September 7 - Luke 2:8-20

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Luke 2:8-20 – The Shepherds and the Angels

So, why did Luke relate the story about shepherds?

Israel contrasted itself with other nations and peoples who lived in cities or were farmers. Imagery of the shepherd was a strong part of their history. God was their shepherd. Their king and Messiah would be known to them as a shepherd.

In Ezekiel 34, this imagery is pronounced. There might have been bad shepherds in Israel, but God was the true shepherd and his servant David (Ezekiel 34:23-24) would reign over them.

The story of Jesus’ birth is about to go far beyond the tiny little family surrounding a manger. It is time for the world to know that the Messiah has come and the first people who hear the story are those who represent the relationship between God and his people.  They are on the night watch, ensuring their sheep are safe in the open hills.

The angel appears and the glory of the Lord surrounds them. The dark of night gives way to the bright light of God’s glory. Luke subtly reminds us of Isaiah’s words: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone” (Isaiah 9:2).

When Gabriel announced the coming of John to Zechariah, he struck the man dumb because he couldn't believe. When Mary asked “How will this be since I am a virgin” (Luke 1:34), he gave her a response. In this story, there is no request for proof, but the angel tells the shepherds there is a sign. They will recognize the Savior and Messiah as a lowly infant in a manger.  Luke uses this phrase three times to remind his readers of the lowliness of the Messiah’s entrance into the world – in 2:7, 12, 16).

There has been great tension in the story as we witness the angel’s proclamations. With every sentence, something new happens and the story’s energy is raised. Luke uses the contrast of these glorious moments to the quiet of the scene of the manger to hold the reader’s attention. It seems anticlimactic, but the child is the Messiah. The world is different from that point forward.