He is here-Shepherds were the first disciples!

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. (Luke 2:16-20 NIV)

Now I find it interesting that the first people to begin telling “it on the mountain” so to speak was lowly shepherds. The word “shepherd” can have both positive and negative meanings.  When applied to God the Father or Jesus Christ it is a position of honor and protection of his people.

The first set of meanings is often applied to God who is often called “Shepherd of Israel” in the Old Testament (Psalm 80:1; Jeremiah 31:10). The Kings of the nation are often called “Shepherds of the People” or “Shepherds of Israel”, especially by prophets who criticize them for feeding themselves and neglecting the herd’s distress (Ezekiel 34:10.) Closer to us in the New Testament we see how Jesus is often called the “Good Shepherd” who gives his life for the sheep (John 10:1-16,). The author of Hebrews calls him “The Shepherd of the Sheep” (Hebrews 13:20) and Peter calls him “Prince of shepherds” (1

Peter 5:4.) As the Good Shepherd, Jesus knows his sheep, they hear his voice and recognize him, they follow him because he goes before them. He protects them fiercely even to the point of dying for them. The parable . . . .  in Luke 15:4-7 is a perfect example of this set of positive meanings applied to word “Shepherd”.[1]

When applied to the profession of  a “shepherd” we have several references in the Bible that does not shed a positive life on these individuals. Jacob description of his work for his father in law leaves the reader with a connotative vision of ugliness, rigor, and demeanor (Genesis 31:40).   As a property and the ownership of land became a thing of stature, the property owners delegated the role of “shepherding” to slaves and persons of low social status.  The Noble profession of being a “shepherd” was no longer noble when the angelic realm appeared to the shepherds of New Testament times.

According to the Grace article,

By the time the New Testament era comes about, “Shepherds were generally despised and disparaged… by the upper classes of society, especially in Pharisaic circles.”1 There are several reasons for this:

(a) Shepherds are considered “unclean” by rabbinic law and because of this only the lowest of the law dare associate with them. This uncleanliness is primarily the result of unwashed clothes, failure to follow all the purity laws, eating with “defiled” (unwashed) hands, etc.

 (b) Shepherds are considered thieves in most circles and for this reason their testimony was not allowed in a court of law.

By allowing their sheep to graze on someone else’s land, shepherds deprived the rightful owner the benefit of his grass. In parts of the world were water is scarce and droughts are common grass was a priceless commodity. Shepherds were often accused of this crime and, whether true or false, all shepherds were believed to be thieves.

(c) Shepherding is one of the proscribed professions, which means that all shepherds are considered “sinners”. “For the Pharisee a ‘sinner’ was either an immoral person who did not keep the law or a person engaged in one of the proscribed trades, among which was herding sheep.” [2]

Why then did the Heavenly Father choose these persons of low social standing to be the first individual to whom he would reveal the location of the Messiah?  Why not the priests of the religious establishment?  Why not the learned ones who knew the prophecy about the coming of the Messiah? (John 7:41).  They knew where the Messiah was supposed to come from. This writer believes that it is because God does not think like man. “27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong”( Corinthians 1:27).  The religious leaders of the time had no problem quoting the 23 Psalm, but they would not associate themselves with these people of low social ranking.  It is no wonder that the Lord chose to share the parable of the shepherd with them,

 “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”Then Jesus told them this parable:  “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent (Luke 15:1-7 NIV).

You see a person’s social standing is of no importance to the Heavenly Father.  He looks at the heart.  When others looked at David they saw a shepherd boy, but God saw a king  (I Samuel 16).  The shepherds were actual temple shepherds who were taking care of the sheep that were slaughtered in the temple.  They were located in a special place.  They were engaged in prophetic work-the Christ child would become the once and for all Passover lamb that would save the world.[3]

It is this writer’s contention that God looked on these humble servants and saw hearts that were willing to become his first disciples.  After all what did they do when they left the manger? “When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them”(Luke 2:17 NIV).

Is your heart lowly enough to spread the word about the Messiah?  Are you willing to go out into society where you are despised and tell the world that the Lord has come?  Are you willing to let the world know that, “ He is here!” and here means inside of your soul?

Christmas is not about giving gifts.  It is about giving Christ to a sin filled world.  Will you go and tell it on the mountain as the shepherds did so long ago?

Notes

[1] “The Shepherd in Israel’s History: Idealized Type and Despised Social Class,” Grace Church of West Feliciana Parish:Web Documents, December 7, 2014, para. 1., accessed December 24, 2014, http://www.gracechurchwfp.org/web_documents/The%20Image%20of%20the%20Shepherd%20in%20Israel.pdf

[2] Ibid.

[3] Alfred Edersheim, “Why Did the Angels Announce Jesus’s Birth to Shepherds? – Shepherds and Angels,” Jesus.Org, accessed December 24, 2014, http://www.jesus.org/birth-of-jesus/shepherds-and-angels/why-did-the-angels-announce-jesuss-birth-to-shepherds.html.

The greatest Story Ever Told

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Bueller
    Dec 24, 2014 @ 10:01:00

    A wonderful story and one that means so much as most people are of the same category today as the shepherds were back then. However, they are not of the same strength as they go to church when it is comfortable for them. They speak of Jesus when it is comfortable for them and they choose when and where they speak. Then we have the ones who are supposed to speak of God and his glorious Son and all they do is choose vile and hate spreading which is not what Jesus taught us to do. I’m not sure how many shepherds we would actually find today. Those whose only care is to spread the good word. That is something we pray for all the time……someone who walks the walk and talks the talk as Jesus did. Spread the word the Savior is here!!

    Reply

  2. Joyce
    Dec 24, 2014 @ 12:00:32

    Amen Bueller 🙂

    Reply

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