Our question from Luke 2 is as follows: Why did the angelic announcement of Jesus’ birth come to shepherds? Why not to someone of importance, like Caesar Augustus?
There are a couple of layers to this question, and they are both so beautiful! First of all, shepherds were outsiders. Luke is kicking us off early with a theme of his story-song that God loves outsiders. One commentary I read noted that at this time in Israel, shepherds were not legally allowed (by the rabbis) to give testimony in court. Outsiders, both legally and religiously.
But secondly, God has always had a soft spot in his heart for shepherds! Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were shepherds. David was a shepherd. The Lord calls Israel’s rulers shepherds, calling them to account for their self-serving ways, and says He is the true Shepherd who seeks out His sheep and “will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered”.
Even the reference earlier in this chapter to the prophet Micah refers to a shepherd-king who will deliver God’s people – a shepherd-king who will come from Bethlehem!
Two favorite passages of many Christians refer to God as our shepherd. “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” And Jesus saying, “I am the good Shepherd. I lay down my life for the sheep.” And these are just two of our most beloved references! There are many others…
So – why did “the glory of the Lord” appear to the shepherds instead of to the kings of the day? It seems He has a soft spot in his heart towards shepherds! Who knows – maybe He feels a sense of kinship with these keepers of unruly sheep and wants them to be the first to know His good news: My Son is born!!!!
(For further reading to understand this shepherd illustration woven all throughout Scripture, there’s an old gem called A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23. It’s both informative to us urbanites and also incredibly devotional – one of my favorites, in fact.)