There is a significant difference between Jesus and all others who came both before and after him. And not just because he was and is the Son of God. The big difference was in what he was prepared to do for those who love Him and the Father and His compassion and caring for His people.
Jesus describes himself in this section as the Good Shepherd, and so he is. He is the great and good shepherd of all mankind for those who desire to follow in his ways. We too, especially those who are in any kind of leadership roles, need to also learn the ways of the Good Shepherd and try to make them our own. For in this section Jesus also makes a distinction between His ways and the ways of a hired hand, and they are very different and in stark contrast to each other.
In fact there are some today who are in leadership roles in the church who display attitudes more like a hired hand then a shepherd. This is a great shame and a serious problem for those who should be under the care of the shepherds in the church for rather than leading them along the right ways, they take them down paths that lead away from The Lord.
Ways of the Shepherd
Consider the ways of a shepherd for a moment, and perhaps a good example was seen in King David. Look at what David did when he was a shepherd minding the sheep of his father in 1 Samuel 17:34-37.
34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock,
35 I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him.
36 Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.”
37 And David said, “The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and the LORD be with you!”
As a shepherd David saw it as his duty to protect the sheep in the flock in his care so that if any beast should come against them to attack them, he would defend them even at the risk of his own life. As a shepherd he also took the responsibility to lead his sheep to good pasture and fresh water so that they would be well fed and cared for.
He would also have tended any of their injuries and illnesses and if any became separated from the rest of the flock, as the shepherd he would go out in search of the missing sheep and bring it back safely home.
These are the duties of the shepherd and he would do these things willingly, not under any form of constraint because he cared about his sheep. The sheep were his primary concern and their well being was all important.
It is the same with The Lord as the Good Shepherd. We who are of his flock are His primary concern and as the shepherd cared for his sheep, so to The Lord protects, feeds and guides us to the living water. He even gave his life that we might have the chance of eternal life with him and there is no greater sacrifice that a shepherd can give than to give his life for the flock.
Ways of the Hired Hand
Then we see the shepherd compared to a hired hand. The ways of the hired hand are nothing like the ways of the shepherd. Look at what the scripture says concerning the hired hand.
12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.
13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
The hired hand is not invested in the well being of the sheep. The sheep are not his but they belong to someone else. All the hired hand is interested in is his wages. If the sheep get sick or are attacked by wild beasts, the hired hand does not care. He cares about what he will be paid for doing a job, not what happens to the sheep. For him it’s all about the money and not much else.
The analogy in the Church
Within the church today we can see this same analogy of the shepherd and the hired hand. There is only one Good Shepherd and that is Jesus Christ. But Jesus has appointed ministers in the church to carry on His shepherding work. He has given gifts to his people so that they can minister to the flock and ensure they get the spiritual food and protection needed to grow and mature in Christ.
As an example we see the specific ministry that Jesus gave to the apostle Peter just before The Lord was put to death in John 21:15-17.
15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”
16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.”
17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.
There is no question that Jesus was passing the baton to Peter to continue the work of shepherding his sheep. Peter was instructed by The Lord to carry on the work of feeding and tending the flock of The Lord.
But not all in the church leadership are there as shepherds. Some come into the church and are more like hired hands than shepherds. They have taken on ministry in the churches as if it were a job rather than a calling to do the work of The Lord. They seem more interested in the pay check than the welfare of the flock. And like hired hands, when there is trouble or an attack on the sheep, they do not defend but run away.
How do we prevent such things from happening? Well we can’t. We need to understand that The Lord has allowed that there will be false teachers, there will be wolves in sheeps clothing and there will be hired hands who are in the body to fleece the flock rather than tend it.
We cannot prevent these things from occurring. What we can do though is to watch and make sure that we are not caught in a ministry of bondage that will drag us down rather then build us up. As Jesus said, we will know them by their fruit and we need to,watch carefully over time to assess the fruit of those who are in leadership in the church so that we are not brought down.
It is also the role of each individual to come to The Lord and seek him out directly. In the end the relationship that matters is the one we have with Jesus and no man can act as intermediary in that relationship. We are His sheep and we need to learn to follow him as the sheep follow the shepherd. We must then learn to hearHis voice and not be fooled by those who say they speak on his behalf but are only hired hands. Seek the truth and find the way in Him.
(Photo sourced from stock.xchng taken by Paul Cioca)