They went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when [the shepherds] saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child.
The shepherds made known what they had heard to many people, “All who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them” (2:18). “All who heard it” indicates many people.
The natural market for shepherds with flocks in Bethlehem would have been to sell them for meat and for sacrifices at the temple in Jerusalem. The shepherd’s business would have taken them on the short journey from rural Bethlehem to the capital on a regular basis.
It is reasonable for us to think of the shepherds telling the news of what they had heard in the city. But it is also clear from these verses that the first people to whom they ‘”made known the saying that had been told them,” were Mary and Joseph.
And they went and made haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. Luke 2:16-17
This “saying that was told them” is found in verse 10 and 11: “The angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11).
This is what the angels said to the shepherds. This is the witness the shepherds bore to Mary and Joseph, when they came to see the infant Jesus, and to many others concerning him.
- Like Elizabeth, they bear witness to Jesus as Lord.
- Like Simeon, who comes later in the story, they bear witness to Jesus as Christ.
- We focus today on the distinctive witness of the shepherds to Jesus as Savior.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:11
Angels Announce the Savior
“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news.” Luke 2:10
C. H. Spurgeon told this story. It comes from the north of England and is set in the nineteenth century:
A pastor called on a woman in his congregation who was really poor. He had gone to take some money from a fund that the church maintained for helping people in need.
The pastor stood at the door with the money in his hand, and knocked. There was no answer. He knocked again. Still no answer. So the pastor assumed that the woman was not at home and he went away.
The following Sunday, the pastor saw this lady at church. He told her that he had come with a gift, that he had knocked at her door, and that there was no answer.
“When did you call?” asked the lady?
“It was about noon,” he said.
The woman looked embarrassed. “I was at home,” she said, “and I heard you knock, but I did not answer because I thought it was the man calling for the rent.”
There are many people who will not respond to Jesus Christ because they are convinced that he is like the man calling for the rent.
Your whole idea of Christianity is that you are going to be told what you need to do, what you need to be. You feel that Christ is going to lay on you a whole list of demands. So when Christ knocks at the door of your heart, you do not respond.
Here’s what I want you to understand today: Christ comes, not to demand the rent, but to pay the bill. That’s the reason to open the door of your heart to him.
He comes as the Savior: “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved” (John 3:17). That is good news! When you see this, there will be a different response in your heart to the Jesus who draws near to you today.
“I bring you good news of great joy.” Luke 2:10
The birth of the Savior is good news of great joy because a Savior is exactly what we need. If we had the means to pay what we owe to God, we would not need a Savior.
If you had lived the life that God calls you live, if you were able to do so, you might say, “I don’t want charity. A Savior is good news for people who have messed up and don’t have the means to bail themselves out, but I’d rather stand on my own two feet before God.”
But the truth is that you and I are in the same position as the woman in Spurgeon’s story: We owe a debt to God and we do not have the means to pay! We haven’t done it. We cannot do it.
When the angel appeared to the shepherds, we are told that “the glory of the Lord shone around them” (1:9). The presence of almighty God drew near. What was their response? Notice, it doesn’t say that they lifted up their faces and basked in the glory of God’s presence. It says, “They were filled with great fear” (1:9).
Why great fear? They knew their Bible. If a member of our fallen human race were to see the face of God, he or she would drop dead on the spot. No one can see God and live.
Here’s the problem: We live in this world, and when we die we go out into another world in which we see the face of God. “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31).
Friends, we need a Savior, and the good news is that the Savior has come. When you see how much you need him, when you see the truth of your position as a sinner in the presence of a holy God, this good news will be to you the greatest joy!
I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Luke 2:10
The good news is for all people. This is surely the significance of both shepherds and kings being drawn to the manger by God. The shepherds were bottom of the pile. They were despised people. So little were they trusted that they were banned from giving evidence in court.
In the ancient world, if you heard a story, told it to a friend, and your friend asked you, “Where did you hear that?”
You answer, “A shepherd told me!”
He would immediately say to you, “Huh? You can’t believe everything you hear. You have to take what a shepherd says with a pinch of salt.”
God comes to the people at the bottom of the pile, people who were not given the time of day, not respected, not trusted by others and he says, “To you a Savior is born.”
Kings are at the top of the pile. Kings are people of great learning with multiple degrees, wise men who have the financial means to bring gifts of gold. For all their learning and for all their wealth, they need a Savior as much as the shepherds. The birth of the Savior is good news of great joy to all people.
Shepherds Proclaim the Savior
When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. Luke 2:15-17
God makes the Savior known to these shepherds, and they make known to others what had been told them concerning this child. They are bearing witness to Jesus. Here is the great mission given to the church: We are to make known to others what God has made known to us through the Scriptures concerning his Son.
We are to bear witness with Elizabeth that Jesus, born of Mary, is the Lord of heaven and earth. We are to bear witness with the shepherds that Jesus, the Son of God, is the Savior of all who will come to him.
How extraordinary that God should choose shepherds to be the first proclaimers of the good news to others. Don’t ever say that you can’t be useful to God. Don’t ever say, “No one would listen to me.” God trusts his good news to shepherds as well as kings.
God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 1 Cor. 1:27-29
But don’t forget that God also drew kings to the manger. Some of you have been blessed by God with great success. God has lifted you up. He has prospered you. He has given you blessings that are not trusted to others.
Why has God done this? Why have you been brought to this position? Why has this wealth been trusted to you? God has made his Son known to you, so that you should deploy all that you have and all that you are to make his Son known to others.
God loves kings as well as shepherds. He makes his Son known to people in every position of life. Why? Because the Son of God must be proclaimed in every sphere of life. If God has made his Son known to you, he is calling you to make his Son known to others.
People Respond to the Savior
There are three words in these verses that describe how people responded to the good news of the birth of the Savior. They are all good and I hope that all of them will be true of you.
All who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. Luke 2:18
That’s a great place to begin. No doubt people were rushing through their relentless lives then as we are now. But here are the shepherds, and they say, “A Savior has been born.” And when people heard it they wondered.
The people stopped. They thought. They wondered, “What if that were true? What if the God of heaven has come to earth? Could it be that God is actually reaching out in love and mercy towards me?”
These shepherds are saying that a Savior has been born. They say it has been announced from heaven. If what they are saying is true, it would be the greatest thing that has ever happened in our world.
If you are new to the church or new to Christianity, I hope you will start here today. “Here I am among people who say there is good news of great joy and they say it is for me! What if that is true?”
Wondering is where you begin. But don’t stop there… Some people spend their whole lives wondering, but they never make any progress. That’s why our next word is so important.
Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. Luke 2:19
Mary treasured up all these things. She stored up all that had been revealed to her about Jesus. I’ve tried to picture this scene of the shepherds bearing witness to Mary of what they had seen and heard, and what it must have meant to her.
The shepherds would have said, “An angel appeared to us. We saw the glory of the Lord and we were absolutely terrified! But the angel said to us, ‘Fear not.’ He said, ‘Today a Savior is born; he is Christ the Lord.’”
Mary treasured up all these things. She took them into her heart. Literally, she “put them all together.” Mary added up what was said to her by Gabriel, and then what was said by Elizabeth, and now by the shepherds:
- The angel said of the child to be born, “He is the Son of God.”
- Elizabeth, speaking by the Holy Spirit, called him “her Lord.”
- The shepherds report that the one who is born to Mary is “the Savior.”
Mary puts these things together. She adds them up. She looks at the child in her arms: Son of God! Lord! Savior! One testimony is added to another, each one confirming and expanding what had been revealed before.
Mary treasured up these things, and she pondered them in her heart. She stored up all she had come to know about Jesus, “He is the Son of God. He is the Lord. And he is the Savior. What would it mean for this child to be my Lord? What would it mean for him to be my Savior?”
That’s how faith is born and that is how it is nurtured. You trace out the implications of what has been made known about Jesus.
If I have a Savior, that means I have hope. It means I can have peace. It means that my sins and failings are not the end. There is forgiveness for me. There is recue for me. There is hope for me in Jesus Christ.
If I have a Lord, that means I am not my own. I am not free to fritter my life away doing my own thing. I can’t say, “These are my teenage years, I’m going to do my own thing.” God has a purpose for my life, and I am accountable to him to fulfill it! There is purpose for me in Jesus Christ.
The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. Luke 2:20
They had seen the glory of God. They had heard the good news of a Savior. Now they are praising and glorifying God. The night that began with lost sinners fearing God, ended with saved sinners praising God. That is a remarkable transformation, and why did it happen? Because the Savior was sent into the world.
© Colin S. Smith
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