May 2, 2012, 2:15 PM
Shepherds were watching over their flocks in the fields at night when an angel appeared to them and announced: "Do not be afraid: I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people." (Luke 2:10) They certainly must have wondered what that good news would have been. The angel continued: "Today in the town of David (Bethlehem) a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2: 11)
The good news was for the whole world (all people) and not for the people of Israel alone. The long-awaited Christ (the anointed one), mentioned in the Book of Genesis 'the posterity of the woman' had finally come. Charles Wesley captured this in one of the hymns he wrote. 'Come thou (You the) long-expected Jesus, born to set Thy (Your) people free; from our fears and sins release us; let us find our rest in Thee (You). Israel's strength and consolation, hope of all the earth Thou art (You are); Dear Desire of every nation, Joy of every longing heart." (MHB 242) The words 'hope of all the earth', 'every nation', 'joy of every longing heart' speak eloquently and in no uncertain terms of the nature of Christ's incarnation. It is all-inclusive. All means 'all' without exception - even those who would not see themselves as part of the ALL.
This very universal nature of Jesus' birth should not be lost sight of, for soon after His birth three Magi (Wise men) came from the east, Asia, to worship Him. "We saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him," (Matthew 2:2) they revealed. That incarnation was a very special event - the good news that concerned the world as a whole. It was a message intended for everyone and humanity in general.
The Messiah was sent to save the world from sin and sickness. His mission as prophesied by the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 61.1) and subsequently confirmed by Jesus Himself (Luke 4:18) makes Him the anointed one who had come "to preach good news to the poor; to proclaim freedom to the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord?s favour." (Luke 4 18:-19)
During His earthly ministry, our Lord Jesus fulfilled His mission as He went around doing good, without regard to social status, nationality or belief. All who called upon Him for help or were in dire need received it. He declared He had come to save all who had lost their bearings and needed to get back on track. "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost." (Luke 19:10) His mission is two-pronged: first to look out for, then to save. Have you been drifting lately? Are you sure you know where you are heading? Then come to Jesus.
His invitation is to all
In our stress-ridden world Jesus offers a pillow to lay our heads on. Again He is extending a helping hand to all of those who are struggling under the heavy weight of unending trials and tribulations. He is saying to them: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28) Why hesitate? What are you waiting for? It is an open invitation. Are you troubled, afraid, worried or tormented? Jesus offers a lasting solution to your problem.
He declared openly that He did not come for those who are on the right path, meaning the righteous. He came for sinners and that is the great majority among us. "For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." (Matthew 9:13b)
Those who live according to God's teachings and commandments already know the way. They are like the seeds which fell on good soil in the parable of the sower and produced a hundred fold. (Matthew 13:23) They are prosperous and at peace with themselves. Satan does not have a hold on them. They can be counted on. The people Jesus is set to bring back to the fold are His lost sheep. "I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd." (John 10:16) Bringing together God's people as one is important. It is the devil that brings about division. He started it in the Garden of Eden. It worked. Jesus has come to put a stop to it. He came that we might have life and have it more abundantly. (John 10:10)
Those who have strayed away and no longer recognise His voice would have to come back under His authority and guidance. "For every knee must bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord." (Philippians 2:10-11) Everybody would have to fall in line and obey Him. His love and concern for the lost sheep is immeasurable. "There will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent." (Luke 15:7) He would rather leave ninety-nine sheep in the pen where they are safe and would go looking for just one lost sheep. This gesture is symbolic of the extent Jesus would go to ensure that one of His own that had gone astray returns to the fold. You may wonder why one sheep is worth all that trouble. If it calls for a celebration in heaven then it is because a soul has been snatched from the hands of the evil one. "I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep." (Ezekiel 34:12) Some shepherds have been known to abandon their sheep in the face of imminent danger. Whereas the shepherd that is a hireling would take to his heels, Jesus says: "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep." (John 10:11)
A good shepherd cares more intimately for his sheep. He even knows them by name. He makes the ultimate sacrifice when he goes all out in search for the single lost sheep. Are you still a part of Christ's flock? Have you wandered off the right path? He yearns to have you back in any condition for you belong to His fold. "Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts" (Hebrew 3:7)