What did the shepherds think?
Their part in the life of Christ did not end on the night of His birth.
How did they feel when the angels told them of Christ’s birth?
Certainly they were awestruck. They were most likely quite shocked to be chosen to receive this announcement. They were, after all, fairly low on the social scale even though they were the guardians of the main resource of the towns’ primary industry. They were perhaps not well known for their social skills. They were out in the hills by themselves for long periods of time, and human interaction seldom occurred. The appearance of angels announcing a birth would be shocking enough, but they must have wondered at the significance of their inclusion in it at all. They were, as a matter of course, avoided by the general population.
Perhaps it was later that they began to understand the significance of their role in Jesus’ life. Perhaps even years later, when Jesus’ ministry was in full swing, and if they realized that this Jesus was the same babe they once honored, when John the Baptist announced Him as the Lamb of God, maybe it was then that they began to see the implication of their presence in the stable. For the reality of their job, their vocation, one that was often passed on from father to son for generations, was to raise these lambs for sacrifice in the Temple at Jerusalem. This was the industry of this little town of Bethlehem. They were raised to be laid across the altar as atonement for the sins of the people. The perfect lamb was chosen and killed from the flocks they raised! Not since Abraham had stretched his own son Isaac across the stones had a human ever laid upon the altar, and he had been spared. Simply taking the title of The Lamb told the world who He was, for those who had ears to hear.
Did they perhaps hear of this and cover their mouths as they gasped in surprise? This babe, this Man, the Lamb?
How could this be?
And again, how did they feel when this same man who called himself the Son of God, also named Himself the Good Shepherd? Did they straighten their spines with the implication of the honor He gave them? Did they plant their shepherd’s staffs and let the light of pride shine in their eyes? Did they smile and think, “I knew Him! I was there when He was born!”?
Would they not also bow their heads in sorrow, and let a tear roll down a weathered cheek when they new the final destination of the unblemished lamb?
And how is it that He was both lamb and shepherd?
As the Lamb He knew He needed a caring and watchful eye on Him to insure His safety and fulfill His needs.
As a Shepherd He knew exactly what a lamb needed when He took them to the still waters, He knew how best to protect them; by laying down His life for them on the altar where they were meant to lie.
As a man He knows our needs.
As our God He knows our needs.
But all of this must have come later to the minds of the shepherds. They could not have known all that He was as they beheld Him in the manger. All they knew was the joy His birth brought the world that day, overwhelming as it was. They saw and heard a heavenly host, and found a King in lowly circumstance.
And in so many ways and so many times I am left to wonder what it must have been like to be a shepherd, kneeling before that bed of hay bringing with me the only gift I had available to me and saying,
“I am but a lowly shepherd and I have so little, but here, I have brought for you this perfect lamb….”
©Dan Bode 2004