December 13, 2015
The greatest person who has ever lived is Jesus Christ. Jesus’ life changed the course of history. I mean, for many years, at least since 800 AD, the birth of Jesus has been the beginning of this present era in the Gregorian calendar, which is the most widely used calendar today.
Of course from the Enlightenment till the present many have tried to minimize the significance of Jesus Christ. For many, Jesus is little more than a peasant teacher. This morning as we consider the birth of Jesus in Lk.2, we will see that the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem sheds light on who Jesus is.
I. JESUS IS THE SHEPHERD-KING. Lk.2:1-7; Mic.5:1-5
Throughout the Old Testament, when God speaks about the rulers of his people, Israel, the word “shepherd” is often used. Jewish kings are called to shepherd the nation. When the king does not obey God, Israel is said to be like sheep without a shepherd.
King David was Israel’s greatest king in the Old Testament. In 2Sam.7:16, God promises that David’s throne would be established forever. But in 586 B.C. the throne of David came to an end when Babylon destroyed Jerusalem. However the Bible clearly shows that Jesus the King, is a royal descendant of David.
In Ps.78:70-72 we read, “He chose David his servant and took him from the sheepfolds; from following the nursing ewes he brought him to shepherd Jacob his people, Israel his inheritance. With upright heart he shepherded them and guided them with his skillful hand.” Then in Ps.89 which was written long after David lived, the Psalmist writes about God’s choice of David to be king. In v.27 God says, “And I will make him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth.” David was not a first born son. He was the youngest of 7 brothers, but God appointed David to the favored position of a firstborn son.
Here in Lk.2:1-7 we read about the birth of Jesus. Both David and Jesus were born in Bethlehem. There is a very close connection between David and Jesus. The fact that Jesus was born in Bethlehem was prophesied some 700 years before his birth during the reign of Hezekiah.
In Mic.5:1-5 we read, “Now muster your troops, O daughter of troops; siege is laid against us; with a rod they strike the judge of Israel on the cheek. 2 But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. 3 Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has given birth; then the rest of his brothers shall return to the people of Israel. 4 And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth. 5 And he shall be their peace.” It is interesting to see that these verses are applied to Jesus in Mt.2:6.
Notice a few things from this passage. The emphasis is on the fact that Bethlehem is a very small town of little significance in Judah. Notice also that the one to be born is from old, from ancient days. Many see in these words a reference to the eternality of Christ. Notice that the birth of this person would come from the clans of Judah. In fact, in v.3 when it refers to “she who is in labor,” most take this as reference to the godly community of Israel, specifically, those who were looking to God in faith and living in light of the coming Messiah. Jesus was brought into this world through a godly woman, Mary, who was married to a godly man, Joseph.
If I may make a quick observation, let me point out that God’s preferred method of bringing Christ to the world is always through believers, those who know Christ and follow him.
Then, in Mic.5:4 we read that this one to be born would stand and shepherd his flock. He would be a ruler, a king, but a king who shepherds his flock in the strength of the Lord. This ruler will provide security and peace. And notice that his rule will extend to the ends of the earth. Neither David nor any of his descendants fulfilled this prophecy, except for Jesus.
Though this prophecy was given some 700 years before the birth of Christ, already we begin to see the kind of King that Jesus is. One does not get the sense that Jesus is a king who promotes himself or takes advantage of his power or who oppresses his people. Instead we find that Jesus is a king who is most interested in nurturing his people and bringing peace and security to his people. In Lk.2 the picture is of a lowly birth in Bethlehem. Jesus is born in a stable and laid in a feeding trough from which the animals ate their dinner.
Today in American politics it is common for presidential candidates to paint themselves as men and women who through hard work have raised themselves out of less than ideal circumstances. Why do they do this? It’s because we value people who have experienced the hard knocks of life and have prevailed. We feel that such people can understand what life is like for ordinary people like ourselves.
Well, Jesus knows all about what it is like to come from the other side of the tracks. He was born and raised in obscurity. He was humble from the very beginning. And because of this he knows how to rule in humility, compassion, and grace.
David, the shepherd boy, was Israel’s greatest king, but Jesus, the son of David, far exceeds David. Because Jesus, the Shepherd-king, is God in the flesh he is qualified and able to bring eternal security and peace to all who will embrace him as their Savior, Lord, and King. In fact, Jesus said in Jn.10:11, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” In Jesus, God comes down to mankind in order that mankind might come to know God and have life and peace with God through faith in Jesus, the good Shepherd-King.
II. JESUS IS THE SHEPHERD-KING FOR THE LOWLY. Lk.2:8-20
When a married couple has a child, it is common to send out birth announcments. We send them to family and friends. In those announcements we put all the relevant information. We give the full name, the length, and the weight of the baby. Those announcements are an invitation to enter into the joy of the parents.
According to New Testament scholar, Laurie Brink, “There is a calendar from about nine years before Jesus’ birth that was discovered in Priene, in present-day Turkey. The inscription says that it seemed good for the city to celebrate the evangelium, the “good news,” of the birth of Caesar Augustus, the savior of the world. Augustus was seen as the Son of God, since his father through adoption, Julius Caesar, had been deified. Some of our first instances of the term “good news” being used in relationship to an individual are for Augustus, almost at the same time as the birth of Jesus.”
Jesus Christ, the Son of God was born into the world. And God the Father sent out a royal birth announcement using angels to deliver the good news. But wait a minute; notice who the announcement was sent to. It was sent to shepherds watching over their sheep in the fields surrounding Bethlehem. What was God thinking here? Who cares very much about shepherds? I mean shepherds did not occupy a high status in Israel. Why would God send the first birth announcement of the birth of a king to the Shepherds?
When you read the Bible, it does not take long to notice that God is always more inclined towards the poor and oppressed. Generally it is the poor and oppressed who recognize their needs and are most open to a Savior. When the angel came to the shepherds he said, “Unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” “Unto you is born…” The good news about the birth of Jesus begins at the low end of society. Jesus, the Savior has come for all people.
And since he is the Savior, the purpose of his coming is to bring salvation, peace on earth and peace with God. As I look at the world, I am so greatly saddened to see the hatred and oppression that is occurring throughout the world. When I go online and read the things that are being posted on Facebook and in blogs, there is often a spirit of anger, hostility, anxiety, shaming and blaming.
When I listen to the news I am saddened by the continual reporting about corruption in government and in the police departments and in corporate America. All of this sadness exists because our hearts and minds are naturally self-centered. We regularly seek to justify ourselves and desire to be right. We reach for various kinds of power and desire revenge. The corruption that is found in the hearts of men and women works together to create a systemic, worldwide expression of sinful violence and evil that is fueled and exploited by the evil one.
And what is more, there is no way we are going to stop this. More soldiers and wars may occur, but they will not end the terrible things going on in the world. New laws, policies, and regulations may have their place, but they will not stop the spread of corruption. We cannot stop the evil in the world because as long as we do not have the peace of God in our hearts, we contribute to the problem.
Jesus, God in the flesh, came into the world to bring peace. The peace that Jesus brings begins not at the corporate level, not at the policy making level, not with the military, but at the heart level of every individual level. Only as individual hearts are transformed by the peace of God in Christ, will things begin to change in this world. Through his life Jesus showed us what it means to live life with God by coming under his good rule. Through his death Jesus bore the guilt of our disobedience and rebellion against God, and through his resurrection, Jesus made it possible for all to receive his eternal kind of life. Entering into life with Christ activates peace with God, peace with ourselves, and peace with others.
In v.15-21 we see that the shepherds quickly go to find the baby lying in the manger. They were overjoyed and told everyone about Jesus.
Now I don’t think anyone here today is a shepherd. There are not many, if any, shepherds in Chicago. But this passage is instructive about the kind of person who welcomes Jesus into their lives by faith. The shepherds received the news with joy because they would have never considered that God would come to them. They were just lowly shepherds. But God did come to them in the person of his Son, Jesus Christ. In fact God gave them a special invitation to come to Jesus. They had nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Maybe you are weary of your life as it is. Maybe you are disappointed with your life as it is. Perhaps you feel enslaved to certain habits and sins. Perhaps you are walking around feeling guilty, filled with regret for things you have said and done.
Well, Jesus came for you. Jesus came to take the disappointment, regret, and guilt that you feel and to give you his life instead. Jesus came to bring transformation into your life that only God can bring.
Embracing Jesus is in many ways as simple as it was for the shepherds. They heard the message and they went to Jesus. Today there is no stable or manger. Instead there is a risen Savior who says, “Come to me and I will give you rest for your soul. If you realize that you have sinned against God and others and that you need the Savior, Jesus Christ, then in your heart and mind call out to Jesus. “Lord, Jesus I believe you are the Savior of the world who came to give me new, eternal life. Forgive my sins and enter into my life. I welcome you by faith as my Savior, Lord and King. I want to live a with-Christ kind of life.” Trust him, embrace him, follow him, and you will receive his new eternal life in the kingdom of God.
The Christmas carol says, “And ye beneath life's crushing load, Whose forms are bending low, Who toil along the climbing way, With painful steps and slow; Look now, for glad and golden hours Come swiftly on the wing; Oh rest beside the weary road, And hear the angels sing.” Christ, the Shepherd-King, will give you rest for your soul, and peace in your life when you turn to him to receive his new, eternal life, Amen.