- Shepherd or Hired Hand?
In John 10, Jesus said that He was the GOOD SHEPHERD. (Jn. 10:14) He was not only the shepherd, but the very GATE of the sheepfold.(Jn. 10:7-9) The reason the Father loved him, Jesus said, was the he would willingly LAY DOWN his very life for his sheep.(Jn. 10:17) No one could take his life, but he laid it down willingly, of his own accord.
I saw the movie GANDHI last night on TV with my mom. She had never seen the movie. I was in India last year and so found the story even more compelling, having been to the eternal flame at Gandhi’s tomb and having seen the armed police still guarding the temple’s and mosques. Gandhi was not the savior of anyone but he was a very good shepherd. You could tell he was a good shepherd because he was willing to lay down his life for his sheep. His sheep were the people of India, be they Hindu, Muslim, Christian, or Jew. Gandhi lay down his life for his people repeatedly. Twice he fasted until the violence and rioting in the country between first the British and the Indian nationals and later after independence, the rioting between the Hindu’s and the Muslims. Both times Gandhi refused to eat until there was peace in every corner of that very large country. This fasting nearly killed him and cost him his health in the long run. Unlike Jesus, however, Gandhi’s life was taken from him by a gunman. He had freely come very near to death several times for his people, but in the end he did not lay down his life willingly, it was snatched from him (Jn. 10:18).
Jesus is the perfect shepherd and he makes it clear to the unbelieving religious leaders of his time that they were not acting as good shepherds of the people. You can tell a good shepherd, he continues, because he lays down his life for his sheep. (Jn. 10:11-13) Every day in small ways and sometimes in big ones, a good shepherd lays down his life for his flock. But the hired hand is not the shepherd. When the hired hand sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The hired hand cares nothing for the sheep.
As leaders and teachers we daily ask ourselves, am I a shepherd of the sheep in my care or merely a hired hand? Am I a SHEPHERD who guards and leads the sheep only when it is convenient? Where am I when the going gets tough? Where am I when trouble strikes and things begin to unravel around my flock? Where am I when the wolf attacks? Will my sheep awake from slumber to find me lying in the gate? Am I leading my sheep to places of comfort and peace when all around them storms are raging? Am I up for the challenge of leading them through the tough mountain paths that will take them to the next level spiritually? Are my sheep being fed a balanced and nutritious diet?
JESUS was the perfect shepherd of course, but the reason the religious leaders around him got so ANGRY at him was often the quiet accusation that they felt stabbing them when he spoke. These religious shepherds of the people knew that he was speaking to them too. As Jesus spoke these words they became divided. Some said Jesus was demon-possessed after hearing him, but others asked, “Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?” (Jn. 10:21, Jn. 9)
These words of Jesus are meant to divide the sheep who know their master’s voice from those who do not want to listen. They divide also the shepherds, the lowly shepherds (who are also wise and tough and brave and loving) from the hired hands who will run away when the going gets tough. Am I willing to lay down my life for the sheep Jesus has put in my care?