Wednesday, April 22, 2009

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.

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