The Shepherds and the Good News

The shepherd is a common sight in Israel. From the Patriarchs of Israel to the psalmist in the 23rd Psalm, shepherding as an occupation was deeply ingrained in the culture and history of the Israelite nation. Notably, shepherding is one of very few human occupations used to describe God himself (Ps.80:1). Even in the New Testament, Jesus speaks of himself as the Shepherd (John 10:11). The shepherds in the Christmas story are tending to their flocks on a hillside near Bethlehem, when they are met by an angelic visitor, who announces the birth of Christ to them. Then, the angel is joined by other angels who affirm this message with praise to God. What did the shepherds do with the good news they were told by the angels?

After then angels had announced the tremendous news that a saviour had been born in Bethlehem, the Shepherds turned and immediately began to talk to each other about the news they had received. Don’t miss the significance of this. The gospel is not just news we tell to unbelievers, it is news to be shared among believers too. Let me ask…what kids of conversations do you have with other believers? Do you speak about the gospel to each other? Do you rejoice in the goodness of God’s grace in Christ to you with other believers? Do you regularly focus on the rich truths of the Bible in your conversations? Are you more concerned about talking football or Bible? Are more of your words given to fishing than worship? Are you more likely to talk about shopping bargains than you are opportunities to share the good news? Are your conversations more gossip of others than glorying in the gospel? Let’s select an agenda for our words that is gospel centered, and make our glorying in God the central feature of our conversation with other believers.

Not only did the shepherds talk to each other about the good news, they also acted upon what they heard. Sure they talked about it, but they didn’t just talk, they acted! They actually went to Bethlehem to see what had come to pass. We each need to put feet to our faith. What we believe must affect how we behave! There is in scripture the principle of putting off and putting on. We lay aside the sins of the flesh and put on the gospel and all of its richness in how we live with each other. One place we do this is within the church. The church is that place where we live out the realities of our profession where we are provoked to love and good works. It is where we work out our own salvation (Phil.2:12). This transformation does not happen magically. The work of God to make us like Jesus happens through conviction and repentance, through growth. And that involves our participation.

The Shepherds realized that the good news that had been announced to them needed to be shared with others. After they saw the baby Jesus on the manger, they told everyone. There was no keeping a lid on news this explosive. The same good news must be shared in our day! This is a day of gospel. We have good tidings, and people need to hear. Church – we have good news! Jesus came, he was born, he lived and in his life he pleased the father. Then he died. Died to pay the penalty he did not deserve but we did deserve. In paying the price and then rising from the dead he provided a means of escape from eternal punishment for us! That’s good news – it deserves to be shared. It’s what the Shepherds did.

Not only did the good news of Jesus birth cause the Shepherds to talk amongst themselves to take action on the news they had heard and speak to others about the news, the Shepherds also glorified and praised the Lord for the good news. And indeed, this is the ultimate goal of the gospel. The gospel is shared and believed and then shared again in order that God’s name, his wonder, his awe his power and fame might be spread (Eph.1:12, 14). The goal of the gospel is not ultimately that man might be saved. The ultimate aim of God’s plan of salvation is his own glory. This marvelous plan that saw God come in human form, humble himself and make full atonement for sin is a plan that must result in the ultimate Glory of God!

What are you doing with the good news?