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Wednesday, December 04, 2013
Why Shepherds? - Eleanor Shepherd
Why did God choose to
announce the arrival of Christ to shepherds? Was there something significant or
appropriate about this choice?
The metaphor of shepherds occurs frequently in the Scriptures. I
have often been told it is an appropriate name, for me as a pastor.
Through the Old
Testament prophets, God speaks out against religious leaders who are supposed
to be shepherding the people of God and caring for them in a way that a
shepherd cares for his sheep.Jeremiah
says, "Woe to the shepherds who are
destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture! declares The Lord." (Jeremiah
23:1-3). The religious leaders were guilty of
oppression, violence and personal aggrandizement.They failed to follow God's ways themselves
so they did not encourage the development of faith and justice in the people
does not allow their failure to deter Him from accomplishing His purposes or
showing love for His people.The prophet
goes on to promise, "I will place
shepherds over them who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid or
terrified, nor will any be missing," declares the Lord.This was fulfilled partially following the
Exile, with good leaders like Zerrubabbel, Ezra and Nehemiah.The prophecy continues to tell how The Lord, “... will raise up for David a righteous Branch, a King who will
reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land."
righteous Branch promised by Jeremiah is Jesus.He told His followers in John 10:11, "I
am the good shepherd." He best
demonstrates for us what a true shepherd looks like.
strange and appropriate irony of the Christmas story is that Jesus, the good
shepherd who cares so deeply for God's people, was welcomed to this earth by
The contrast becomes
more remarkable when we realize that at the time of Jesus, shepherds were in some
ways the rejects of society with their lack of sophistication.They were the lowest and most despised of the
social groups in the city.Nevertheless,
instead of sending angels to the religious or political leaders, God sent the
Message of "good news to all people" of the birth of Jesus to the
is the Good Shepherd and it seems appropriate for Him to be welcomed to earth
by those who understand what that means. Yet, there is more to the choice of
The beloved Psalm 23
describes the good shepherd.It affirms
that The Lord provides for us, never abandons us and gives us the best life
possible.That is what it means to have
Him as our shepherd.I wonder if in
choosing to share the glorious news with the shepherds, God's desire was that
on earth, He might find those who will show such care and concern for His Son,
even though He knew what lay ahead.Is
that why He gave the shepherds their role in the story of Christmas?
Another characteristic of shepherds helps us
understand what was going on.
Bible not only speaks of the shepherds, it also has something to say about
sheep.One of the titles given to Jesus
by John the Baptist was the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
The book of
Revelation presents Jesus as the Lamb.Revelation 5:6 quotes John, "Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it
had been slain, standing in the centre of the throne, encircled by the four
living creatures and the elders."
The song sung by those encircling the throne is: "Worthy is
the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
and honour and glory and praise."
Another irony of the
Christmas story is that the shepherds to whom the news came were likely those who
cared for the sheep chosen to be used in the Temple sacrifices.These sheep were to be as perfect as possible
and it was necessary for the shepherds to see that they were well cared
for.After the death and resurrection of
Jesus the custom of offering sheep as a sacrifice for sin was no longer
required.Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God
sacrificed His life for the sins of all mankind for all time on the Cross of
Why were the
shepherds given such a significant role in the Christmas story?Perhaps it was because if they were faithful
to their calling they most closely resembled the way that God cares for people,
and Christ the good shepherd was one of their own.They too, more than anyone else understood
the significance of His sacrifice, as the Lamb of God who came to take away the
sin of the world.