The thief and the shepherd

I have made a point of reading through the entire book of John recently. I tend to jump around in my bible reading and don’t often read chronologically. Anyhow, it was interesting to see it in context, and reading it as though the chapters weren’t there…they were added later on and the original books weren’t broken up in that way.

I came to the story of the man whose eyes were healed when Jesus put mud on them and the ensuing hullabaloo by the pharisees who were upset because he had healed the man on the Sabbath day.  They got so upset with the man’s testimony and defense of Jesus that they asked: “What, are you trying to teach us?”, and threw him out of the synagogue. Jesus went after the outcast man (don’t you just love that about him?), and revealed himself to him as the Son of God. This led to a discussion between Jesus and the pharisees where he told them that they pride themselves so much in being able to ‘see’ yet they are really blind. They cling to their know-it-all traditions, rejecting Him in the process, and they remain stuck in their sins because of it.

He goes straight from saying that, to saying:

John 10:1 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.

Jesus goes on to say that He is the door.

The preceding chapter puts this verse in a whole new context for me. Jesus was talking to the pharisees when he said this!  So, what is he saying?

I understand it to be that Jesus is telling them that they aren’t true shepherds, they rob the people of God because they are climbing up to get into the sheepfold some other way. Note the words ‘climbing up’…they bring to my mind another expression we have in the English language…’climbing up the corporate ladder’. It makes me think of people whose motivation is to be seen and honored, to gain fancy titles, wordly riches and the praise of men.

Jesus says that he is the door… this means that anyone who wants to be a minister to God’s people can only enter into the sheepfold the right way…the way of Jesus. You can’t try to attain to it through your great understanding of the scriptures (like the pharisees did), or your own effort and good works. If you do, it will be a man-made, ineffectual ministry that really only ‘steals, kills, and destroys’ the people you are supposedly ‘ministering’ to. (How many times have we read the verse about the thief coming to steal, kill and destroy, and assumed that Jesus was talking about the devil? But he was talking about the pharisees!) It robs and destroys people because only Jesus can give the life and liberty that is needed in the church…man’s effort, however noble, just cannot do it.

What is the way of Jesus? How do you enter through this door? I think it is this:

Luk 9:23 And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.

The way of Jesus is to die to yourself. I really think that only people who are really dead to themselves can truly minister to God’s people. Their ministry is untainted by self-interest, self-absorption …self of any kind! And therefore the Spirit of God is free to move unhindered by human, fleshly endeavours.

A little bit further on in the passage Jesus talks about the ‘hireling’ who abandons the sheep when the going gets tough, because of his motivation for being there. A hireling is in the fold because of what he can get out of it for himself…it could be the accolades of men, or the honor bestowed on him, or something as small as a selfish need to be ‘needed’ so that he can feel he is somebody of worth in this world.

Sadly, I think many people in the ministry today, are motivated by those things deep, deep down in their hearts. They are simply not secure enough in who they are in Jesus not to be.

Jesus, however, is a true picture of what a true shepherd looks like: He is there because he loves the sheep. He loves them so much that he will lay down his life for them!

In this day and age, people are so disillusioned with church and leaders in the church in particular. They have seen far too many ‘hirelings’ posing as true shepherds and have come to expect it as the status quo. They have seen hirelings ‘steal, kill, and destroy’ God’s people and they are ready to throw out the notion of leadership in the church and opt for a leaderless model of church instead.

This is my experience: I have a true shepherd. My pastor is a precious, humble man of God who does lay down his life for his sheep. (He’s very human too but that is for another post!) I believe that my pastor has something of great value to impart to me, his awesome knowledge of the scriptures, his years of experience in the ministry, the great reservoir of spiritual gifts that flows from him. I would be a fool to walk away from that and to say that there is no more need for leaders in the church. I would lose out big time! There is so much to be gleaned from men and women of God who have walked the path ahead of us.

It is sad that so many of my friends haven’t had an example like that in their church experience. It makes me want to follow in my pastor’s footsteps and become like him! I want to have the kind of relationship with Jesus that leaves me passionately in love with him and broken, humble, and dead to my own agenda. So that when hubby and I are in the ministry, people will see Jesus and not us.

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2 responses to “The thief and the shepherd

  1. 😀 Well, I am not quite dead yet. 😀

  2. and you thought you weren’t ready . . .

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