Summary: The Pastor/Shepherd feeds and protects his flock.
April 22, 2018
A Shepherd Is Not A Hireling
Today’s gospel reading brings us right back to the reference to Jesus as The Good Shepherd. I’ll bet everyone remembers the last message about the Good Shepherd. We shared that message November 27, 1917, how could we not remember? (tongue-in-cheek). That message derived from an Old Testament reading from Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24.
God, the True Shepherd – Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24
“‘For thus says the Lord GOD: “Indeed I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock on the day he is among his scattered sheep, so will I seek out My sheep and deliver them from all the places where they were scattered on a cloudy and dark day. And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land; I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, in the valleys and in all the inhabited places of the country. I will feed them in good pasture, and their fold shall be on the high mountains of Israel. There they shall lie down in a good fold and feed in rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I will feed My flock, and I will make them lie down,” says the Lord GOD. “I will seek what was lost and bring back what was driven away, bind up the broken and strengthen what was sick; but I will destroy the fat and the strong, and feed them in judgment.”
‘Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD to them: “Behold, I Myself will judge between the fat and the lean sheep. Because you have pushed with side and shoulder, butted all the weak ones with your horns, and scattered them abroad, therefore I will save My flock, and they shall no longer be a prey; and I will judge between sheep and sheep. I will establish one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them—My servant David. He shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the LORD, will be their God, and My servant David a prince among them; I, the LORD, have spoken.”
Now today’s reading: John 10:11-18
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.
“Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.”
So far, it becomes apparent that the reference to The Good Shepherd in both the Old Testament and in the New Testament indicates there must be a major point to be made.
As for the metaphor, the imagery of a shepherd used to describe our Lord as Shepherd and we as His sheep is fairly well understood, even to many with very limited knowledge or experience with shepherding sheep.
Back in the early 1960s, I was stationed in Kafertal, Germany, as part of my tour of duty in the army. Among my most treasured memories is that of the shepherds and their sheep dogs. I was very fascinated watching one old shepherd and two or three good dogs, tending literally hundreds of sheep. The shepherds were tender, loving and ever vigilant with the sheep. The sheep dogs did their job of keeping the sheep under control and on the right path so to speak. To the dog, it was a job. There was no love involved, rather the determination to dominate and control was evidently the natural trait. The dogs would stare down a wayward sheep, charge at and dominantly herd a straying sheep and actually nip at the shanks and hooves, if it required a little more “hands on” attention.
As the Good Shepherd, Our Lord cares for His sheep (people) with the same diligence, care and love as the best of the best shepherds. As for the sheep dogs, Jesus has none. You see, God never intended for man to be literally controlled and made to obey. Jesus and His Holy Spirit are the Shepherd (singular on purpose) who lead willing followers and provide a way for the lost and strayed to return to the fold. Followers follow willingly, as it is the Will of God that we do His Will, willingly.