I am joining several high school students in reading through a gospel (or multiple) as we are spiritually preparing to take our lives on mission to the Czech Republic this summer. I’m probably behind the rest of the group, and thus found myself in Luke 2:8-21 this morning.
“And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.'” (v. 8-11)
These shepherd guys were just out doing their job, when all of sudden an angel appears, shining the glory of the Lord around. The Bible says that great fear filled them. Why would great fear fill them? I mean, shepherds are known for being able to protect their flock from some of the fiercest apex predators (see David in 1 Samuel 17). So why would great fear fill them now?
I believe Psalm 102:15 will give us some insight into why these shepherds were filled with fear:
“Nations will fear the name of the Lord, and all kings of the earth will fear your glory.”
I believe these shepherds were filled with fear because they were now forced to try and stand in the presence of the glory of the Lord. They were surrounded by the perfection and holiness of God Almighty. And when we, finite and sinful humans, are surrounded by the glory of the Lord, it becomes incredibly clear how unglorious we are. When the perfect holiness of God appears next to us, we will naturally be filled with fear because we cannot stand next to a holy God. Our sin forces us to the ground. Our imperfection demands justice from a perfect God.
These shepherds were filled with fear because the glory of the Lord shone upon them and illuminated their guilt, their secret sins, every last one of them, and they thought for sure they were done for (which would have been completely just if God chose to do so).
But rather, the angel doesn’t come bringing deserved condemnation, instead the angel brings a message of good news of great joy for all people.
That good news was that Jesus Christ had come so that their guilt before a perfect God could be wiped away and replaced with the perfect, spotless record of Jesus. The good news of great joy is that on their own two feet before the glorious Lord they were hopeless and filled with fear, but now, because of Jesus, there is hope for eternal life and peace among those with whom He is pleased. There is no reason to fear good news.
What good news of great joy that God, who rightfully could’ve condemned, has chosen rather to send Jesus so that I could be given a clean record and new life!! Praise be to God!