Qualifications of the First Evangelists
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So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, "Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us." And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when they had seen [Him], they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard [it] marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things and pondered [them] in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them. (NKJV)
Unreliable. Untrustworthy. Uneducated. Ceremonially Unclean. Shepherds at the time of Jesus did not have a good reputation. Their status did not even allow them to testify in the court of law. Yet as Jesus lay in a dirty manger, cared for by a teenage mother and an overwhelmed and probably slightly internally conflicted father, it was shepherds whom God chose to minister to the child and family, then spread what was probably the most important news in history up to that point.
The angels did not just give the shepherds a message to carry; the shepherds were the direct subjects of that message. "Unto you is born in the city of David a Savior…" The divine proclamation of a personal savior is delivered to those who need and recognize their need for salvation. The highest qualification to be a messenger of the good news is to be one transformed by that very news. As the then babe would say some 30 years later, it is those who recognize their own spiritual poverty (), who mourn over their own sinful states ( ), the meek ( ), the hungry ( )… these are the qualifications to receive the Kingdom of Heaven. And these are those qualified to bear witness of the King.
We don't know the extended story of each shepherd, but we know that having looked full into the face of the incarnate Son of God, this group needed no additional motivation to "make widely known the saying" regarding the future salvation wrought from the baby Messiah. We are not told how the message was received, only that all "marveled" at the shepherd's testimony, and perhaps marveled at the shepherds themselves. For even after their proclamation, they were seen returning to work still rejoicing and glorifying God. If a baby Messiah in a manger can move men as such, how much more should the message of the saving death and resurrection of Jesus Christ move and motivate us today?
Let it never be said that anyone called of God remains unqualified. It may be the very things that this world considers undesirable that God will use for his glory. The shepherds would have been able to encourage Mary and reassure Joseph with the message received by the angels. They would have been able to put the stable/cave and livestock in order to create a better environment for the newborn. And the people of the land would marvel at the transformation of the formerly undesirable sheepherders now enthusiastically proclaiming peace and salvation to Israel.
This Christmas season and beyond, let us remember that God uses small and humble beginnings not by accident. If God qualified witnesses to proclaim the birth of his only begotten Son, how much more will he qualify those bearing the message of a resurrected Savior?
Copyright © 2015, Jonathan Santiago, used by permission.
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