|Bethlehem & Shepherds' Fields||| Print ||
Series: From the Holy Land (Week 1 of 2)
Woodrow Kroll: The birth of the Christ Child changed the lives of the lowly shepherds forever.
Tami Weissert: Join us as we rediscover the Christmas story.
Woodrow Kroll: Coming to you on tour from the Holy Land. Hi, I'm Woodrow Kroll.
Tami Weissert: I'm Tami Weissert.
Woodrow Kroll: And this is Back to the Bible.
Tami Weissert: Thanks for joining us as we continue to journey through and explore the Holy Land. Today's study was recorded from the countryside near Bethlehem, an area called the Shepherds' Fields. Wood, describe this area for our listeners.
Woodrow Kroll: Tami, when I first started going to Bethlehem, these were actual fields. There were sheep out there, shepherds out there. In many of these fields today, houses have been built and other buildings but you don't have to go very far from Bethlehem to find fields today with shepherds keeping watch over their flocks.
Tami Weissert: That is so true. So although this isn't quite Christmas time, we're going to celebrate Christmas in our study today from the shepherds' point of view. Here's our Back to the Bible study from Luke 2.
Woodrow Kroll: Well, of all the places we come in the Holy Land, and there are many of them, I have some favorites, and you probably do too now. This is certainly one of favorites, coming to Bethlehem, the little town where Jesus was born, coming out into these fields.
Now these fields used to be barren. In fact, when I first started coming here
none of what you see out beyond me was here. The cave was here, of course, but
these were just open fields. The kinds of fields in which the shepherds would
have been tending their flocks the night that the angel came and announced to
them, “There is born to you this day in the City of David, a Savior who is Christ
the Lord" (see Luke 2:11).
Well we have come to Bethlehem to celebrate Christmas, to celebrate the birth of the Lord Jesus. I think it’s very appropriate at this place for me to read to you the entire story of the birth of Jesus from Luke 2. Listen carefully.
"In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
"And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping
watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them,
and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear.
And the angel said to them, 'Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of
great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in
the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign
for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.'
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising
God and saying,
"When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, 'Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.' And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them" (Luke 2:1-20, ESV).
Shepherds. Now look at the main characters of the story. The shepherds are there. There is an angel that appears from heaven and announces the birth of the Lord Jesus. This is such a unique event the shekinah glory of God shines down from heaven around these shepherds. And then the host of heaven come and they fill the skies right about where we are now, and they praise God in the highest because God has fulfilled His promise to mankind. God has brought a Savior to this world.
You know everyone loves a baby. When a baby comes into your house, you just love that baby automatically, but babies change your life forever. That was true the night Jesus was born in this town. That Baby changed everything forever.
Well, baby Jesus changed the lives of a lot of people and He changed them forever. And right in this story everyone who figures in this story, everyone’s life was changed when this Baby was born.
Let’s think about how the Baby changed the lives of these simple people. First of all, when you think about the shepherds, the relationship with the shepherds to the Baby, all they were doing was what shepherds do. They were out in their fields. They were watching their sheep, tending their flocks day and night. Now you talk about a thankless job! And then a Baby came. And these shepherds' lives were changed forever.
Now first of all I want you to notice that the position these shepherds enjoyed changed the night the Baby was born. By position I mean their position, their station in life. The baby Jesus changed the shepherds forever. Let me read to you. This is Luke 2, beginning at verse 9.
"And an angel of the Lord stood before them and the glory of the Lord shown around them and they were very much afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. Behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, which will be all people. For there is born to you this day a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (see Luke 2:9-11).
Tami Weissert: You're listening to the Christmas story from the site of the Shepherds' Fields near Bethlehem, part of our live From the Holy Land series here on Back to the Bible. Now back to Dr. Kroll.
Woodrow Kroll: Now this is angel talking to a shepherd. Ordinarily, shepherds talk to shepherds. Suddenly God raises the position of these shepherds dramatically because He sends one of His personal messengers to a lonely field to talk to shepherds that nobody ever wanted to talk to. If you were a shepherd in the first century you were probably on the lowest rung of the social ladder, you were a nobody.
For example, in the first century, if you were a shepherd you were considered to be ceremonially unclean. You could not go to Jerusalem and participate in the temple because you were a shepherd. You were unclean. If you were a shepherd in the first century and you were the only witness to a crime, your testimony was inadmissible in court because you were a shepherd. You were nobody.
The social standing of shepherds in the first century was zero. And God changed all that forever.
God sent His own angel to talk to shepherds in the field. Didn’t send the angel to talk to kings. Didn’t send the angel to talks to wisemen. Didn’t send the angel to talk to administrators. Sent the angel to talk to shepherds. So this Baby changed the social position of the shepherds forever. Suddenly they could tell their friends they talked with an angel of God. That’s pretty good for a shepherd.
So the Baby changed the position of these shepherds. But the Baby also changed the priorities of these shepherds. What is your priority when you’re a shepherd? Keep the sheep alive. You know, don’t let a lion get the sheep. Don’t let the sheep get disease. Don’t let the sheep die from hunger. Take them to places you can find grass. Take them to where they can find water. Tend the sheep. That’s your job. Your whole function in life was simply to keep the sheep alive.
Now if you’ve had ever had lamb chops in this country, you know that’s an important function, because lamb is a major part of the diet of the people in this country. So while it was an important function, it was still a very, very lowly function. Listen to this, Luke 2:15:
"When the angels had gone away into heaven the shepherds said to one another, 'Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.' And they came with haste and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in the manager" (see Luke 2:15-16).
Now there’s a manger right down there. A manger was just a stone trough that was carved out so that you could put foodstuff--oats, and meal, and things like that in there, hay for the sheep to eat, or other animals to eat. Jesus was not born in a manger. He was born in a stable, laid in the manger.
But the shepherds had a new priority. Their original priority was [to] keep the sheep alive. Now suddenly a Baby is born right in this town. A Baby is born and their priority shifts from just keeping the sheep alive to going to see the Savior born in the city of Bethlehem.
Remember the story of the ninety and nine? A shepherd has a hundred sheep. He loses one of those sheep so he puts the 99 in a very safe place in the wilderness and he goes out and he looks for that one lost sheep--because one sheep in a hundred is important to the shepherd. Your job is keep the sheep alive, even if it's only one.
David, as a young man, says that he defended his sheep from a lion and a bear. That was a noteworthy and a noble cause. But suddenly, these shepherds have a priority much larger than that. Suddenly they say, "Let's leave the sheep and go see the Child."
Shepherds don’t leave their sheep unless, of course, there’s something much greater to do than tend sheep.
So they rush from their sheep and they go into the town of Bethlehem wherever Jesus was born, they go into the town of Bethlehem because they want to see what the angel has told them about. When that baby came, He changed the position of these shepherds--raised their position, elevated it significantly--because they were just shepherds. When that Baby came, He changed the priorities of these shepherds. Sure, sheep are important, but not as important as the Savior.
But here’s something else I notice in the story. Listen to this. This is verse 17.
"Now when they had seen him, they go to Bethlehem, they see the Christ child, when they had seen him they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning the child, and all those who heard it marveled at the things that were told to them by the shepherds" (see Luke 2:17-18).
Now suddenly this baby has changed the very purpose for existence of these shepherds. I mean before that, their raison d'être, their "reason to be," the reason they lived, the whole purpose of life was to tend to sheep. They go see the Christ-child and when they leave the Christ-child they say, “Tending sheep is important, but we have to tell the whole world about this Baby that we have seen.”
See how much this Baby changed the lives of these shepherds? They were never the same after that. In fact, anyone who meets this Baby, now a Man, now the Lord of Glory--anyone who meets this Person in a very personal way has a change in life that is never the same after that.
So the shepherds come, they discover the little Baby. There He is lying in the manger, doing what little babies do--kicking, and probably yelling, and doing all those sorts of things--and it says all those who heard what the shepherds had to say marveled at what the shepherds told them.
Now I have to tell you this: Shepherds were, um, well they were known for telling tall tales. Let me just say it as clearly as I can. Everybody thought shepherds were liars. Why? Because they’re out there in the fields. There’s not much to do out in the fields. Stories come and stories go, sometimes they grow a little. And then when you tell it to people, boy that’s a miraculous story!
So when the shepherds went to tell people that they had actually seen the Messiah, the Christ, the One that Israel had waited for for centuries, everybody was just aghast. They marveled at what the shepherds had to say.
Now is their marveling because they don’t believe the shepherds or because they do? I don’t the answer to that, but my guess is this: If the shepherds had so much detail, so much that was out of the ordinary, if this Baby was so different and the birth of this Child had such a unique effect on these shepherds, I think everybody they encountered they told the story to, just their jaw it fell open and said, “What has happened to these shepherds?”
Well what happened to them was they met the baby Jesus. And when you meet Jesus, everything changes in your life forever.
Tami Weissert: Well, the shepherds encountered a Baby who changed their lives. How did He change their lives? Dr. Kroll tells us as our study continues.
Woodrow Kroll: So now we’ve seen three things. These shepherds encountered a Baby, and babies have a way of changing our lives. They surely do. We’ve seen that the shepherds had a change in their position. These who were the lowest on the rung of the ladder of success, now can go around and tell everyone they talked with an angel. I’m not going to ask you to raise your hand if you’ve done that. My guess is not many of you have.
So the shepherds have a lot over on all of us. Their position raised dramatically. Their priorities raised dramatically. Used to be their priorities were just keep sheep alive. Now their priority, leave the sheep behind, go into the town and see the Baby, because the Baby--the Savior--will have a great impact on the people of Bethlehem than the sheep will and, beyond that, that Baby will have a greater impact on the world than animals ever could.
So they’re whole priority system changed. The purpose of their lives changed. They saw the Child. They went out and they told everybody what the Child was like and that the Child had finally come, and that this was indeed the Messiah. See shepherd’s purpose was to tend sheep. But now the purpose of the shepherds is to tell everybody. Tend sheep. Tell the world. Tend sheep, or tell the world? Tend a few measly sheep or be the first persons to announce to the world that the Savior is here. Which would you rather do?
See how the lives of these shepherds have changed dramatically? Everything was changed the day they met that Baby.
Well let me focus your attention on one last thing. I think Jesus changed the perspectives of these shepherds as well. See prior to meeting the Christ-child, these shepherds really had little to shout about. They didn’t have much to talk about. They were shepherds. Nobody pays any attention to shepherds. They just had the sheep to talk to and their life was pretty bad. It was boring. It was lonely. It was out here--rain, cold, snow, sun, everything. Their life was really bad. And now they’ve met the Lord Jesus. They’ve met this Baby Jesus. And not only did they have something to talk about, they have something to shout about. Now they have something to dramatically tell the rest of the world.
Listen to this. This is Luke 2:20. "Then the shepherds retuned glorifying and praising God for all the things that they heard and seen." You remember when we first started reading this story of the shepherds? You don’t hear anything about praising God. Shepherds didn’t praise God. They thought they had very little to praise Him for.
You don’t hear anything in the beginning of the story about them glorifying God. Shepherds weren’t out in these fields every night saying, “Oh isn’t it wonderful? There is huge God and look the universe has been created by God, and all those stars up there are witness to His greatness.” Shepherds didn’t think about things like that. They thought about keep a wolf away from their sheep. That was it.
And now? Look what they’re thinking about now. Now they’re thinking about, “How can I best praise God? And how can I best glorify Him?” Their life was changed dramatically forever when the shepherds met a Baby. That Baby changed everything.
When you meet Jesus, that encounter changes everything. Shepherds meet Jesus and their lives are changed. Priests meet Jesus and their live are changed. Rabbis meet Jesus and their lives are changed. Preachers meet Jesus and their lives are changed. People meet Jesus and their lives are changed. The thing is not who you are; the thing is who He is. And the encounter with Him is the encounter of a lifetime.
You don’t have to be a shepherd to encounter the Baby Jesus. What you do have to do is this: You have to see Jesus as unique, and different, and God’s answer to world’s problem. When you do that, shepherd, priest, rabbi, king--doesn’t matter who you are--your life is changed, because Jesus is the only Person who can change your life and give you a new future.
Tami Weissert: Well, Wood, this concludes the first leg of our Holy Land tour. So tell us--where are we going next week?
Woodrow Kroll: Our journey next week takes us to Jericho, to the Sea of Galilee, Armageddon, an amazing time at the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem, and we'll even walk the Road to Emmaus. That's all next week here on Back to the Bible.
The weekend is here and I know you're going to want to be faithful to your pastor and your church this weekend, but on Monday, we're in Jericho reliving the story of blind Bartimaeus. I think you're going to enjoy the story as you will the entire week next week on tour in the Holy Land.
Thanks for dropping by today. God bless you. I'm Woodrow Kroll. Have a good and godly day.
Tami Weissert: Back to the Bible is sponsored by the Good News Broadcasting Association Incorporated.