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The Shepherds – Early Witnesses of King Jesus

First Baptist Church https://fbcbartow.org

“The Shepherds – Early Witnesses of King Jesus”

Series: The Characters of Christmas [on screen]

Rev. Matthew C. McCraw, EdD

First Baptist Church, Bartow, Florida

December 19, 2021

Introductory Comments:

If you go to Palestine today (Israel and its surrounding areas) you can still see shepherds there. From all accounts that we have, they do their job very similar to how shepherds would have done their job in the days of Jesus. Here’s a picture of a modern-day Bedouin shepherd. [show picture on screen] Shepherds probably didn’t wear hoodies in the days of Jesus, but they probably did operate much the same way as they do today. 

Today, as we continue our series entitled, “The Characters of Christmas,” we’ll be learning about “The Shepherds – Early Witnesses of King Jesus” [on screen]

Before we get into our sermon, let’s pray together and ask God to speak to us. 


Shepherds are not rare in the Bible. In fact, shepherds are a major theme in the Bible. 

Many of the great heroes of the Bible were shepherds. Abraham was a shepherd, Isaac was a shepherd, Jacob was a shepherd. One of my favorite prophets, Amos was a shepherd. 

David was a shepherd before he was King David. Of course, many of us remember these words of David in Psalm 23:1-5, “The Lord is my shepherd; I have what I need. He lets me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside quiet waters. He renews my life; he leads me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even when I go through the darkest valley, I fear no danger, for you are with me; your rod and your staff—they comfort me.” [on screen]

The theme of shepherd is strong in the Bible and it’s not by accident that these shepherds are part of the incredible story of the birth of the Savior of the world. 

So, let’s look at the shepherds now. First, let’s look at . . .

I. The Life of the Shepherds. [on screen]

Shepherds spent a lot of time with sheep (that’s obvious right?). As a result, they spent a lot of time in the field and a lot of time with animals. There were usually men, and they were usually rough, stinky men.  

Their job was not necessarily the most desired job. In fact, many times shepherds were looked down upon by others and weren’t necessarily trusted by others. 

You see, most shepherds didn’t own the sheep; they simply looked after them. So, because they were with the sheep so often, they could often steal sheep, particularly young ones, and sell them for selfish gain without the owner ever knowing. 

In fact, it’s believed that people who were good upstanding members of society wouldn’t buy milk, wool, or young sheep or goats directly from shepherds because there was a chance that it could be stolen property. 

Shepherds would often do their jobs alongside other shepherds who were tending flocks nearby (as we’ll see in the accounts of the birth of Jesus). Of course, sometimes they were by themselves instead. 

It was also very likely that the shepherds in the days of Jesus tended flocks that contained lambs that would be sacrificed at the temple in Jerusalem. 

These sheep and goats were very vulnerable to danger, particularly at night, so the shepherds spent a long time with them during the day and night and really throughout the whole year. So, these shepherds weren’t really integrated much into the society at large. 

From what we know, these shepherds were stinky, untrustworthy, yet tough loners who were sort of a group of their own. 

That’s a little about the life of a shepherd. 

Well, now let’s talk about . . . 

II. The Legacy of the Shepherds. [on screen]

As we begin this section, let’s look at the entirety of what Luke says about the shepherds in Luke 2:8-20:

8 In the same region, shepherds were staying out in the fields and keeping watch at night over their flock. 9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: 11 Today in the city of David a Savior was born for you, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be the sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped tightly in cloth and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:

14 Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and peace on earth to people he favors!

15 When the angels had left them and returned to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go straight to Bethlehem and see what has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”

16 They hurried off and found both Mary and Joseph, and the baby who was lying in the manger. 17 After seeing them, they reported the message they were told about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary was treasuring up all these things in her heart and meditating on them. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had seen and heard, which were just as they had been told.

First of all, we see another appearance of an angel (there are a lot of angels in the events surrounding the birth of Jesus). 

These shepherds are just minding their own business when all of a sudden, BOOM, there’s an angel. 

This angel was accompanied by the glory of the Lord and, rightly so, the shepherds were terrified. 

We know that angels have a brilliant appearance. Remember when the angel was seen at Jesus’ tomb after Jesus rose from the dead? Matthew 28:1-4 says, “After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to view the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, because an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and approached the tomb. He rolled back the stone and was sitting on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing was as white as snow. The guards were so shaken by fear of him that they became like dead men.” [on screen]

This was only one angel! Can you imagine what many angels would be like when the multitude showed up?

You know how it is when you’re in a dark room and someone turns the light on quickly. Magnify that times a billion. These guys were in the dark and then all of a sudden, they weren’t.

So, the angel had to calm them down. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I’ve got some good news for you!”

What was the good news for the shepherds? Look at verse 11, “Today in the city of David a Savior was born for you, who is the Messiah, the Lord.”

The Jewish people had been looking for their Messiah; they needed a Savior! Now, He was here!

This was indeed good news and this good news absolutely changed the world forever!

This good news was not just for the shepherds; the angel said in verse 10 that this good news was for “all the people.”

Then, the shepherds are given instructions on how to find this baby. Not in a fancy palace, but in a manger. 

In case the one angel was not amazing enough, a great multitude of angels joined in praising God there in front of the shepherds. 

You talk about incredible! Can you imagine?

The multitude said that there would be “peace on earth.” Not just peace for the shepherds, not just peace for Israel, but peace on the earth. This was something big and the shepherds were glad to be a part of it. 

So, then the shepherds set off to see this baby. They wanted to see for themselves what the angel had told them about.

When the shepherds said “Let’s go straight to Bethlehem,” they would have perhaps remembered this prophecy (uttered long before the birth of Jesus) from Micah 5:2, “Bethlehem Ephrathah, you are small among the clans of Judah; one will come from you to be ruler over Israel for me. His origin is from antiquity, from ancient times.” [on screen]

Of course, the shepherds found Jesus exactly as the angel described to them and these men were changed forever. 

These men were so changed by their experience that they couldn’t help but glorify God and tell others what they had experienced. 

So, this is the legacy of the shepherds. These ordinary men got to experience something extraordinary. They didn’t do anything to earn that experience (they were just out in the field minding their business). However, God decided to bless them and lead them to Jesus, the Savior of the world. 

Finally, let us learn . . . 

III. The Lessons of the Shepherds. [on screen]

What are some lessons that we can learn from what God did through these shepherds?

Lesson #1 – The good news of Jesus is good news that’s available for all. [on screen]

As I mentioned earlier, these shepherds were not the who’s who of Jewish society. They were not the richest, they were not the most religious, they probably smelled funny, yet the angel came to them and proclaimed peace and joy through the coming of Jesus the Messiah!

Further, the angel said Jesus came for all the earth! Jesus was not just a Jewish Savior, He is a human Savior!

So, church, we must remember that the good news is for all. It’s for you, it’s for me, it’s for your neighbor, it’s for our communities, and it’s for the world. 

Lesson #2 – Jesus is the Messiah we truly need. [on screen]

True peace is only found in Jesus. 

We may try to find peace in so many different places. We may think if everyone would just get along, there would be peace. We may think that if we have the right political leaders or a strong military, there would be peace. We may think if we practice climate control, there will be peace. We may think if the world had enough money, there would be peace. 

During the time of Jesus, the Roman Empire taught this idea of peace called the Pax Romana. Pax Romana is Latin for “Roman Peace.” However, Israel was under Roman control and I guarantee you that this was not a time of peace for Israel. Israel knew that they needed true peace. People today know that we need true peace. Listen, folks: Jesus brings true peace! The kind of peace that gives you joy, contentment, and fulfillment, even in the midst of chaos!

The Jewish people expected a Messiah who would conquer bad guys and conquer disease and sickness. Well, Jesus came first and foremost to conquer sin! That is our greatest need! Jesus is the Messiah we truly need. 

The shepherds took care of lambs their whole careers; now the Lamb of God would be their shepherd; He would lovingly care for them and He would lovingly care for all those who come to Him. 

Lesson #3 – We should go and tell about Jesus. [on screen]

Look again at Luke 2:17-18, “After seeing them, they reported the message they were told about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.”

The shepherds were changed by their experience and they went back proclaiming the message about Jesus. 

Let me ask you something: have you been changed by Jesus? If so, have you told anyone about how you’ve been changed?

When the angels said that they brought good news to the shepherds, the Greek word they used is the same word from which we get the word “evangelize.” Evangelism is to tell someone the good news of Jesus. These angels told the shepherds the good news that Jesus was born, the shepherds told others the good news, and followers of Jesus today are still telling people the good news of Jesus. 

Let us learn this lesson from the shepherds: each of us should go and tell about Jesus. 

Lesson #4 – An experience with Jesus will compel us to glorify God. [on screen]

Look again at Luke 2:20, “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had seen and heard.”

To glorify God means to give him the praise, admiration, and credit that He is due. It means to tell how great He is!

If you’ve been changed by Jesus you will glorify Him in your life! People will see evidence of Him and hear about Him in your life. 

Have you had an experience with Jesus? If so, are you glorifying God in your life?

Concluding Thoughts:

I can’t imagine how special it must have been to be one of those shepherds. They were early witnesses of King Jesus. You know what, though? We’re witnesses of Jesus as well. 

That takes us to our bottom line:

Bottom Line: The shepherds were witnesses of the birth of Jesus. We are witnesses of the reign of Jesus. [on screen]


At that time, they could say, “Glory to the newborn King.” Now, we can sing, “Glory to the reigning King!”

In describing Jesus at His second coming, Revelation 19:16 says, “And he has a name written on his robe and on his thigh: King of Kings and Lord of Lords.”

Jesus reigns as King and He will reign forevermore! What a privilege these shepherds had to be early worshipers of the King. What a privilege we have today to be worshipers of the King. 

Challenge yourself to live out this passage this week in the following ways:

Weekly Challenge: [on screen]

1. Rate your commitment to being a witness of Jesus. [on screen]

The shepherds reported what they had experienced to others. Well, are you reporting what you have experienced to others?

Have you told others what you have seen and experienced? Have you told others how Jesus has changed your life? Are you being a witness for Jesus?

Take some time this week to rate your commitment to being a witness of Jesus. 

2. Thank God for the opportunity to witness the greatness of Jesus. [on screen]

Take some time this week to thank God for how Jesus has greatly changed your life and how He is greatly working in His Church. 

This time now is the time where Jesus reigns as Head of the Church. Aren’t you glad to be a part of it? Aren’t you glad Jesus came? Aren’t you glad for all that He is doing through His Church?


As we conclude, let us reflect upon these final truths:

In verse 10, where the angel says that he is bringing great joy, the Greek word used to communicate what kind of joy we’re talking about is megas. If you can’t tell, that’s the same word from which we get the word mega meaning something really big. So, in other words, here’s the kind of joy Jesus brings: MEGA JOY! [on screen]

Have you experienced mega joy? If not, come experience Jesus! Come experience mega joy!

Speaking of shepherds, Jesus is the shepherd that we truly need. Listen to what Jesus Himself said in John 10:11, 14-15, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep . . . I am the good shepherd. I know my own, and my own know me, just as the Father knows me, and I know the Father. I lay down my life for the sheep.” [on screen]

Remember again, what the multitude of angels said in verse 14, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to people he favors!”

How do we earn the favor of God? How do we experience true peace? It’s not through ourselves and our efforts, it’s only through the work of Jesus. God showed His favor to the earth by sending Jesus! This was a beautiful and wonderful display of His favor, shown to us. 

We only experience the favor of God by experiencing the love of the Great Shepherd!

(Gospel presentation)

(closing prayer)

COPYRIGHT DISCLAIMER: The text contained in this sermon is solely owned by its author. The reproduction, or distribution of this message, or any portion of it, should include the author’s name. The author intends to provide free resources in order to inspire believers and to assist preachers and teachers in Kingdom work.