Many of us will read Luke 2:8–12 this Christmas season, but I bet there is something in there that you have never considered.
“In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. And the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths, and lying in a manger.’”
Here’s the question: Have you ever wondered why this is called a “sign”?
In Micah 5:2, the Messiah’s birth is predicted to be in Bethlehem but in Micah 4:8, it is prophesied that Jesus would be announced at the ‘tower of the flock’. Interestingly, a two-story tower has been discovered in a pasture outside Bethlehem. But, you may ask, why is that important?
Did you know that the shepherds in the field were not all lowly shepherds as we have always assumed? Some were actually priests from the temple who were doing shepherding work to assist in the birthing of the sacrificial lambs so that they would be unblemished for sacrifice. While the shepherds were keeping watch over the flock from the top floor of the tower, the shepherd-priests would bring the pregnant sheep in from the field to the tower’s bottom floor, where the sheep would give birth. As soon as a lamb was born, the priests would wrap it with strips of cloths made from old priestly undergarments. This was done to keep the lamb from getting blemished. The priests would then place the lamb onto a manger to make sure it would not get trampled.
So when these shepherd-priests went into Bethlehem and saw the baby Jesus wrapped in cloths, lying in a manger, they must have exclaimed, “There is the Lamb of God, prepared for sacrifice, unblemished!” They had to be excited beyond description, because they were the only ones who could have understood the sign. It was a personal sign for them from God!
It can be presumed that Jesus’ swaddling cloths were from the same source as the lambs’ cloths. Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth, was married to the priest Zacharias. Elizabeth could have given her the cloths made from the priestly undergarments. It is highly probable that the first clothes that Jesus wore were the clothes of a priest. What a sign!
Is this intriguing or what! This whole insight made the account of the announcement of Jesus’ birth astounding and even more exciting!
Here is another historical insight. Each Jewish family would put the family name around the neck of their lamb that they took to the Temple to be sacrificed. They did this to make sure they received their own lamb back for the Passover dinner.
Pilate also wrote an inscription, and put it on the cross. It was written, ‘JESUS THE NAZARENE, THE KING OF THE JEWS.’
Since the inscription had been in three languages (Latin, Greek, and Hebrew), the Hebrew says these words, ’Shua HaNatzri V’Melech HaYehudim.” This is stunning because when you take the first letters of each of these words, it spelled “YHVH,” a form of the name of God! YHVH and YHWH can be used interchangeably. The title on the cross in the actual Hebraic script undeniably reveals the name of God. In English, the name is pronounced “Yahweh!”
Just like the Jews put their family name on their lamb for sacrifice at the Temple, God put His name on His Lamb for His family, which includes you and me! As we celebrate His birth, let’s worship our Priest and King.
(Exerpts with some minor changes from “Unlocking the Secrets of the Feasts,” by Michael Norton. These historical observations and parallels were confirmed by many messianic rabbis, a historical writer, and an experienced archaeologist in Israel.)