Good News of Great Joy

Benjamin Gerritsz Cuyp – The Annunciation to the Shepherds

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night… 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.”

Luke 2:8-11 (ESV)

Why would the angel appear to nameless shepherds in the region of Bethlehem to make this announcement?

Although I do not know definitively, I have some suggestions:

  1. The arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, was indeed good news for all people, even the lowly shepherds. The same was the case when Christ rose from the dead. It was Mary Magdelene, a former prostitute, who was given the message first (John 20:11-18).
  2. Jesus was coming not as an earthly king, but as a common person. This is a message about who the gospel is for. It is not for the privileged or powerful. It is for those who understand their humble position. “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6)
  3. It is a statement about Jesus’ Davidic heritage. David was a shepherd, born in Bethlehem. Jesus was also born in Bethlehem, in the line of David. It is God’s way of honouring that lineage and demonstrating the connection of Jesus to the prophecy that the Messiah would be born in the City and line of David. (Micah 5:2; Jeremiah 23:5–6)

The good news of great joy is that Jesus came to save those who want to be saved. The shepherds were receptive to the birth of Jesus, unlike King Herod, who saw Jesus’ birth as a threat to his power (Matthew 2).

The joy that comes from knowing the truth about Jesus is only for those who are willing to humble themselves, to admit that they need to be saved. The proud cannot experience this joy, for they do not see the arrival of Jesus as good news.


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