Chapter # 2 Paragraph # 2 Study # 8
Thesis: The shepherds' response is a declaration of the integrity of the "Word/History Loop".
Introduction: As we have looked into Luke's carefully garnered facts regarding "Jesus", we have seen that he has had a deliberate intent to "shape" the theology of his readers into a perception of Jesus that would enhance their experience of "Life". We have seen that he clearly understood that a major obstacle to "Life" is the wrong kind of "fear". We have seen that his "remedy" for that kind of fear is a focus upon "grace". We have seen that he sees "grace" as a problem for most people who have moved far enough into the pursuit of truth to be "theophiles". We have seen that his approach to this "problem" is to continually beat the drum of "divine integrity" in respect to His "words" regarding His promise of "Life". Our study this morning is going to be another drum-beat on that thesis.
April 3, 2005
- I. The Setting For the Response of the Shepherds.
- A. Introduced with "the next incremental step of the program was...".
- 1. One of the major problems people have with God is this fact that He simply does not typically march to their drum-beat, nor does He skip over the details of the process. This is a particularly difficult truth for the microwave generation.
- 2. One of the emphatic issues of "Luke" is that the issue is not how rapid the ends are achieved, but how truthful are the declarations of the inevitability of those ends. For people, it is not so much what they "experience" as what they "hope" that makes, or breaks, their experience of "Life".
- B. Established by the departure of the Army of Heaven.
- 1. What was initially experienced as a "sudden appearance" was concluded by an ordered departure.
- 2. What was initially taken as a basis for enormous "fear" was concluded by an unmistakable testimony of indescribable "hope": the Army of Heaven, though it departed, left the unmistakable impression of the inevitability of the way things were going to ultimately turn out.
- II. The Nature of the Response of the Shepherds.
- A. It could not escape them that the "shephardic task" was key to the angelic message.
- 1. First, the message was of a "Savior" that was clothed in "shephardic" terms.
- a. The Old Testament concept of "salvation" was that of an over-abundant provision for "the sheep of His pasture".
- 1) The Savior's name was to be "Jesus": Yahweh makes a broad place for those who are feeling severely restricted and sense that they are barely getting by.
- 2) The Savior's backdrop was Israel's history of slavery, of redemption, of a "given" land, of a "shepherd king", and of a "shepherd God".
- b. The angelic visitation was to shepherds who were immersed in their identity.
- 2. Second, there was no way they could even respond to the angelic message without having to "deal with" their responsibilities as shepherds.
- a. They all wanted to "go see".
- b. Someone(s) had to stay with the flocks, or the flocks had to all be returned to their home-pens. In either case, the "go see" motivation was damped until they decided how to handle their responsibilities as shepherds.
- 3. Third, the biblical focus upon the "Shepherd theme" is unmistakable.
- a. John 10:14 calls Jesus the "Good Shepherd"; Hebrews 13:20 calls Jesus the "Great Shepherd"; and 1 Peter 5:4 calls Him the "Chief Shepherd" in the context of a "lion-like" adversary. Ephesians 4:11 calls the fundamental "edificational" gift to the Church that of "shepherd/teacher". In the three-fold "restoration" of Peter in John 21:15-17, every "lovest thou Me?" answer is followed by "feed/tend my lambs/sheep". In 1 Peter 5:1-4, the "elders" are summoned to "feed the flock of God" -- effectively making "elders" into "under-shepherds".
- b. That focus is notoriously "gracious" because sheep are notoriously helpless and thoughtlessly self-focused.
- B. It could not escape them that the issue was the fulfillment of the words of God.
- 1. The text tells us that they were "on the burn" to visually confirm the words of God.
- 2. The text tells us that their motivation was high enough to overcome the built-in obstacles...
- a. They knew they would have to "make arrangements" for the majority of them to temporarily abandon their posts.
- b. They knew they would have to "search" the area "as far as Bethlehem" until their search turned up the "sign".
- c. They didn't care that there were things they had to do in order to see.
- C. It could not escape them that the issue was not whether the words were true, but was, rather, getting to personally experience that truth at the fundamental level of physical life -- joy in the belly.
- 1. They did not "doubt" the angels.
- 2. They simply considered the "experience" an enormously desirable thing.
- D. It could not escape them that the issue was their own personal relationship to the Gracious God.
- 1. That the "word" was by means of angels was ultimately insignificant: it was God Who had spoken.
- 2. That it was God that had spoken meant that He had breached the barriers and closed the distance that existed between them and LIFE...for He had spoken to them.
- III. How Do We Relate?
- A. We accept the intermediate steps in a way that disallows them to diminish the bottom line.
- 1. The shepherds linked the angelic words immediately to God.
- 2. We, likewise, must not allow the links (angels, shepherds, Luke, written pages, 2,000 years, etc.) to get between us and the bottom line.
- B. We begin with "grace" so that we do not disallow the message to apply to us as individuals.
- 1. There are two attitudes that block grace.
- a. One is the attitude of "dessert".
- b. The other is the attitude of "He can't mean me".
- 2. None who embrace the "grace" of Yahweh are ever turned away.