A Kingdom of Outsiders
In the first century, Palestinian shepherds were not included in society. They were considered sweaty, unpolished and uncouth, tending their flocks outside the city gates. Their only significance was the supply of the temple sacrificial lamb. The shepherd’s work was challenging; wrangling difficult sheep, fending off wild predators, and ensuring sufficient grazing and water access. As well as sleeping in shifts to protect the flock from theft, the reason the shepherds were awake the night the angel appeared.
“The shepherds were outside the city gates watching over their sheep during the night. Suddenly an angel appeared to them, engulfing them in God’s glory and they were terrified. The angel quieted them, telling them not to be frightened, for the angel brought good news of joy to all people. Today in the town of Bethlehem, the saviour Jesus Christ has been born. You will search and find the baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. A great company of angels appeared praising God. After the angels returned to heaven, the shepherds gathered together and searched for the Christ child as the angel had told them. Making haste, they found Mary, Joseph and the baby in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds went their way and TOLD everyone they met about the angels, Mary, Joseph and the Christ child. All who heard were astonished and amazed at the news of these lowly shepherds.” Luke chapter 2:8-18
After the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ, the 12 disciples of Jesus set out across the known world to TELL the truth of the gospel. Each facing persecution and death for this very truth. During this first century, Christianity was an illegal and persecuted faith. Christians were viewed as blasphemers by the Jewish religious authorities. Philosophers ridiculed their beliefs. The roman government saw them as a threat to their political system and the empire’s stability. Leaders such as Ignatius and Polycarp, along with everyday believers, were put to death. Those who did not die for their truth suffered the consequences of unemployment, loss of property, social status and connections.
“The believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teachings in fellowship, breaking of bread and prayer. All the believers were together, selling their possessions and giving to those in need. Daily they met together in the temple courts, eating together in their homes with thankful and sincere hearts praising God, and their number grew daily.” Acts chapter 2:42-47
“Then the priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to the apostle’s Peter and John while they were speaking in public to the people. They were greatly disturbed by the apostle’s words. They seized the two and put them in prison. Many who had listened to their words embraced the truth, and their number grew to five thousand followers. The next day Peter and John were brought before the rulers and interrogated. When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and remembered these men were with Jesus. They warned Peter and John to STOP speaking. Peter and John replied that they were compelled to obey God, not man. For we cannot help but TELL what is the truth. After further threats, they were released.” Acts chapter 4:1,3-4,13,15,17-21
“Then those who were spying; reported to the authorities that the apostles were TELLING the truth to people once again. Immediately the captain, with his officers, brought the apostles in again, making sure they did not use force. As they feared the people would stone them. Appearing before the Sanhedrin, they were questioned by the high priest. Angrily the high priest reminded them they were warned not to speak out anymore, yet they continued to fill all Jerusalem with their heresy. The apostle’s reply once again, we must OBEY God rather than earthly man. They ordered the apostles to be flogged and commanded them to STOP speaking. The apostles left the Sanhedrin rejoicing that they were worthy to suffer for the TRUTH. Day and night, they never stopped TELLING the TRUTH.” Acts chapter 5: 25-29, 40-42
“I am almighty God. Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Have I not made foolish the wisdom of this world? My people whom I have created; think of where you have come from. Not many of you are wise by this world standard, not many of you are influential, and many are not even of noble birth. I choose the foolish things of this world to shame the worldly-wise. I prefer the weak ones to shame the strong. I choose the lowly and the despised to nullify pride that no person may boast in themselves. Do not allow yourselves to be deceived. If anyone thinks they are wise according to the standards of this world system it is foolishness in my sight. For I catch the wise in their craftiness I know their evil thoughts and intentions. So then no more boasting in yourselves. Let him who boasts; boast only in the TRUTH that I reveal” ICorinthians chapter 1:20,,26-31;2:18-20
In light of God’s Holy Words may we as a global community hear what our creator is saying to each one of us individually through the courageous example of the sheperds, apostles and all who have gone before us. Our Father in heaven compells each one of us regardless of our position in society to stand against tyranny and boldly speak and live the truth whatever the cost.
From my heart to yours I wish you all a blessed Christmas as you rightfully gather with your loved ones that God has blessed you with.
Wednesday, December 22, 2021
Written by: Sally Darlene Cooper