As I continue our series on the “why” of Christmas, we have two more questions today.
1: Why was he given the name of Jesus?
2: Why the Shepherds?
As Shakespeare once wrote in Romeo and Juliet, “What’s in a name?” We associate people or characteristics to names. Let’s face it, the reason we don’t like certain names is because we know someone by that name who by their actions or their personality, has marred the name for us.
But the name Jesus, is a name that means so much to us. Not because the letters themselves carry any sort of power in themselves, but because the man Jesus gives power to the name.
The name “Jesus” is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew “Joshua”, and means, “God Saves”. Now the name Jesus was a common name at the time of his birth. The name Jesus continued to be popular during the life of Jesus, but after he died and rose again, the name was not used much at all. Historians have found that after the 1st century, it seemed that the name “Jesus” simply vanished from use in the region. The name Jesus took on a much more controversial meaning. For early Christians, the name Jesus means so much that they felt that no child was worthy to carry the same name as the Messiah. For those who did not believe that Jesus was the promised messiah, they did not want their child to be associated with such a controversial character.
Jesus taking a common name shows us that he came to the earth as a common person. The people of Israel were looking for someone to come as a mighty warrior as their messiah, so they missed him because he came as a carpenter.
But now the name of Jesus means so much more to us. We call on the name of Jesus for our salvation and we pray in the name of Jesus (see 14:13-14 and Acts 4:12). The name of Jesus carries immeasurable power. There is no more powerful name in all the universe than Jesus, not because of the name itself, but because of the One, the Christ, who gives the name power.
Have you called on the name of Jesus?
Moving on to the next question, why did God announce the birth of Jesus to the Shepherds?
We read in Luke 2:9 that the shepherds were terrified as they encountered the glory of the Lord. It is hard for us to imagine the terror these men must have experienced as they were blinded by the light of the glory of the Lord.
While shepherds had once been held in high esteem among God’s people, they had become unwanted, left out, and pushed to the side. They smelled like sheep. They slept on the ground. Their jobs made them little or no money and as a result they came from the lower rungs of society.
So why did God choose to announce the birth of the Messiah to a group of shepherds before anyone else?
Interestingly, Jesus was born in the line of David, the shepherd boy that God made a king. In Jesus, God took a king and made him into the sacrificial lamb. God constantly turns the ideas of man upside down. He chose Bethlehem rather than a larger city. He chose Mary and Joseph rather than a wealthy, respected couple. God chose the downtrodden and small people of Israel to be the chosen nation to host the savior of the world. When God chose to announce the birth of the Christ, he didn’t choose the emperor or the governor, or even the high priest, that would be a good option. No, God chose the people that no one would listen to, the people at the bottom of the societal structure. These shepherds probably had little education and quite possibly didn’t use the best language or display acceptable morals.
It appears God was setting the tone for the life and the message of Jesus. God was reaching to the humble people of society because Jesus was born in a humble location to humble parents. God always invites humble people to a special seat at His table.
Jesus displayed this in his ministry. Jesus always had time to minister to the poor, the lepers, and other outcasts of society. Jesus taught his disciples that serving leads to greatness (Mark 10:43).
God elevated the humble shepherds and made them the first evangelists. They left their sheep and quickly went to Bethlehem. After seeing Jesus, they immediately went out and proclaimed the Good News of the birth of the Messiah (Luke 2:17-18). The shepherds didn’t have a position in the synagogue or any theological training, but they met the Lord and became evangelists, they were changed forever.
One of the primary reasons people don’t share their faith is that they have not had a real encounter with Jesus. If you have a life changing encounter with Jesus, no one will be able to stop you from sharing the Good News. Maybe this Christmas season, it is time for you to make Jesus Lord of your life and begin living for him.
Another significant reason that God called the shepherds to be His messengers is that God Himself is a shepherd (see, Psalm 23, Isaiah 40:11, Ezekiel 34:11-16 and John 10:1-18). God wants us to know that He knows us and cares for us and will never abandon us. When the glory of Jesus’ birth was announced, it was announced to shepherds to remind us of our Shepherd and how much He loves us. The Christmas story is a story about God’s grace and His love for you and me.
Jesus came for the poor and the humble. Never underestimate the power of God to use those that the world has dismissed as uneducated, soft-spoken, or poor (see 1 Corinthians 1:26-27).
You may be listening this morning and thinking that God will never use you, the world has overlooked you pr you feel downtrodden. (1 Corinthians 1:26-27).
Do you know the call of God on your life?