The Good Shepherd - Part 2
John 10:11-18 MKJV I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. (12) But he who is a hireling and not the shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away. And the wolf catches them and scatters the sheep. (13) The hireling flees, because he is a hireling and does not care for the sheep. (14) I am the Good Shepherd, and I know those that are Mine, and I am known by those who are Mine. (15) Even as the Father knows Me, I also know the Father. And I lay down My life for the sheep. (16) And I have other sheep who are not of this fold. I must also lead those, and they shall hear My voice, and there shall be one flock, one Shepherd. (17) Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I might take it again. (18) No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down from Myself. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it again. I have received this commandment from My Father.
Jesus talks about laying down His life five times in four verses (v11, 15, 17, 18) and sees this self-sacrifice as an essential quality of the Good Shepherd (v11), a sign of true intimacy with God (v.15) including being the reason for the Father’s love (v.17) and an indication of Christ’s authority over matters of life and death (v.18).
In stark contrast the professional paid Jewish clergy (the Pharisees, Sadducees, and High Priests) were self-preserving hirelings without any ethic of self-sacrifice who let the common people be devoured by the ‘wolves” (v12, 13). The difference is that Jesus “owns the sheep” (v. 12), He is strongly invested in them, whereas the Jewish clergy were more invested in their careers and positions - rather than in the sheep.
Jesus is the Head of the Church and truly “owns the sheep” and we are all made by Him and for Him and He shed His blood to buy us back from sin and judgment so that we are His by Creation and His by redemption. (Colossians 1:15-20)
Jesus is different from most human leaders. Most leaders ask us to make sacrifices for them, but rarely do they make meaningful and difficult sacrifices for us. Human leaders enjoy the good life while the common people man the trenches and make the actual sacrifices. Jesus of course reverses this and is the first one to lose His life – and He does this “for the sheep”.
Self-sacrifice, not self-aggrandizement should be the chief characteristic of Christian spiritual leaders. It is wrong for a Christian leader to ask people to “dig deep” for a ministry while they themselves drive luxury cars. If the ministry really needs cash that badly the Mercedes should be sold first, and the sacrifice should come from the board members first of all.
The Good Shepherd does not sit at the head of the table gobbling up all the food while everyone else starves. Yet Christian ministries that massively over-pay their executive staff and grossly underpay (or not pay at all) their office staff and volunteers are doing precisely that! Jesus does not seek the abundant life for Himself – but for the sheep.
The Good Shepherd “knows the sheep by name”, that is He has a personal interest in each of them, from little lambs to old rams. There is infinite care in this, we are not just management statistics in a religious marketing campaign, the sheep are individuals with names and places, histories and relationships. This is not just a one-way relationship but a mutual knowing of each other: “I know those that are Mine, and I am known by those who are Mine.”
That fact the Jesus knows His sheep is not that surprising – but we know Him as well! Our consciences, automatically “recognize” Christ – in humane actions, in worship, in the Scriptures, in Creation and in other believers.
Jesus adds a cryptic comment about “other sheep” – that is non-Jewish Christians: “And I have other sheep who are not of this fold. I must also lead those, and they shall hear My voice, and there shall be one flock, one Shepherd.” The Church is universal, a global organic body of Christ. They are one flock – of many folds (denominations, localities, races etc) and have only one Chief Shepherd, Jesus Christ - therefore pastors and Christian workers are simply under-shepherds of this “invisible” Church. The two passages below illustrate this point:
Hebrews 13:20-21 MKJV Now may the God of peace (who brought again our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant) (21) make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well pleasing in His sight through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
1 Peter 5:1-4 MKJV I exhort the elders who are among you, I being also an elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed. (2) Feed the flock of God among you, taking the oversight, not by compulsion, but willingly; nor for base gain, but readily; (3) nor as lording it over those allotted to you by God, but becoming examples to the flock. (4) And when the Chief Shepherd shall appear, you shall receive a never-fading crown of glory.
Finally the Good Shepherd has great authority – including authority over life and death: “No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down from Myself. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it again. I have received this commandment from My Father.”
Jesus as God is indestructible apart from His own will. No one could take His life from him by force. And even if it is laid down it is not lost forever, he could take it up again. This is so contrary to common experience that it is mind-boggling. Jesus had an eternal and indestructible life force, the life of God Himself dwelling in Him bodily. (Colossians 2:9). The ISV correctly translates the Greek of Hebrews 7:16 when it says Jesus’ priesthood is on the basis of “an indestructible life”:
Hebrews 7:15-17 ISV This point is even more obvious in that another priest who is like Melchizedek has appeared (16) who was appointed to be a priest, not on the basis of a regulation concerning his ancestry, but rather on the basis of the power of an indestructible life. (17) For it is declared about him, "You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek."
So Jesus does not just give us abundant life (John 10:10) He gives us indestructible abundant life (John 10:18, Hebrews 7:16), and a peace the world cannot take away, even with persecution.
John 16:33 MKJV I have spoken these things to you so that you might have peace in Me. In the world you shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world.