When the angels appeared to the shepherds they had a very clear message. “I bring you good news of great joy which will come to all people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign to you; you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”
The shepherds went and found it just as the angels had said. When they returned they were glorifying God and praising Him for everything that had been told to them was true. Why wasn’t this the beginning of a groundswell of belief in Jesus?
It is because of who the angels told. Christians have a romantic view of shepherds because Jesus identified Himself with them. To the Jews of Jesus day, these people were migrants who drifted in and out of their towns. They were also ritually unclean and not allowed to enter the Temple or synagogues. If God were to speak to somebody it would be through the rabbis or priests–not through the unclean riff-raff.
When the angels spoke at the tomb they were very detailed. “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and on the third day rise.”
Who are the angels talking to? Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James and the other women. These women went and told the apostles what the angels had said but were they believed? No! They dismissed it as idle chatter. Peter went to check out the tomb and found it as they said but went home wondering what had happened. He at least checked out the story but couldn’t believe the message. Mark says that when Jesus appeared to the Eleven, he upbraided them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen.
The takeaway from this is that God can speak to you through any person. Listen carefully to those you would ordinarily dismiss, especially those whom the world calls nuts. All of the visionaries have gone through a period of not being believed.
God purposely chooses the lowly and the weak. St. Bernadette once said that Mary chose her because she couldn’t find anybody stupider. This girl could not learn her catechism well enough to receive communion yet she was chosen by heaven.
Did the shepherds or the women fail? No, they were faithful. So must we be. All we might see are our weaknesses and the world sees our lack of stature, but God sees someone through whom He might display His power. If you are not believed, the failure is not yours.
Related Scripture: Luke 2:8-20, Luke 24:5-12, Mark 16:14
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