Child of Promise: Hasty Shepherds
Child of Promise: Hasty Shepherds
I want you to stop and think for a second. What is the best news that you have ever heard? Really think about that for a second. Was the best news you ever heard attached to a proposal? She said “yes”. Was the best news you have ever heard attached to a job? You’re hired! Perhaps the best news you have ever heard was attached to a special announcement. “I’m pregnant”! “It’s a boy”! Take a second. I want you to write, to the best of your memory, the best news that you have ever heard. Write it right there on your outline.
It was just a few months ago that the Cleveland Cavaliers were down 3 games to 1 to the Golden State Warriors. Most analysts believed that the Cavs were dead in the water. There was no way that they were going to come back to beat the Warriors.
On June 19, 2016, the Cleveland Cavaliers, led by their superstar LeBron James, clawed their way back from a three game to one deficit, won three games in a row, and became pro basketballs new champs. After the seventh and final game, which the Cavilers won 93-89, their head coach Tyronn Lue proclaimed, “This is the best news that anyone in Cleveland could hear. The Cavs are the champs!“
Maybe Lue is right. For Cleveland fans, this is the greatest sort of news that they could hear. However, I believe that there is even greater news to be proclaimed. There is better news than a championship. There is greater news that our sports team winning it all.
You see, about 2 thousand years ago the greatest news ever to be delivered to mankind occurred. What was the news? What was the message? The Savior of mankind has stepped down from heaven, entered this world as a child, and God was now living in the flesh with His creation. This was astonishing and amazing news. From the very beginning of Jesus’ life, His birth is associated with “Good News”.
The phrase “good news” is actually the Greek word εὐαγγέλιον or euaggelion and is pronounced yoo-ang-ghel'-ee-on. The phrase “good news” is used 54 times from Matthew to John. The phrase is always, always, attached to Jesus. That’s right, every time you hear the phrase “good news” it is always attached to Jesus.
This morning we are going to play a little game. I am going to say a phrase and when I point to you, I want you to shout “GOOD NEWS”. Let’s try that this morning…
Jesus Is…GOOD NEWS!
His birth was good news.
His life was good news.
His miracles were good news.
His teachings were good news.
His words were good news.
His works were good news.
His death was good news.
His resurrection was good news.
His victory over death is good news.
His eternal reign is good news.
His return will be good news.
I think that you are getting the point this morning. Jesus, from start to finish, 54 times in the Gospel narratives was and is good news. Friend, there is nothing about Jesus that is not good news.
You see, before Jesus there was bad news. Really bad news. God had grown quiet for 500 years between Malachi and Matthew. That’s bad news. The people of Israel had been passed around by larger, stronger nations. They were a conquered submissive people. Bad news. They were being ruled by Herod, an evil horrible man drunk with power and willing to kill children by the millions to keep it. Bad news. Furthermore, Israel was held captive by Rome. Rome was brutal. Rome ruled with an iron fist of fear and death. Bad news.
This is the world that Jesus was born into. A world filled with bad news. That world changed dramatically when Jesus was born. Sure, the world has it share of bad news. Still does right? Yet, Jesus is good news. Let’s read that story today. Let’s read about the good news of Jesus.
Jesus’ Birth Is Good News!
Luke 2:8-16 ESV
8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
15 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.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.
What News Are The Angels Sharing?
I. Come Confidently vs. 8-10
Luke 2:8-10 ESV
8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not…
Everyone is afraid of something. Does anyone have reoccurring nightmares other than me? About once a month, I have the same essential dream. The settings vary but the general theme is the same. How many of you have seen the movie “Predator”? Believe it or not, I saw it when I was a kid and apparently it was seared into my sub conscience. There are nights that I wake up in a cold sweat because I firmly believe that the Predator, the alien from the movie, is chasing me down. Seriously, I have had major discussions with my wife about this very topic.
Another dream I have is that I am covered in frogs. I have mentioned many times that I do not like frogs. I do not like them at all. One time I was fast asleep and had a nightmare that frogs were being thrown at me. I woke up screaming and tore the sheets off the bed. It was quite a scene.
Something that I would find frightening is the night sky being torn open from top to bottom. From the giant rip of light in the sky is pouring out unfamiliar beings shouting and playing strange instruments. This is scary stuff.
Luke’s Gospel says “glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear”. The angel of the Lord even says “fear not”. The Greek word being used in both instances is φόβος or phobos and is pronounced fob'-os. It is where we get the English word phobia. Yes, it means fear. It also means terror or alarm. The word also has another meaning. It means withdrawal, or flee. When Luke recounts that moment the shepherds were informed of Jesus’ birth, the shepherds ran.
You don’t see that in the manger scenes or in the movies do you? Let me tell you exactly what happened. The night suddenly become day. The heavenly host enters the night sky by the hundreds of millions shouting.
Do you know what the shepherds did?
Young people would say that they “peaced out”.
Old people would say that they “high tailed it out of there”.
Urban people would say “they gone”.
They dropped their rods and staffs and ran as fast as they could. They left their sheep, their job, their one responsibility because Luke tells us that they were in absolute terror of what was happening.
In movies the angels sing and dance and the shepherds watch with smiles on their faces. Wrong. Incorrect. Never happened. These guys tucked tails and ran like cowards.
That, by the way, is exactly what we would do today if the same thing happened. We would run.
For the record, this is the natural response to any person who comes into contact with a Holy God. Hide. Hide from God. Run away.
Think about it.
Adam and Even tried to hide.
Abraham tried to hide.
Moses fled and tried to hide.
David had plenty of sins and tried to hide.
Peter hid when Jesus was on trial.
When we stand naked before God with nothing to bear but our sins, we try to hide. We run in sheer terror.
Yet, the message of the Gospel is not “run away” but “draw near”. Friends that’s great news. The great news of the Gospel is that we do not have to run from God, rather he wants us to be a part of the family. You see this play out powerfully in the lives of the shepherds. At the beginning of the story, they are running away from God. By the end of the story, they are drawing near to God. This transformation of attitude is made possible by Jesus.
James, the brother of Jesus invites all people to draw near to God.
James 4:8 ESV
Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.
There is no longer a fear of God, but a longing to be near to God. No more do we have to run and hide. We can approach God confidently and without fear.
Hebrews 4:16 NLT
So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.
What News Are The Angels Sharing?
I. Come Confidently
II. Come One…Come All vs. 10-11
I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
As a kid I always wanted to be on the team. I wanted to be picked. That rarely happened. I was often the kid picked last. Growing up I was not much of an athlete. I was not the hulking hunk of man that you see before you today. Hardly. I was on the chubby side. Not much has changed there I guess. I had braces. I had thick glasses. I was not terribly fast. I was not very coordinated. When it came time to pick teams, I was usually the last kid whose name was called.
Are there any of you out there this morning? Are there any “last picked” kids out there in the audience? For those of you who raised your hands, I will meet you in my office after the service for a group hug.
Everyone wants to be picked. Let me tell you something about the shepherds.
They were not the “last picked”, they were the “never picked”.
In the days of Jesus, shepherds were outcasts. They had no civil rights. They were often looked at as thieves as many of them would try to steal animals from one another. Shepherds, because of their seemingly dishonest lifestyle, were not even allowed to testify in courts because they could not be trusted. They were considered at the time second class citizens and untrustworthy.
Because the job involved handling animals and discarding dead animals, shepherds were ritually unclean. They were not allowed entrance into the temple or local synagogues. They were unable to make the proper sacrifices or worship God.
Shepherds were nobodies.
Shepherds were the dregs of society.
Yet the very first people to hear about Jesus were the cowardly shepherds. Why?
Friends, if Jesus will come to the shepherds, the lowest of the low, then He will come for everyone.
The great Billy Graham had this to say about the angels visiting the shepherds first.
“They (the shepherds) were humble men; in fact, shepherds were looked down upon by many people. But Jesus Christ came for all people — rich and poor, male and female, uneducated and educated. By announcing Jesus’ birth to the shepherds, God was demonstrating His love for every one of us, no matter who we are. The Bible says, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”
Friend, the invitation of the angels is come one, come all. It is an open invitation.
Notice that the angels did not tell the shepherds to go take a shower before they came.
Notice he did not tell them to wash their hands.
Notice the angels did not tell them to pray and sacrifice before they came.
Notice that they did not tell the shepherds to make all their wrongs right before they could come.
Notice that the angels did not tell the shepherds to confess all their sins before they come.
Notice that the angels did not tell the shepherds to go to the temple and pay the temple tax before they came to Jesus.
Notice that the angels did not ask the shepherds to form a direction or gift committee before they came to Jesus.
Notice that the angels did not tell the shepherds to memorize the Torah before they came.
Notice that the angels did not tell the shepherds to clean up their language before they came Jesus.
12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”
15 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.”
They shepherds heard the Good News and they responded to the Good News. Instead of running from God, they drew near to God.
I say this because to many Christians today expect non Christians to do all these other things before they actually come to Jesus. Friends, this cannot be. The Good News is simple. Come to Jesus and He will take care of the rest. Simple. Easy. To the point. The only problem is that most of us will be content to let the angels do the work when it is clearly in our job description.
The greatest Christmas gift that you can give to someone is the gift of Jesus!
2 Corinthians 5:15 NIV
And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
What News Are The Angels Sharing?
I. Come Confidently
II. Come One…Come All vs. 10-11
III. Come Quickly vs. 16
Luke 2:16 ESV
And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.
The other night, my wife asked me to go to the grocery store. It was late. I just wanted to go home. So I went to the Win Dixie on 98. I had to get three things. Three things. No big deal. It was around 9 p.m. and there was basically no one in the store. As I got up the register, I noticed that there was little old lady right before me. I looked around and to my amazement every other register was closed. Even the self checkout stations were closed. Something was wrong with their computer system. I noticed that the lady in front of me had a cart full, I mean really full, of goods. She slowly placed one item at a time on the belt. Slow. Slow. Slow. I offered to help she refused. Then when it came time to pay, reached deep into her purse and pulled out a wad of coupons. You’ve got to be kidding me. She had a coupon for everything. Every little item she had a coupon for it. So finally, everything is calculated. I am thinking, great…slide the card and let’s move on. Nope. She pulls out a check book. WHAT! A check book! You’ve got to be kidding me. Oh it gets better. She fiddles in her purse again. Guess what? That’s right, no pen. The cashier didn’t have a pen. No one had a pen. So the cashier requests the manager to bring her a pen. A few seconds go by. I continue to to a bit inside. Finally a little girl comes and whispers rather loudly that the manager was in the bathroom. The cashier asks, “well did you at least bring me a pen” and the little girl replied “Oh, I forgot it in the back.” Yes, I am loosing my mind at this point. A few more seconds tick by and the little girl comes out with a pen. The lady puts the pen to her check and what do you think happens next? That’s right…no ink. None. Not one drop. I am not considering purchasing this woman’s groceries. In an unexpected turn, the woman reaches in her purse and says, “no matter, I will just pay with a CARD”! I just hung my head.
When is the last time you were in a hurry? All of us have been there before right? Better question, when is the last time you hurried to be in the presence of God? When is the last time you longed to meet with God so badly that you couldn’t get there fast enough?
You see, most of us hurry to do just about anything except for be in the presence of God.
Not the shepherds. They received the message and boom, they were off and running. Scripture tells us that they went with haste. The Greek word for haste is σπουδή or spoudé and is pronounced spoo-day’. The word means haste of course. It also means diligence, earnestness, and enthusiasm.
Luke is telling us that the shepherds moved towards Jesus in a very focused manner. They blocked out all other distractions so that they could be with Jesus, their Savior.
Luke is telling us that the shepherds moved towards Jesus with the right motivations. They did not come to Jesus with a “what can I get out of this” or “what can Joseph’s family” do for me. They truly wanted to worship Jesus.
Luke is telling us that the shepherds moved towards Jesus with an excited and enthusiastic attitude. They were joyful, spirit filled and happy to be in the presence of God. It is sad that there are many mornings when I look around our congregation that we look more like The Walking Dead than The Walking Delighted. Oh friend I know that we have problems. Many of us have suffered greatly this year. However, God came to us. He knows what our pains are and He has not forgotten about us. We have salvation. We have general life. This is not all that there is. There is more. There is better. Sure, everything is not great but one day, perhaps sooner than we think, it will be better. Much better.
So, are you moving to Jesus this morning? Are you distracted? Are you focused? What is your attitude? Is it joyful.
Brothers and sisters, the message of Jesus’ arrival is not just for shepherds, it is for each of us. All of us. Have you received the news? If you have, are you spreading the news?
Today I am glad that Mark 2:17 is true.
Mark 2:17 ESV
“And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Share the Good News Today!