Mission Incarnate V: Good News Made Known

In Luke 2, there is a great Old Covenant/New Covenant handoff. In verses 9-14, it is the angels who are proclaiming the good news, but then the angels leave, and in verses 17-20 it is the shepherds who are making the good news known. The movement is from angelic evangelists to human evangelists.

But this is more than just an interesting aspect of Luke’s record. This relationship between men and angels has a long history: the angels have been doing mankind’s work ever since Adam failed in the garden of Eden, and so when the shepherds pick up the evangelist’s mantle, they are reversing Adam’s failure. Always winter, never Christmas? Not anymore.

When God placed Adam in the garden, Adam’s job was to guard and keep the garden, and to rule in the world like God ruled in heaven. Adam would name the world, feed the world, and spread the image of God throughout the world. Instead, he sinned. He didn’t guard the garden, and was replaced by an angel with a flaming sword. And throughout Israel’s history, angels show up and fight for Israel. The angels end up doing man’s job.

Adam was supposed to rule the world, but he surrendered that rule to Satan, a fallen angel. Satan was for a time the prince of the power of the air, the ruler of the world, and human kingdoms were controlled by angelic beings. Angels doing man’s work.

What about naming the world? Adam had named the animals, but notice what happens all the time in Luke – who brings the names for the children? Humans can’t be trusted with that task anymore. Angels doing man’s work.

Feeding the world? Adam was cut off from heavenly food, and had to scratch it out of the ground. Mankind is so bad at feeding herself that throughout the Old Testament, angels have had to come and provide food. Remember manna? Angel’s food.

Filling the world with the image of God? This one goes worse that almost any other. In Genesis 6, we read that the sons of God take the daughters of man, and fill the world with monsters, plunging the world into a darkness that is only cleansed by a worldwide flood. Evil angels doing man’s part.

And centrally, speaking for God. In the garden, God talked directly with man, but since the Fall, angels become the primary administrators of His covenant, His messengers. Only rarely does a friend of God speak to Him face to face. Men are supposed to speak with and for God, but because of sin, that task went to the angels.

I hope you feel a growing sense of holy jealousy. Everything important and meaningful in the world that we were made to do is being done by someone else! Angels keep doing our job! But when Jesus comes, God begins to restore humanity. This is what starts to happen when the angels hand off the task of evangelism to the shepherds.

Many people have wondered about evangelism, in particular: why does God use human messengers to spread the gospel? Wouldn’t angels be more faithful, more effective? If God was content to abandon humanity to perpetual immaturity, He probably would have settled for angels. But God created humanity for something greater, and Christ Jesus leads the way in our restoration.

As a man, Jesus fought the great dragon and defeated him. Jesus is given all rule and authority. Jesus now gives us new names, and births us anew in baptism, filling the earth with His image. Jesus gives His own body and blood as food for the world. Jesus spoke exactly what God told Him to say, and now He has chosen to use human messengers to preach the gospel to the world. Humanity restored!

Men now speak for God, and the message that God has for the world is that God so loved the world that He sent His only-begotten Son into the world, so that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. This means that to be God’s people, to be truly human, we are called to embrace the task of making the good news of Jesus Christ known throughout the world. This is what evangelism is, and this is our mission. Hark! The herald shepherds preach.

Posted on Wednesday, December 31, 2014 by CJ Bowen