherds had a hard time maintaining religious purity as the Pharisees defined it. They couldn’t keep the Sabbath because sheep need constant protection. Shepherds spent most of their time in the fields away from society and had no influence to speak of. In modern terms they were blue-collar workers largely unnoticed by those in power. Shepherds were in the lower classes of society.
Imagine God hired you to plan the announcement of His Son, the Savior of the world. Who would you choose to tell and why? It probably wouldn’t make sense to go to Caesar or Herod—they would destroy any threat to their thrones. But wouldn’t it make sense to tell those who had favorable influence over the people? Wouldn’t it make sense to declare the arrival of the Messiah to those who studied His coming their entire lives?
Yes, it would make sense—from a human perspective and with a human agenda. But God’s perspective and God’s agenda are quite different from ours.
So why shepherds? Why would God choose to make His most spectacular announcement to a group least able to spread it? We’ll consider some possibilities next time. In the meantime, make sure you take the time to read or listen to John’s messages on Luke 2:11-20. He provides fascinating historical detail and, as always, illuminates the passage in a meaningful way.
Grace and Peace at Advent