by Will Graham
(Editor’s note: This is the 7th post in a series called “A Journey of Evangelism in Scripture,” where we travel from Genesis through Revelation to look into the intersection of evangelism at various points of time.)
I’m curious. How many times would you say that you’ve read the story of Jesus’ birth? Dozens? Hundreds? It’s easy to slip into the trap of glossing over it, relegating the birth of Christ to Christmas. It’s a story that we read by candlelight, or surrounded by the Christmas tree and presents.
But there are incredible lessons that can be learned in the narrative of Christ’s birth that pertain directly to evangelistic ministry. It tells us not only who the gospel is for, but also what people’s reactions will be to Christ.
First, we learn that God’s great gift of forgiveness is for all people. Consider both Luke 2 and Matthew 2. In Luke 2, we learn of the shepherds who were in a field nearby and saw the proclamation of the angels. In Matthew 2, we see the story of the Magi from the east, who saw the star and arrived in search of the Christ child—the King of the Jews.
As an evangelist, what I love about this is the reminder that Jesus was given to the whole world, and His grace knows no borders.
The hope of Jesus isn’t for a certain race or geographic location. He was born in Bethlehem in Judea, but the Magi came from the east—likely Mesopotamia. It’s also not based on status or wealth. The shepherds were lowly farmers, whereas the Magi were kings. Finally, the shepherds and people of Bethlehem were likely Jews, while the Magi were Gentiles.
As you share the hope of Christ, whether it’s to one person or an arena of people, remember that they come from all walks of life, but not one of them is beyond the reach of Jesus!
Second, we learn in these passages that people will have very different reactions to Jesus. In Matthew 2, we see that Herod “was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.” This seems like a bit of an understatement since Herod was murderously angry. In fact, verse 16 states that he had all of the male children under 2 years of age in Bethlehem and the surrounding region killed. Can you imagine the agony and mourning that this must have caused? No wonder Jerusalem was also troubled by the birth of Jesus!
Hopefully, you will never encounter somebody this zealously angry at the mention of Christ, but you will come across people who want nothing to do with Him. Perhaps they’ve had a bad experience with a Christian in their past that causes them to bristle at the name of Jesus. Maybe they don’t want to change their lifestyle, or they’re scared of what their friends may think. For some, it’s easier to mock or ridicule than to accept Christ.
Also in Matthew 2 (verse 4), we are briefly introduced to the scribes and chief priests. We don’t know much about them, but they appear to be largely indifferent. They don’t seem to care one way or the other about Jesus. They confirm the facts, but are otherwise unexcited.
You will likely run into this as well in your ministry. There will be those—maybe some in the Church—who just can’t be bothered with the reality of a Risen Savior. Rather, they’re living life their own way. Sadly, they’re on a dangerous path that will lead them down the same road as the Herods of the world.
On the other hand, many people who have truly had a close personal encounter with Jesus will be forever changed. In Luke 2:20, the “shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.” They encountered Jesus, and could not keep quiet. In verse 18, “all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.”
Switching over to the Magi in Matthew 2, they almost seemed to approach Jesus clinically and out of curiosity. Yet, when they saw Him they rejoiced, humbled themselves and worshiped Him. What a site that must have been! Can you imagine kings walking into the room of a toddler, and falling to the ground in worship? That’s what happened!
Further, they not only praised Jesus, but they were instantly obedient to God’s leading. They were warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, and they didn’t seem to question it. They did what they were told.
I find this so encouraging! Yes, there will be people like Herod who will be angry or dismissive, but others will encounter the living Christ and will be forever changed. They’ll be excited, and will walk out the door ready to share that love and hope with their friends, family, colleagues, and neighbors. There will be an exponential impact as the joy of the Lord goes forth!
The narrative of Jesus’ birth is a beautiful story, and one from which we can glean so much. If nothing else, remember that the gospel is for everyone. Preach it boldly, and although some may push back, God will also draw many to Himself through your obedience and ministry.