The third part (vv. 15-20) describes responses made to the news of this event. The shepherds checked out the message, found the sign, the babe lying in a manger, and shared the interpretation which they had given. The people marvelled at their words. Mary kept them in her heart and wondered. The shepherds then returned to their work, glorifying and praising God for the event and its interpretation.
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
- (15-16) The shepherds come and see the child Jesus.
So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger.
A. Let us now go shows a real urgency. They didn’t hesitate at all.
B. And see this thing that has come to pass: The angel told them to look for a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger (Luke 2:12). It wasn’t an unusual sign to see a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths, but it was strange to see a baby lying in a manger – a feeding trough. If the angel had not told them to look for such a specific sign, they would never have believed it.
C. They found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. This was a strange sight! “This was a revolting sight, and was sufficient of itself to produce an aversion to Christ. For what could be more improbable than to believe that he was the King of the whole people, who was deemed unworthy to be ranked with the lowest of the multitude?” (Calvin)
- (17-20) The shepherds spread the news of Jesus’ birth.
17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart: “The wonder of the many was a transient emotion, this recollecting and brooding of Mary was an abiding habit (imperfect).” (Bruce)
Mary had good reason to meditate. What had brought her to Bethlehem? An emperor’s great decree from Rome, and gossiping tongues in Nazareth. God works through all kinds of people and all kinds of events to accomplish His plan.
“Their zeal in glorifying and praising God is an implied reproof of our indolence, or rather of our ingratitude. If the cradle of Christ had such an effect upon them, as to make them rise from the stable and the manger to heaven, how much more powerful ought the death and resurrection of Christ to be in raising us to God?” (Calvin)
In the Parable of the Seed (8:15): “Those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart
Mary treasured all these things…
Think of all the “things” that Mary had to treasure and ponder in the single year since the Angel of God announced her special appointment:
-The visit by the angel Gabriel;
-Gabriel’s announcement of Mary’s pregnancy;
-The risk she faced when she revealed her pregnancy, out of wedlock, to her parents and Joseph’s family;
-The visit to Elizabeth and how John lept in Elizabeth’s womb;
-The hurried trip to Bethlehem in her last trimester; and finally
-The arrival of the shepherds with their great and amazing news.
These were only the beginning of the memories that would eventually fill the treasure chest of Mary’s heart. Still to come would be the Magi, the fleeing from Bethlehem to Egypt, the desperate search for Jesus on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. All of these things about the child Jesus were yet to occur.
In verses 17-20 we find three different responses to divine revelation.
First, there were those who were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. Amazement or wonder is a normal response to what God does, but it is not the same as faith. In fact, it could even be a sign of unbelief. The synagogue crowd in Nazareth “were amazed at the gracious words” of Jesus, yet a little later they tried to kill him (Luke 4:22, 19). After the resurrection of Jesus the two disciples on the Emmaus road were filled with wonder, but were still skeptical (Luke 24:41).
Secondly, in contrast to the Bethlehem people, Mary represents another response to divine revelation. She treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. Mary had already heard the words of the angel Gabriel about the Baby she was to bear. And now she heard the report of the shepherds. But apparently, she was still puzzled. She needed time to fathom the meaning of it all. Some time later, when she and Joseph found the 12-year old Jesus in the Temple, Luke tells us that Mary responded the same way–“treasured all these things in her heart.” (Luke 2:51).
3rd revelation. The climax of the story is the response of the shepherds. Now their human voices were added to the heavenly host, glorifying and praising God. This is the ultimate response to divine action. The shepherds, being Jewish, worshiped God rather than the infant in the manger. The idea that Jesus himself as Son of God was also worthy of worship became clearer after his resurrection. The Magi, on the other hand, who were Gentile, were more at ease to worship the child Jesus (Matthew 2:11).