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What were the good tidings of great joy in Luke 2:10?

good tidings of great joy

Luke 2:1–20 records events on the night of Jesus Christ’s birth in Bethlehem. Immediately after Mary delivers the baby Jesus in a humble stable outside the inn, Luke pans to the fields where lowly shepherds guard their sheep by night. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appears among them, radiating with the brilliance of God’s glory, and announces to the terrified shepherds, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10–11, NKJV).

The phrase “bring you good tidings” (NKJV) or “bring you good news” (NIV, ESV, NLT) is rendered here in Luke 2:10 from a Greek verb (euangelizomai), which means “to announce, proclaim, or convey a message of positive information about recent and important events.” From this term, we get the English word evangelize. In the strictly literal Wycliffe Version of the New Testament, the angel proclaims, “I evangelize to you a great joy.”

Luke used this verb meaning “to bring good tidings” frequently in his Gospel and the book of Acts (Luke 2:10; 3:18; 4:18, 43; 7:22; 8:1; 9:6; 16:16; 20:1; Acts 5:42; 8:35; 11:20; 17:18; etc.). Each time, it refers to the exceedingly wonderful message that the Savior of humankind has come into the world. The gospel message itself eventually came to be called “good tidings.” Indeed, the English word gospel comes from an Anglo-Saxon term (godspell) that means “glad tidings.” This term, rendered “good tidings” or “glad tidings” in English, comes from the Greek noun evangelion, which literally means “good message” or “good news.” Before this time, the word was mainly used to announce military victories, but the New Testament writers assigned it a new meaning—the good news of salvation brought to the world in the person of Jesus Christ.

The angel delivered the news of Jesus Christ’s arrival to all the people of the world, and it was a message of “great joy.” The English word great is translated from the Greek adjective megas, meaning “remarkable or out of the ordinary in degree, magnitude, or effect.” Joy is an emotion of intense happiness and pleasure. Great joy is an extraordinary degree of happiness and pleasure. This “great joy” refers not merely to a personal human feeling but the ultimate eschatological delight of realizing that the messianic age had arrived (c.f. Luke 4:43; 10:17; 24:41, 52; Mark 1:14–15).

By this time in Israel’s history, shepherds had become outcasts in society. Shepherding was a lonely and lowly line of work. Why did God choose to deliver His good tidings of great joy to these castaway shepherds? By coming to them first, God revealed that the exceedingly great message of His grace was for all humanity, including the lowest shepherds and the poorest outcasts of the inn. “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are” (1 Corinthians 1:27–28).

Good tidings of great joy expresses the coming of the kingdom of God in Jesus Christ. In the kingdom of heaven, the poor, meek, humble, and persecuted are welcome to enter and experience inexpressible and glorious joy (Matthew 5:3–12; 1 Peter 1:8). This kingdom is not reserved for the wealthy and upper-class members of society (Matthew 19:23), but for those who enter by His grace through faith in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:4–9). Jesus would extend God’s invitation to join His kingdom not just to Jews but to Gentiles and all people in the whole world: “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14; see also Matthew 28:19; Mark 14:9; Luke 24:47).

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What were the good tidings of great joy in Luke 2:10?
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This page last updated: April 4, 2024