Why did the angels announce the birth of Jesus to the shepherds first?


Luke 2 details for us a wonderful scene: the arrival of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, on earth as a human being. While the arrival of the King of kings merited such honor and respect from the whole of humanity both rich and poor, what we see is a humbling display of God's character.

That night presented to us many things baffling: the King of Kings finding no place in an inn; being born and laid in a manger; and having shepherds, among others, as His guests. That last part probably makes all of us think: of all the people in the world, why would God choose to announce the Messiah's arrival to shepherds?

In this article we will take a look at a few opinions. Here they are:

  • To show God's love for everyone

Famed and beloved evangelist, Billy Graham, believes that God chose to announce Christ's arrival to shepherds in order to show His great love for everyone.

Shepherds weren't just humble people limited to watching over a group of sheep; Graham notes that they were looked down upon by many people. But since God's love is for all people, He chose to reveal His love to people who were looked down upon and considered less by others.

  • A prophetic declaration

Alfred Edersheim, a Biblical scholar who lived between 1825-1889, believed that God had a divine purpose announcing Christ's coming to shepherds first.

Edersheim says the shepherd's job description offers us a clue: "These men who watched the sheep meant for the slaughter received a divine message about the ultimate Lamb who would take away the sins of the world through His death and resurrection."

Jesus is indeed the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world through the shedding of His blood. While the shepherds merely rejoiced at the fact that they saw the Christ, God sees the ultimate end of Christ's coming to earth:

"By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities." (see Isaiah 53:11)

  • To shame religious leaders

Gabriel Powell, in a blog entry, noted that one reason why God chose to announce the good news of Christ's coming to shepherds was to shame religious leaders at the time. How is this?

It would be quite logical to announce Christ's coming to those who lead in spiritual matters, but the religious leaders during Jesus time were so proud of their religiosity. They were so proud of themselves that they would even call themselves "children of Abraham." We read in John 8:37-59 how the Lord Jesus Himself countered their claims and showed them that they are wrong in saying that.

Powell notes that such religious leaders were put to shame in God's eyes when He chose shepherds. This is based on Paul's assertion in 1 Corinthians 1:27-28, saying:

"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..."

The religious leaders might appear good and great in the eyes of men (including their fellow religious leaders), but God sees through all of us.

My take on the matter

I believe that these three reasons are correct, but if I may give my two cents on the matter, I believe that God chose shepherds to reveal who Christ is: the Great Shepherd.

Being a shepherd is not an easy thing. Shepherds have to protect the flock from dangerous predators such as wolves, lions and bears. Shepherds have to make sure the sheep are safe and have enough pasture to graze on. Shepherds have to make sure not one sheep gets lost because when they do they will be in danger.

Christ Jesus, however, is not just our Passover Lamb. He is also the Great Shepherd of the sheep who lays His life for the sheep (John 10:11), leaves the ninety-nine to seek the lost sheep (Luke 15:1-7), the Shepherd who meets all our longings (Psalm 23), and the Great Shepherd who calls His sheep to follow Him (John 10:27).