Shepherds in ancient times were the lowlife of society. We might think of them as charming and sweet, but their neighbors didn’t. They were dirty and often dishonest.
By the standards of Jewish law, these shepherds watching over their flocks near Bethlehem were unclean. They were the bottom-dwellers of society in those days.
Only one ancient Jewish King – David – was called a shepherd. The term was not commonly used for leaders until Jesus claimed it for himself. At the time of his birth, shepherds were outcasts and sinners.
When John was born, as reported in Luke 1: 58, a crowd of friends of relatives rejoiced with Elizabeth. When Jesus was born, the family was in a strange town and the first people to hear of the birth were shepherds – lowlifes.
We tend to romanticize those shepherds but they give us a clue as to Jesus’ coming ministry. The Messiah was first introduced to the outcasts of society, those least deserving to meet a new King.
Throughout the first two chapters of Luke, we see that God interacted with simple people while making emperors and governors his servants. He didn’t introduce his son first to those whom we would think deserved to meet the Messiah. He selected those who deserved nothing and had nothing.
In the same region, shepherds were living out in the fields and keeping watch at night over their flock. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. Luke 2:8-9