The shepherds’ story – Luke 2:15-20

Posted: June 29, 2012 by J in Bible, Luke Commentary

2:15-20 The shepherds’ ‘Let’s go then’, and their haste, serve to emphasise their responsiveness to the good news. These are people to whom the favour of God means a great deal. The chosen poor are the responsive poor.

The NIV’s ‘When they had seen him, they spread the word’ is an overtranslation. More accurate is the NRSV’s ‘When they saw him, they made known what had been told them’, i.e. when they found the baby they reported the story about the angels to the people who were there in the house. This is not a description of late-night ‘stranger evangelism’ around Bethlehem!

 All were amazed at their story. In Luke-Acts, amazement is the right response to Jesus. The term generally functions as a sign that God’s power and glory are being revealed.

For a sympathetic character like Mary to treasure and ponder the shepherds’ story, acts as an encouragement to Luke’s readers to do likewise. We will need to keep the angel’s words in mind as we continue through the narrative, and think on them, for their full meaning has not yet been disclosed.

The shepherds ‘returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as they had been told.’ This editorial comment creates a cameo, in which the shepherds stand for the ideal disciples, rejoicing in promises fulfilled.  They  now have certain knowledge of ‘the things fulfilled among them’ (cf. Luke 1:1). In this they foreshadow the apostolic group in the closing scene of the Gospel, who likewise ‘return’ (same word) rejoicing and praising God because of the fulfilment of Israel’s hopes which they have seen in the risen Jesus. And of course Luke’s purpose is that the readers will do the same.

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