Free Sample of our Commentaries - Sweet
Notice how Luke's text skillfully moves Mary and Joseph from their residence in Nazareth to the important, holy city of David, Bethlehem. In today's text vs. 8 introduces yet another Davidic component. David was himself a shepherd when he was chosen as king. Among the first divine directives he received was "be shepherd of my people Israel" (2 Samuel 5:2). Likewise, both Ezekiel (34:23) and Micah (5:4) speak of the shepherding qualities of a future Davidic ruler.
For the third time in the infancy narrative an angelic messenger makes an appearance in verse nine. The glory that accompanies this angelic being verifies the divine presence at this announcement the Greek doxa being used to translate the Hebrew kabod (holy). It's this profound glory that strikes terror into the simple shepherds.
Immediately Luke offers comfort and joy to offset this intimidating holiness. The angel announces good news (euangelizomai), one of Luke's favorite terms. The angel's news is extra good, however, filled with joy for all because it's about the long-awaited arrival of the Messiah, whom Luke here also titles as "the Lord" (verse 11). This combined title is used again by Luke in Acts 2:36 after the resurrection. But this exalted title is immediately contrasted with the down-to-earth reality of the current moment. The announcing angel restates the Lucan detail from verse 7, giving the shepherds information they will be able to confirm for themselves if they go on to find the baby. He will be "wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger" (verse 12), hardly the expected birthplace or wardrobe of the Messiah, the Lord.
But the proclamation declared by the sudden multitude of the heavenly host again affirms the divine heritage of this humbly-born child. Although most of us remember verse 14 in its KJV incarnation "and on earth peace, good will toward men" most current translations more accurately reflect the grammar of this text in the following way: "and on earth, peace among those whom he favors." The emphasis of the pronouncement is upon God's power, God's benevolent gift of peace upon those whom God alone determines to be favored.
The message delivered by this heavenly host was so well received by these shepherds that they not only immediately went in search of this sign, this baby in the manger, but they eagerly advertised their experience and witness to many others. The shepherds themselves are so convinced and convicted by this message and the sight they see in Bethlehem that they pick up the angel's evangelistic baton: they begin "glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen as it had been told to them" (verse 20).
Although we know from a portion of last week's Lucan infancy narrative that Mary herself had received angelic information and instructions about her baby, in this week's text her response to the birth of her child and the attendants that appear to view the baby are understated. Luke's text says Mary treasured (NRSV) or pondered (symbellousa) the words and presence of the shepherds who came to see her child. The subtle suggestion here is that perhaps Mary herself was still confused about the discrepancy between the future that her child had been promised and the lowly, ordinary circumstances of his birth.