“GO TELL IT!”
The children have already told us: Go tell it! The Botsch’s have read about the shep-herds from Luke’s gospel and what they heard from the angels who proclaimed Jesus’ birth. We’ve sung about those angels and the message they brought with them from the “realms of glory.” John led us as we worshipped God in prayer. And then we sang our hymnal’s version of “Happy Birthday, Jesus.”
That’s all good. All of these things bring Him honor, praise His Son, our Lord and Savior, glorify His name, and are pleasing in His sight. It’s all worship. When it comes from a truly repentant heart, one that has trusted Christ alone for salvation, such worship is a blessing to both God and to us, His children. So far, so good!
But while we are blessed and God is honored, something is missing. We love God. We worship His Son. We praise His name. But do we tell others about Him, who He really is, and the salvation He offers? Remember what we just sang?
“Tho’ an infant now we view Him, He will share His Father’s throne;
Gather all the nations to Him; every knee shall then bow down:
Come and worship. Come and worship; worship Christ, the newborn King.”
“Gather all the nations to Him…” How can any nation, or for that matter any individual, be gathered to Jesus if they don’t know about Him? We are here this morning to worship God, but a real part of God-honoring worship is going out from here and telling others about our Lord and Savior.
13 “Whoever will call upon the name of the LORD will be saved.”
14 How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?
15a And how shall they preach unless they are sent?
The four rhetorical questions in vv. 14-15 make it clear that no one can be saved unless and until they hear the gospel. Somebody has to tell somebody! So go tell it!
Luke 2:8-11 has been read. The passage ended with the angel identifying the newborn baby who would be found in Bethlehem. “…for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” That’s a pretty amazing announcement, isn’t it? But there’s more. In v. 12 the angel tells the shepherds that they will find Him wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. Imagine that! The Creator God Himself taking on flesh and coming into this world in a stable where animals are fed and sheltered.
Join me as we pick up the text where the Botschs left off and we’ll read just a bit further.
13 And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”
Can you try to picture the sights and sounds this generated? Think of huge numbers of these glorious beings suddenly made both visible to human eyes, and their voices made audible to human ears. Think of them lighting up the sky and loudly praising their Crea-tor. “Glory to God! Glory to God!”
If the shepherds were stunned by the appearance of the one angel who announced Jesus’ birth, can you even imagine how they would have reacted to this? I don’t know that there are enough superlatives in our vocabulary to convey what this must have been like.
The term “multitude of the heavenly host” isn’t specific, but their number is vast. What do they look like? How do they sound? Are they speaking? Are they singing? Are they soaring over head? We do know one thing they’re doing. They’re doing what angels do. They’re praising God. One example of such praise is found in The Book of Revelation.
11 And all the angels…fell on their faces before the throne and worshipped God,
12 saying, “Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever. Amen!”
Just as a point of interest: “Glory to God in the highest” in Luke 2:14 is the English translation of the Latin “Gloria in excelsis Deo.”
There is yet another important truth in Luke 2:14. The verse is often misquoted. How many times have you heard it said this way: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men”? But that makes it sound as if God directs His peace and good will toward all men, doesn’t it? However, that is misleading. It’s not what the text says. The translators of the KJV did us no favors here. The literal translation from the Greek is, “…peace among men of His good pleasure.”
The phrase means “…those upon whom God’s favor rests.” The NIV actually says it that way. Three other major translations (NASB – ESV – Amplified Bible) get it right as well, using the term, “peace among men with whom He is pleased.”
In John MacArthur’s commentary on the first five chapters of Luke’s gospel, he states it clearly. “Salvation peace belongs to those to whom God is pleased to give it; it is not a reward for those who have good will, but a gracious gift to those who are the objects of God’s good will.”
These shepherds have heard the truth directly from heaven. How do they respond?
15 And it came about when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Beth-lehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.”
16 And they came in haste and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger.
What did the shepherds do? They rushed into town. They knew what (Whom) they were looking for. Their Savior, Christ the Lord, was here and they wanted to see Him. They responded rightly. When they heard the truth, they believed it, and they acted on it. In v. 16 we’re told that they didn’t hesitate. They didn’t try “to clean up their act” before they went to Him. They just went.
Some of you will relate to this. Have you ever talked to someone who was becoming convicted of their need for a Savior, but thought they had to do something before they could go “see Him”? There are some people who think they need to stop sinning before Jesus will accept them. Did any of you think like that? Is there anyone here who still thinks like that? “God won’t accept me. I’m too big a sinner. I’ve just done too much. If I could just ‘clean up my act’ I would go to Him and see if He would have me.”
I think there is a great deal of such thinking among people who know they are sinners and don’t think God will have them. We can’t clean ourselves up before we go to Him. It’s not possible. With Jesus, it’s never, “First make yourself presentable.” It’s always, “Come as you are.” No one knows better than Jesus how much you need to be “cleaned up.” But that’s His job. Besides, you couldn’t do it anyway. That’s why you need Him.
The shepherds didn’t go home to shower and put on clean cloths. They went to see Jesus just as they were, and in Luke 2:16 we’re told that they found Him.
In 1835 Charlotte Elliott was vi¬sit¬ing some friends in the West End of Lon¬don. While there she met the em¬i¬nent French pastor, Henri Malan. Malan was a controversial figure. In 1818 he had been suspended from his ministry for preaching the doctrine of justifica-tion by faith alone. He was later reinstated, but suspended again for similar preaching. Finally, he was formally defrocked in 1823. Malan lost his pulpit but he never lost his zeal for the gospel or for preaching the truth.
Now, twelve years after his pastorate had been taken from him, he found himself in Lon- don and at supper with Charlotte Elliot. During the meal, Malan said he hoped that she was a Christ¬ian. Not surprisingly, she took of¬fense at this, and re¬plied that she would ra¬ther not dis¬cuss that quest¬ion. Ma¬lan said that he was sor¬ry if he had of¬fend¬ed her, but said he always liked to say a word for his Mas¬ter. Then he added that he hoped she would some day be¬come a follow¬er of Christ.
Three weeks later Elliot and Malan met again at the home of a mutual friend. But some-thing had changed. She told Malan that ev¬er since he had spok¬en to her she had been try¬ing to find her Sav¬ior, and she now wanted him to tell her how to come to Christ. “Just come to Him as you are,” said Ma¬lan. This she did. Shortly af¬ter¬ that she wrote the words to a hymn that we have all come to know and love. The third verse says,
“Just as I am, Thou wilt receive, Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
Because Thy promise I believe, O Lamb of God, I come, I come.”
What a beautiful irony that is! The shepherds, in Luke 2, just as they were, went to the Lamb. But then what? They weren’t through. Look at what they did next.
17 And when they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child.
So in Luke 2:15-16 the shepherds believed and received. That is salvation in Jesus Christ! And then in v. 17 they did what all true believers do – they obeyed. They made known what had been told them about the Child. They told others all about what they had seen and heard. These men (and probably boys) had been given a unique privilege. God had shown them amazing things. They had seen God’s salvation right before their very eyes. They told others. They’re our example here this morning. Go tell it!
The lesson for us is really pretty simple isn’t it? Do you know Christ? Of course, you haven’t seen Him with your physical eyes, the way the shepherds guarding their flocks outside Bethlehem saw Him two thousand years ago. You haven’t gone to Him in that sense. But if you’ve repented of your sin and trusted Him, He has come to you. He has done so in the Person of His Holy Spirit. He has saved your eternal soul. Shouldn’t you go and tell someone?
The shepherds were blessed in a unique and wonderful way that night, but you’ve been blessed in a unique and wonderful way as well. They saw Him and believed. You have not seen Him and believe. Yet you are blessed as much as they. Do you remember how Thomas struggled with unbelief after Jesus’ crucifixion? Do you remember what the Lord told him when He appeared to Thomas eight days after the resurrection?
27 (Jesus) said to Thomas, “Reach here your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand, and put it into My side; and be not unbelieving, but believing.”
28 Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and My God!”
29 Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.”
About thirty years later Peter wrote his first epistle. In it he tells us how blessed are those people who believe in Jesus even though they haven’t yet seen Him in the flesh.
*1 Peter 1:3-9
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
4 to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you,
5 who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
6 In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials,
7 that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perish-able, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;
8 and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory,
9 obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.
Peter has just told us something we already know. We’ve not seen Jesus, but we believe in Him and our faith is in Him. That faith is precious. That faith will be rewarded. That faith has saved us, and because of it, the day will come when we will see Him.
1 John 3:2 (one of the great promises in the NT)
2 Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is.
After Mary and Joseph, the shepherds were the first to see the baby Jesus as He was. Those who knew Him during His life on earth saw Him as He was. Those who heard Him teach and witnessed His miracles saw Him as He was. Those who were present at His trial and crucifixion saw Him as He was. But you and I will see Him as He IS. We don’t see Him now, but we love Him, and our salvation is assured.
So what are we going to do? Are we going to take the light that God has given us, go home, and keep it a secret? To paraphrase Jesus: No one lights a lamp and then covers it up. When someone lights a lamp, they put it on a lampstand, don’t they?
We have received the same blessing the shepherds received. They saw Him with their physical eyes. As Christians, you and I have seen Him with our spiritual eyes. Either way, God has orchestrated our meeting, given us saving faith, and blessed us all. So again I ask, how did the shepherds respond to what they had seen?
17 And when they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child.
That’s what these shepherds did. How can you and I do any less?
It’s been said that the first duty of a new Christian is to proclaim salvation to others. Of course, it should be done in the proper way and in the proper time. We should always pray and ask God to give us wisdom as to times, places, and situations. And maybe most important of all, we should always ask God to prepare the hearts of those to whom we will speak. Remember, it is His Holy Spirit that does the work of convicting hearts of sin and drawing the lost to Jesus.
Beyond that we should always be mindful that Satan and his demons will do their best to thwart our efforts. The spiritual war rages on. But you can be confident in this:
1 John 4:4
4 You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.
The shepherds went away from the manger that night and gave all who would hear them a “Christmas gift.” Freely they had received and freely they gave. And they saw fruit. We know that they had success.
John Calvin wrote his commentaries in the sixteenth century. But like all good Bible commentaries, they endure and speak to us today. Listen to his words about Luke 2:17.
“It (cannot) be doubted, that the Lord gave efficacy to what (the shepherds) said, (so) that it might not be ridiculed or despised; for the low rank of the men dimin-ished their credit, and the occurrence itself might be regarded as fabulous. But the Lord, who gave them this employment, does not allow it to be fruitless.”
We don’t have a mountain on which to go and proclaim the good news of the gospel. But you can tell it somewhere. Your efforts will never be fruitless. God accomplished His will by using the shepherds the night Jesus was born. Today He will use you if you’ll just obey His call to tell someone. He will do the rest.
11 “So shall My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.”
I love that verse. It gives me the confidence I need to speak truth here every Sunday. I know that despite my weaknesses, my failures, and my sins, which are many, God will always accomplish what He desires. He doesn’t do it with my words and He won’t do it with your words. He does it with HIS WORD. That’s how people hear the gospel and that’s how people believe. “…how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher (Romans 10:14)?” Go tell someone.
~ Pray ~