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Shepherdic Visitation


By Benjamin H. Liles

          Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. ~ Luke 2:10, New King James Bible

           I often wonder how many times in life we all get good news. You just got that job you wanted, or you had enough money to buy that car, or maybe you come home and your wife tells you, "Hon, we're going to have a child." We all love good news. I don't know of one person who gets excited over bad news. 

          What's interesting in this passage of scripture is an angel is sent to certain shepherds keeping watch over sheep in the fields. This announcement is made to them, "Do not be afraid, for look, I bring great news of a great joy which will be to all people. This day in the city of David there is born to you and all the people, who is the Anointed One the Lord. And this is the sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger" (Luke 2:11-12).

           I love the symbolism, personally. An angel has come to shepherds who had kept watch over their flocks all night to bring this announcement of good news. For the pastor of a church who feeds his congregation, who rules over in righteousness and in God's holiness, well past the midnight hour and is slowly getting sleepy keeping their flock safe and secure from the evil one--Jesus is good news indeed.

          What does Jesus say of himself? "Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; I know My sheep and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so, I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd" (John 10:7-9, 11, 14-16). 

          It seems that even at our Messiah's birth God was in the business of showing Himself to those who were right with Him, listening well, keeping careful watch over what He charged them to do. That's why these shepherds were singled out. They were to be witnesses of God having come near to mankind. 

          For what does God's word say? "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.  And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:5-11). 

          So, then, Jesus who has always been equal and with God took it upon Himself and made Himself lower than the angels, becoming a slave (that's what a bondservant is), being found in the likeness of man. Why go through all this trouble? Going back over scripture we see this theme that man is God's crowning achievement. And since God gave authority to man, even though man gave his authority to one who only came to destroy the works of God, God still found something redeemable in him.

           Jesus has this answer. Let's look again at what He's saying in John 10: "The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life and that they may have it more abundantly. But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. Therefore My Father loves Me because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have the power to lay it down, and I have the power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father" (vs. 10, 12-13, 17-18).

          In other words, there are certain people in the religious setting who seem to be righteous and holding fast to a form of spirituality. But look at what happens. A wolf appears, most likely a false prophet. Rather than enduring and taking care of His flock, this "man of God" runs off to only save his backside, and not helping out his fellow congregants any longer. So what happens to those people? They get destroyed due to two things: one is that this man does not care about the people. The other is that at the first sign of trouble, he flees.

          Those who are truly followers of Jesus, watching, praying, and guiding those they are in the care of doing so out of joy. They deem themselves of equal partnership with the risen Lord to do as He did, laying down their lives even to the death so that others may have life. Jesus is the fulfillment of a host of prophecies. And since He was equal to God from the beginning, even though He humbled Himself to take our punishment so our sins would no longer remain, He cancelled out our debts we have with the Father.

          Father, thank You for all that You show me. How those who truly care for You and Your word will stick it out with You. That those who are Yours will rule righteously and holy just as You are in order that others will see You as they already do. Just as these men who were tending their flocks the night Jesus was born, You were showing us that He would lead others with the same great care and even more so than those in power. You did it in gentleness and in mercy. You could have come and conquered every last man, woman, and child that night. Yet, You put off Your glory, came down into human form, to cleanse us all from all filth. I praise You for this. In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.