Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Our Charge

The charge given to Peter in John 21:15-17 is valid for us as well. It nicely summarizes Jesus' expectations for those that want to serve in Christ's church. In John 10:11-18, Jesus is the shepherd. Again with shepherd/sheep imagery, Peter is challenged to be the shepherd. If he really loves Jesus, he will shepherd the sheep. If we say we love God and are following Christ we too must entrust ourselves to God and fulfill our callings as servant leaders in God's church. We are called to a sacrificial, laying down of our lives for the sake of the world. In John 10:11-18 the imagery of sheep, shepherd, wolf teach us about leading and following and the type of leadership that is effective and pleasing to God. What do you see when you look through these lenses? What do you see in the mirror?

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Leadership Themes

́Τιθημι is the Greek word translated as “lay down” in “lay down my life.” In some form, Jesus uses this word four times in the pericope. This theme of unselfish giving of himself for the sake of the sheep runs throughout the passage. As a result, Jesus garners the love of his Father (verse 17) and the following of the sheep. It is something Jesus does not by constraint, but of his own free will. He has the authority to lay it down and take it up (v. 18). This is what makes Jesus’ leadership credible because it is servant leadership at its best. Even those who are not yet his, in this case likely the Gentiles, will follow (v. 16). Are we the type of servant leaders that exhibit such credibility? One will do most anything for this kind of leader.

αἴρει is Greek for “take up.” It is present tense, not aorist, meaning it was not a one time over and done with deal. Because Jesus had the authority to take up his life again, the willingness to lay it down is underscored. In Jesus’ time, sheep were valued, but were helpless. Here is the One who of his own accord continues to give of himself for the sheep’s sake. He is able to win the trust of the “other” sheep in this manner. We bemoan the state of many of our churches for not being willing to make changes for growth. Have we been willing to lay down and take up our lives for Christ's church, for our parishioners? If have the servant heart of Jesus, others will be drawn to Christ and his church.

γινσκω, translated, “I know,is used four times in this pericope. Jesus knows his own/his own know him. It is compared with the knowledge born of relationship like that between Jesus and his Father: the Father knows him/he knows Father. It is because of such knowledge that he lays down his life, enabling a group of disparate sheep/people to be united under one shepherd. This emphasizes the relationship part of Jesus’ role. The only way we can lead others is to be connected with and to truly, intimately know the Lord. We must not fool ourselves into thinking we can effectively lead God's people if we do not have a vital, flourishing relationship with God.

κοω/φων--listen/voice (v. 16) is another significant phrase in the pericope. When used in Johns gospel, it is for hearing God’s/Spirit’s/My/shepherd’s/bridegroom’s voice. The result is joy/life/being led. The other sheep hear Jesus’ voice and will follow because of the nature of the shepherd who is calling them and his role in their lives. Because of his actions as the model shepherd, their ears are open to hear. Are we model pastors, teachers, leaders? Do followers/parishioners/learners hear our voice and and respond by virtue of the nature of us as leaders and the role we play in their lives? Are ears open to hear our message because of our actions?

Picture from the catacombs.


John 10:15, 17-18

"...just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father."

Although the Father is not a character in this passage in the same way as the shepherd, sheep etc., he is referred to frequently by Jesus. This is family talk about Father and Son. They know each other. Jesus is obedient to his Father. If taken one step further, it suggests Jesus' divinity. Jesus' status is one of divine privilege being one with the Father (John 10:30).

Since all the references to God the Father concern relatedness, what kind of intimacy and openness do we have to God's will? Is this a relationship we're nurturing in such a way that we can hear God? Are we listening? How else is it possible to be a leader in God's church?

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The Wolf

"The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away -- and the wolf snatches them and scatters them" (John 10:12).

Set against the good shepherd and the sheep are the hired hand and the wolf. The shepherd and sheep are good and innocent, while the same cannot be said for the hired hand or the wolf to whom the hired hand exposes the flock.

As the antagonist of the sheep, the wolf imagery suggests violence and rapaciousness. Wolves are predators. Friberg refers to the wolf "as a fierce beast of prey..." When used metaphorically, he says it refers to "a person with dangerous pretenses, such as a false prophet, false teacher, or false leader vicious person, fierce person."

Are we taking care to protect our people from such "wolves?" Are we educating them to discern for themselves between good and bad teaching, between fads and eternal truths? What about our own hearts? Are we feeding off our sheep or feeding them God's Word and the sacraments? Don't we need to guard our own hearts to be sure we don't have some wolf in us?

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The Hired Hand

John 10:12, 13
12 The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away -- and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep.
The status of the average shepherd wasn't that great, but as the owner, at least he had a vested interest in his sheep. A hired hand, however, was working simply for the money, not caring about the sheep. If shepherds were not especially trustworthy, then hired hands were even less so. Some certainly did not do the one job they were hired to do--guard the sheep!

The hired hand leaves them when trouble, in the form of a wolf, comes (verse 12). The hired hand runs away in fear. Unprotected, left alone, the sheep are scattered when the wolf approaches.

There used to be a blog entitled "You've Really Got to Love Your People." This name runs through my mind frequently, especially when we speak of healthy and unhealthy congregations. Are we as leaders abdicating responsibilities of love and care for all God has called us to? Are we loving our people, whoever, wherever they may be? Or are we just in the job for the money, the prestige? Are we being good shepherds or hired hands?


Tuesday, April 21, 2009


The next actors are the sheep. In Jesus' time, they were highly valued animals. They were understood as either innocent or helpless, requiring a great deal of care.

John 10:11-18 tells us just a little about the sheep. In verse 14, they know the shepherd. γινσκω (I know) in some form, is used four times in the pericope. The level of knowledge is compared to that between the Father and the Son; an intimate knowledge.

Jesus speaks of "other sheep" (verse 16) that he will bring into the fold. In Jesus' time, these others were likely Gentile Christians. Who do you think may be the "other sheep," the other people today? How can they be brought in? Jesus, the good, ideal shepherd was able to unite disparate peoples into a band of followers. How can we so unite God's people?

As sheep, since leaders are also followers, as the sheep in their vulnerability, needed shepherding, so do we.

Shepherd Me, O God - Marty Haugen

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Is this a Good Shepherd?

Take a look at this You Tube trailer for a movie called "The Good Shepherd." Do the themes in this short clip say anything to us about what a good shepherd is or isn't?

Good Shepherd

John 10:11, 14-16
"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.
There is a veritable cast of characters in our passage. The first we'll look at is Jesus as the good shepherd. In fact, the passage opens with Jesus' statement that he is the good shepherd.

Old Testament echoes abound in Jesus' proclamation. In Ezekiel, God upbraids the religious leaders for not caring for the flock. God contrasts God's self with them as the good shepherd (Ezekiel 34). In Ezekiel 34:11-16, God as a shepherd, restores the flock. Ezekiel 34:23 promises that a member of the Davidic line will function as a shepherd. In Ezekiel 37:24, the prophet declares there will be one shepherd over the people of Israel.

In Psalm 23, the role of the shepherd in the life of the sheep is poetically shown us. Here the shepherd provides for the sheep: food, protection, a place for rest, comfort. In John 10:11-18, Jesus shows himself to be that kind of shepherd.

The good shepherd's characteristics in the pericope are: laying down his life for the sheep, protection, provision, he knows the sheep and is knowable by them. Jesus is indeed the model or ideal shepherd. Gingrich in Bibleworks 8 suggests the meaning of "good" could be,
“useful, free from defects.”

The shepherd also gathers the sheep. He is able to do so because he has protected them. He loves the sheep. He is willing to lay down his life for them. Jesus is concerned about the sheep and leads them. Because of the above reasons, the sheep respond--hearing his voice and following him.

So what do shepherds and sheep have to do with church leadership? Pastor is just another word for shepherd. Do we show this type of concern and love for those God has entrusted to our care? Are we willing to lay down our lives?

We need to look at this passage through the good shepherd's lens. Now let's look in the mirror. How do we compare?

shepherd leading sheep


Besides the fact that this blog is for a school project, we need the continual challenge of God, God's Word, and God's people to be the kind of leaders God has called us to be. We all too often hear the horror stories of those who have abused their authority, whether it be in the church or another arena.

This blog will consist of a series of posts regarding John 10:11-18, the Good Shepherd passage. Cultural symbols abound: shepherd, sheep, hired hand, and the wolf. For most of us, these are not part of our daily life as they were in first century Palestine. What do they have to say to us today about leadership in the church and the qualities good leaders must have?

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