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The First to See

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘The First to See’ preached by Pastor Mike White on Sunday, 12/21/2014, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click here:

The First to See

In Luke 2, we see a beautiful account of the birth of Jesus. We see God fulfill His promise of salvation to the people of Israel through the birth of His Only Son, our Savior. In the events surrounding His birth, we see all the Old Testament prophecy relating to the birth of Jesus fulfilled. The Word of God is error-free; if God says it, it is done.

Please take a moment to read Luke 2:1-20. For the full text, please click here:

Shepherds and Kings

In the Old Testament, we see three types of people hear from God: prophets, priests and kings. These anointed men were the only ones who should expect to hear from Him; it would, therefore, be ludicrous for a layperson to expect to receive divine revelation.

According to that precedent, the holy men of God (prophets and priests), along with the king, should have been the first to hear from God. When it came to the birth of the Savior, history would dictate that these men would have known about His birth first. Yet we see a new precedent set in Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus. On that day, God didn’t choose to reveal the birth of His Son to a prophet, a priest, or even a king: He chose to proclaim His birth to shepherds.

Why would God reveal Jesus to shepherds before He revealed Him to the king? First of all, we know that Herod’s heart was not right:

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. – Matt 2:1-3

King Herod should have been in constant contact with God, and perfectly in tune with His will. But He sought Jesus for the wrong reason. He sought Jesus to kill Him so that He could retain his own power. No matter our position of power, or the level of our anointing, God will not reveal His secrets to us if our heart is not in the right place.

The scribes and Pharisees – the holy men of Israel – weren’t much better off than the king. They were so caught up in their own personal perception of what salvation would look like that they missed Jesus as He appeared right in front of them. The wise men – gentile kings – were the first to see signs of Jesus’ birth. The gentiles recognized Christ while the religious men of Israel missed Him completely. This speaks to God’s willingness to accept all who come to Him, regardless of your position in society and/or prior religious background. The things of this world (your status, education, etc.) do not make you a candidate to hear from God; your humility and your willingness to worship His Son do!

So why shepherds? There is a symbolic answer, and a tangible answer. First, the symbolic: God revealed his Son to shepherds to foreshadow who Jesus would become. In John 10:11, Jesus calls Himself the “good Shepherd.” He was setting an example of what He was to become, and giving us a description of who we are meant to be in His image. Herod, the king, was supposed to be the Biblical shepherd of his people. His unwillingness to submit to God’s will brought about the need for a Substitute.

A shepherd keeps watch over his sheep. According to Strong’s Concordance,[1] a shepherd does 5 things. First, he watches for enemies trying to attack the sheep. Second, when attacks comes, he defends the sheep from attackers. Third, he heals the wounded and sick sheep, nursing them back to health. Fourth, he finds and saves lost or trapped sheep. Finally, he loves them: he shares their lives with them and thereby earns their trust.

These are the exact responsibilities every pastor bears. Paul outlined the five-fold calls into ministry in his letter to the church at Ephesus:

And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ… – Eph 4:11-12

The Greek word for “pastors” in this passage is poimen: the same word Luke uses to describe the shepherds watching their flocks by night. Jesus was showing us who He was to become: our Shepherd.

The second answer is a tangible one. By speaking to shepherds, God was making the Gospel (salvation through Jesus Christ) accessible. Shepherds were working-class men: blue collar workers. They probably had limited education, and their profession was not particularly well sought-after.

Notice also that the Bible doesn’t just say the shepherds were out in the fields; God’s Word says that they were living out in the fields (Lk 2:8). In other words, they hadn’t been around civilization in quite some time. They were dirty: they probably didn’t smell very good, and I doubt they were well-dressed. They were imperfect. They were normal people. In other words, they were just like you and me.

Wise Men and Foolish Things

God uses the foolish things of this world to confound the wise:

For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence… – 1 Cor 1:26-29

He spoke to shepherds – men who could not glory in themselves – so that Jesus would not have to share His glory. God chooses the weak and makes them strong so that onlookers might know that He and He alone is responsible for strength. The scribes and Pharisees who were waiting for Christ would have brought news straight to Herod; but the shepherds were willing to do what had to be done.

God knew the shepherds were humble enough to spread the message with which they were entrusted. In Luke 2:9, we see the shepherds’ reaction: “…the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.” Would the scribes and Pharisees have been afraid when God showed up? Would King Herod have humbled himself and bowed at God’s feet? Probably not. When you’re waiting to hear from God and He speaks to you after a long respite, is your response fear and reverence? Or is it selfish (i.e. “It’s about time!”)?

We should all fear God in a holy way. My intended implication with that statement is that there are unholy ways to fear God. Our fear of God should be reverential. It should come from a place of confidence because we know what He can do. Our fear of God should not be debilitating. It should never come from a place of shame because we know what we cannot do.

God knew shepherds would be humble enough to give Jesus the praise and honor He deserves. Luke 2:20 says that they “…returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.” The shepherds didn’t seek to build themselves up, and convince others to be impressed with them because they had heard from God. They imitated the heavenly host that had just appeared to them, and honored God with their praise!

Never Too Dirty

God spoke to shepherds – unclean men living out in the fields – to show us that no matter how dirty we are, we’re never disqualified from spreading His message. There is no sin so great that it can overshadow the work of the Cross. Nothing you’ve ever done – or could ever do – can disqualify you from the grace that God freely gives to us when we give our lives to Him. Salvation is a gift; what better time to accept it than now?

If you haven’t welcomed Jesus Christ into your life, please take a minute to read this prayer out loud:


Father, I welcome Your Son Jesus Christ into my heart. I want to make Him Lord of my life. I know that through Him, I will hear from you; and when I accept Him, Your Holy Spirit will come to live inside of me and guide me every step of the way. Thank you for salvation, in Jesus’ name!

You must expect God to show up! You are just as qualified to encounter His presence as the most religious men and women in the world. God reveals His secrets to His servants the prophets (Amos 3:7). The shepherds didn’t just get a surprise when God showed up – they also found out a secret. That makes them servants, and that makes them prophets. In one night, these shepherds became witnesses to the most amazing miracle in history. They became recipients of God’s greatest Gift.

Under the New Covenant, we are God’s prophets. Not every single one of us is called to occupy the full-time office of a prophet; but each and every single one of us is called to walk in, and exercise, prophetic gifts. Let me prove it to you:

For I say to you, among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” – Luke 7:28

John the Baptist was the greatest prophet to ever precede Jesus. He was the man who prepared the way for Jesus Christ Himself! Yet Luke tells us that the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he. That means you; and that means me!

– by Pastor Mike White

© Michael D. White and CityLight Church, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael White and CityLight Church with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

[1] Strong’s exhaustive concordance: King James Bible. Retrieved from


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