The Fulfillment of the Promise: The Purpose of Christ
I spoke this evening for Jzone Mandaluyong youth group. They are conducting a Christmas series, and I was assigned the topic The Fulfillment of the Promise: The Purpose of Christ. In line to this, I preached on Luke 2:8-20. It’s always a joy and honor to speak for the said group. Anyway…
Let’s read Luke 2:8-20.
The background of this text is that the Jews were under the Roman rule (Caesar Augustus just issued a decree “that all the world should be registered” [v.1]). The Jews wanted to be released from the oppression caused by the Romans. Thus, they were anticipating for the Messiah, whom they hope will save them from the ruling foreigners.
Joseph and Mary went to Bethlehem to be registered (vv.4-5). And Mary gave birth to Jesus (vv.6-7).
Now, let’s go through the passage. We’ll divide it into 3 sections: The grace of God, the Gospel of Jesus, and the glory of God.
The Grace of God
Let’s start with verse 8:
8And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear.
Let’s be imaginative. Let’s say we are scientists, looking for a cure to AIDS or cancer. Finally, after years of research and experiments, we finally found it. This is good news, right?
Now, we would want to share this good news. Shall we go to the janitors and the security guards, or to any stranger in the street? Of course not! We will go to the media, to universities, to medical societies, to the government, to the heads of states, and even to the World Health Organization and the United Nations. We will go to the economic, intellectual, and political elites. We will go the powerful and influential.
Let’s go back. Shepherding is a lowly profession. It is not a shameful profession, but it was just a lowly one. Shepherds were basically uneducated and their work does not really require skills. Thus, they were the lowest paid.
Now why would this angel appear, of all people, to shepherds? The answer: It’s because of God’s grace. First Corinthians 1:26-29:
26For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards,not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29so that no human beingmight boast in the presence of God.
Shouldn’t we be glad that God chose us in spite of our weaknesses, and limitations, and foolishness, and failures? If God didn’t, then I don’t know where all of us would end up.
So let’s continue. Verse 9 tells us that the “glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear.” Why were the shepherds fearful? It’s because no one who sees the glory of God gets away alive. Moses wasn’t allowed to see God’s glory because he will die if he did (see Exodus 33:17-23). When Isaiah saw the Lord, he later said, “I am ruined!” (see Isaiah 6:1-7).
Just like Isaiah, the shepherds immediately recognized their sinfulness, and that the glory of God could consume them anytime. It is only natural that they be filled with fear.
But in verse 10:
10And the angel said to them, “Fear not…
Amazing! The shepherds saw the glory of the Lord, and lived! Again, this is another act of grace from God. And instead of judgment, the angel brought them good news, another act of grace:
10And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.
Now before we move on, let’s review how we saw God’s grace in the first few verses. First, God displayed grace by choosing to announce the good news to lowly shepherds. Second, He displayed grace by showing the shepherds His glory but letting them live. Lastly, He displayed grace by bringing them good news instead of bad news, or judgment.
O, what a gracious God we have! Have you thanked God for His grace upon us?
The Gospel of Jesus
Now, we will focus on the third grace we have identified—the good news of great joy.
But what is the bad news first? The Bible tells us that we are sinners, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). The shepherds knew this, that they fall short of the glory of God. And sinners will experience eternal separation from God, “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). And there’s nothing we can do to save ourselves, for no one does good (see Romans 3:10-12).
But there’s a good news. The angel carries the good news. The angel is proclaiming the Gospel. And it is of “great joy.” Good news always causes joy; the Gospel causes joy! And this good news “will be for all the people.”
All? Yes, all! First to the Jews, then to the Gentiles. So this news, good news, is for everybody!
And why will this good news cause great joy for all the people? Let’s look at the next verse:
11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
It is good news of great joy because a Savior is born, and it is Jesus Christ! And He will free the people not from political oppression, but from a farther serious problem, which is spiritual slavery. This is the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
We desperately need a Savior. Jesus is the fulfillment of the promised Messiah. His purpose is to save sinners by dying on the cross:
45For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45, emphasis added)
Let’s go to verses 12 and jump to 15-19:
12And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”
15When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.
So the shepherds went to Bethlehem “with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.” When they saw the baby Jesus, they spread the word concerning Him. They can’t help but spread this really good news. And the people were amazed at this, while “Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.”
The Glory of God
20And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
God is gracious, and in His grace he brought us good news of great joy, that a Savior, Jesus Christ, will save us from the penalty of our sins. No wonder that when the shepherds returned, they were “glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen.” They join a “multitude of the heavenly host in praising God” (v.13), saying:
14“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
God graced us with a good news of great joy that a Savior is born, that by believing in the Savior Jesus, we might have life in His name. This is definitely good news, and it causes great joy. Thus, this good news, which is by God’s grace, ultimately leads to the glory and praise of God!
A Christmas Exhortation
Since Christmas is a few days away, I would live to give a Christmas exhortation.
I have to admit that I have never fully understood the meaning of Christmas until now. Of course, I know that it is the celebration of the birth of Jesus. But I don’t look forward to celebrating its essence.
Rather, I look forward to the reunions, and friends, and food, and gifts. I say this to my shame. But I just realized that Christmas isn’t about these things. It’s not even about the family. It’s really about the good news of great joy that a Savior is born.
Christmas, then, is the joyous celebration of the grace of God, the Gospel of a Savior, and the glory of God in the birth and person of Jesus Christ.
One thing I ask from you as the day of Christmas nears: Thank God for His grace to you and for the good news of great joy that you have believed, and give Him the glory and praise that is due Him.