The Shepherds – Outcasts and Outsiders

Daily Devotional Bible Verse

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 a 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.”

Luke 2:8-12 ESV

When we read the Christmas story, we think it obvious that God sent an angel to invite shepherds, because every manger scene we’ve ever seen has a cute little angel and gentle shepherds.

They’re just part of the package. But the person reading this account 2,000 years ago would have viewed this a little differently.

They would find it incredulous that God would invite shepherds to witness the Messiah as a newborn, expecting instead political leaders like Caesar or Herod or religious leaders such as the Pharisees.

So who were the shepherds?

The shepherds were social outcasts.

They were poor, uneducated, uncultured, and uncouth. If you were with your family walking through town you would go to the other side of the street to avoid them.

They were the rough characters in the small town on the fringe of society, so much so that their testimony was not even admissible in court.

The shepherds were religious outsiders.

Because their work was considered ceremonially unclean, they were not allowed into the temple courts or to be an active part of temple worship.

Religious leaders often considered them on the same level as prostitutes, so when it came to the religion of the day they were always on the outside looking in.

Here then, God is inviting a group of guys who have been on the outside looking in the entirety of their lives and putting them at the top of the invite list for the most important birthday of all time.

This is a theme we will see continue throughout the story of Jesus’ life. Not only does he consistently seek out those on the outside or fringe, He invites them to be at the center of His mission. As an adult, Jesus chose an inner circle comprised of uneducated fishermen, a former tax collector who has robbed and cheated his countrymen, women (who had few or no rights at the time), and even a former prostitute.

Those who have been relegated to the outside are not only a focus of His rescue mission—they become the leaders of God’s rescue mission for humanity.

Who are the people you would normally consider most valuable to God and His mission? What does this tell you about God and who He values?

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