Every year at Passover, Jews from all over the world would come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. They needed to have a lamb without blemish approved by the priests for their Passover feast. Rather than cart a lamb that long distance they would buy lambs for the Passover that were raised locally for that very purpose.
The shepherds would graze their flocks on the fields near Bethlehem which is about 5 miles due south of Jerusalem. It was to these shepherds of the Passover lambs that the angels brought tidings of Christ’s birth and proclaimed “Glory to God in the Highest”. It is fitting as Jesus, the Lamb of God, would become the ultimate Passover sacrifice.
Some of these exact same shepherds would see Jesus again thirty three years later. It was on our Palm Sunday before their Passover that the shepherds drove their flocks into Jerusalem to be inspected by the priests. Jesus entered by the same gate. I wonder if any of those original shepherds thought of that night as they heard the people shout, “Hosanna!”
Those shepherds who had already died followed behind Jesus, the Good Shepherd, as He entered heaven triumphantly. Behind him were those He had ransomed. They heard those same angels saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”
In the Orthodox churches and the Byzantine rite, they often have icons in a set of three called triptychs. I’ve thought of these three images as God’s triptych. All three images have some of the same characters, there is rejoicing and praise in all three, and they center around Jesus and lambs. This mental triptych is worth pondering.
For more background on this I recommend Frances Hogan’s series on the gospel of Luke, her second half of Gospel of John, also “Behold the Lamb” by Scott Hahn. Jeff Cavins in his Bible timeline does a wonderful job of tying all the old Testament stories about lambs to Jesus. Dr. Brant Pitre also has a wonderful book on the Jewish rites and Jesus.
Related scriptures: Luke 2:8-20, John 12:13, Rev. 5:12