“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” 2 Corinthians 8:9
They say shepherds did not have a good reputation around the time of Jesus’ birth. Did they ever? Well, names of previous shepherds include Abraham, Moses, David, and in the Gospel of John and the Psalms, Jesus! A shepherd of men. Pretty good company, don’t you think? So, I do not buy the assertion of “cultural experts,” that shepherds were generally untrustworthy – at least not all shepherds.
There were shepherds on a hillside between Jerusalem and Bethlehem the night Jesus was born. It is conjectured they were watching the herd of sheep that provided lambs for priestly sacrifices at the Temple in Jerusalem, even Passover lambs. This is probably accurate; our Passover Lamb was visited first by those who actually guarded Passover lambs.
The response of the shepherds to the announcing angel and the great angelic choir tells us something about these particular shepherds. They were obviously not your run-of-the-mill shepherds. They were probably poor, or at least relatively so, but there was definitely a devout spirit within them. They were, as all of us would be, very fearful at the extremely unusual experience, but they listened, and they responded to the message with earnestness. They believed what they heard. They acted obediently to what they were told. They went, and they found exactly what was described to them. It did not make them rich in worldly goods, but it made them rich in spirit.
They did not fall into silence. They told everyone they encountered of their experience. They spread the message purposefully. It did not turn the world on fire, but plenty of people had something to chew on. If they were believers who, like Anna and Simeon, were waiting for the ages-long promise to be fulfilled, they could give thanks. Or they could think upon what they heard and soon dispense with something that for them was mere hearsay. Their hearts were not expecting what just transpired, but the shepherds’ lives had to be dramatically transformed.
What became of these shepherds? Did they live throughout Jesus’ life on earth? Did they meet Him again when He was an adult and a public figure? Did any of them become some of His disciples? Were they privy to any of His miracles or times of preaching? The Sermon on the Mount? Were they at the crucifixion? Did they see the risen Christ? Were any a part of the upper room crowd prior to Pentecost? All possible. We are not told. It will be our joy to discover this as we become acquainted with the redeemed family of God in eternity.
Did the families of these shepherds come to faith? Did they produce generations of saints? I rather think that such a dramatic experience changed their lives for eternity, as it did the foreign wisemen from Gentile nation(s). We have so much to learn beyond the veil of death and resurrection. The Word of God provides many answers to our questions, but many, many more are saved to be answered in eternity for our lives and our fellowship in a new heaven and new earth.
But on this amazing, fairly quiet night, a few men were changed forever. They went on with their lives the next day, but things were never the same again. Jesus has such an effect on everyone He meets, even as a non-verbal infant. Most succumb to His majesty, to His glory, and to the truth of His divinity. They are secured in His person. They become a part of His forever family. I rather think this was the outcome of each of these blessed shepherds. They were invited to the feast. They came and they ate of the eternal bread and drink to never be hungry or thirsty in spirit again.
What is it to you to meet the King of Kings even in the state of an infant, which you most likely will not? Just to meet Him, be transformed by Him, be forever related to Him, never fearing separation? What is it to you? There is nothing greater in your whole existence than this! How incredibly blessed are you to know the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, you in His chosen poverty might become rich as these poor shepherds did two millennia ago on that remarkable night when the Son of God entered our world as a man, a savior, a redeemer, and your brother. Praise be to God!
“The Son of God who framed the skies, now humbly in a manger lies; He, who the earth’s foundations laid, a helpless infant now is made.
The eternal and Almighty God assumes our feeble flesh and blood; He deigns with sinful man to dwell, is God with us, Immanuel.
Though rich, He poor on earth became that we might all His riches claim, and opened through Himself the way to everlasting day.
For us these wonders hath He wrought to show His love, surpassing thought; then let us all unite to sing, praise to our Savior, God, and King.”
(Hymn by Horatio Bonar, “The Eternal and Almighty God,” 1845)
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