How is the Gospel of Matthew like Lynden, WA? It starts with a drive through a cemetery. Matthew begins the Christmas story with a cemetery tour that visits the gravesites of 47 relatives of Jesus. Jesus was the only person in history who got to choose His relatives. And some of His choices are about as hard to explain as Mary’s pregnancy. Notice who some of Jesus’ relatives were. Matthew starts with Abraham who was from Iraq, from the idolatrous people of Mesopotamia. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob all got their wives from Iraq. Tamar (vs. 3) was a Canaanite who had to turn to prostitution to trick Judah into doing what was right. Rahab (vs. 5) was a Canaanite and well-known prostitute from the cursed city of Jericho. Ruth (vs. 5) was from Moab east of Israel in modern Jordan. Moabites were a race of cursed people born out of incest between Lot and his daughters. Bathsheba (vs. 6) was a married to a Hittite and might have been one as well. The Hittites lived in what is modern Turkey. A whole host of foreigners and sinners. Jesus took His blood from the world and shed that blood for the whole world. Jesus is the only World Savior.
This Advent season we have been focusing on Jesus as Savior. Christ is our Sin Savior who saves us from our sins and from the judgment and condemnation our sins deserve. We are great sinners and Christ is our great Sin Savior. Christ is our Sole Savior; He is the only name given to mankind by which we can be saved (Acts 4:12). Christ is our Shepherd Savior, He knows us and cares for us and protects us and willingly lays down His life for us and rewards us with eternal life. Our text this morning makes a stunning revelation about another aspect of our Savior. We have heard the Christmas story so many times we don’t hear the shock of it. Shepherds listen up, “Today in Bethlehem there has been a baby born who is the Messiah, and this baby is your Savior, and He is also the Lord Himself come from heaven.” No wonder they reacted the way they did, first with fear at the angel’s message and then with perplexity at this strange thing the angels said. No wonder the people wondered at what the shepherds said. Those words of the angels would have been an utter shock to first century Jewish ears. First of all, that the long expected Messiah has come as a baby. And then that this baby is also Lord, meaning God Himself. How is this possible? No one saw this coming. Lord means sovereign, and I want us to consider our Savior’s sovereignty in two ways. First, His Lordship over all creation and His power and authority as God to do all things. Second, His Lordship over us and our responsibility to submit to Jesus not just as our Savior but as the Lord over our lives.
To the first century Middle Eastern ear these words from John 10 were a sweet sound. Those words grounded in the long history of an agrarian people were rich in meaning and truth. “Before men dared to think of God as their Father, they called Him their Shepherd” (Charles Jefferson, The Minister as Shepherd, p. 14). When Jacob stretched out his hands to bless his son Joseph he said God had been his Shepherd all the days of his life (Gen. 48:15). The greatest heroes of our faith tended sheep. All of the OT patriarchs, the greatest of the lawgivers Moses, the sweetest of the poets David, and some of the mightiest of the prophets were all shepherds (see Jefferson, p. 40-41). One of the greatest Psalms, Psalm 23, was written by a shepherd who realized he had a shepherd and so he wrote from the perspective of a sheep who had a relationship with a shepherd. Psalm 23 begins with a stunning truth. This universe we live in and this earth we live on are created and sustained by a shepherd God. The great Almighty, all-knowing, creator God of the universe compares Himself to a shepherd. The Lord is our shepherd, we are the people of His pasture, the flock under His care. We live in a world created by a shepherd God and we live in a world redeemed by a shepherd Savior. Jesus calls Himself the Good Shepherd three times in our passage. How good is our Shepherd Savior, and how is He good?
You may have noticed our text begins and ends with Daniel acknowledging his fear and trepidation, he is alarmed. Visions can be frightening, especially when they are filled with strange creatures with great power, and as great and courageous as Daniel is, he is deeply disturbed by what he has seen. His spirit is stirred up and anxious. Even after the explanation he is still anxious. These are great things we are being shown, things that impact all of human history and will touch our children and grandchildren and great grandchildren, things that carry us beyond the mundane and trivial aspects of our lives to the unseen realms of the principalities and powers. If this doesn’t get our attention, we aren’t paying attention.
Last week I proclaimed Jesus as our Sin Savior. Jesus came to earth to pay a bill, to cover a debt, to deliver a ransom. On Good Friday Christ wrote a check in His blood as full payment for all our sins. On Easter the check cleared. God accepted it as satisfactory payment for our sins. I spoke of Christ as an unblemished Lamb, took our place, became our substitute, satisfied divine justice, and reconciled us to God. In Christ we are forgiven. He is our salvation, but is He our only way to salvation? Is He our Sole Savior from sin and death?