Good shepherd and Hired hands - job descriptions
Where is the job description then for the Good Shepherd?
Ezekiel 34 - Jesus takes the metaphor of good and bad shepherds from Ezekiel 34, (please read later or you can now if you like - just put me on pause) Here God speaks of the shepherds of Israel—that is the religious leaders—”who feed themselves!. Their motivation is not positive but greed and self serving. The question is “Shouldn’t the shepherds feed the sheep?” You eat the fat, and you clothe yourself with the wool, you kill the fatlings; but you don’t feed the sheep” (Ezekiel 34:2-3). It contrasts these bad shepherds with God, the true shepherd (Ezekiel 34:11-31). The passage concludes with God promising Israel, “You my sheep, the sheep of my pasture” (Ezekiel 34:31).
So in John 10:11-13. Aligns Himself with this description by saying -
11“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who doesn’t own the sheep, sees the wolf coming, leaves the sheep, and flees. The wolf snatches the sheep, and scatters them. 13The hired hand flees because he is a hired hand, and doesn’t care for the sheep.”
It’s not an accident that Jesus uses the term “I am (ego eimi) the good shepherd” in this encounter. Ego eimi is coded language that refers back to Moses’ encounter with God. On that occasion, when Moses asked God’s name, God replied, “You shall tell the children of Israel this: ‘I AM has sent me to you'. God uses this phrase, “I am,” over and over to refer to himself. In other words, ego eimi can be construed as God’s name. When Jesus applies ego eimi to himself, he identifies as “ I am “ himself with God—as God.
Also, the Old Testament uses shepherd as a metaphor for God (Genesis 48:15; 49:24; Psalm 23:1; 28:9; 80:1; Isaiah 40:11). So there would be no doubt that those who heard these words would know that Jesus was equating himself with God the “shepherd” with Himself.
And being a Good shepherd is defining the quality of the job done by the shepherd. This is an important difference in Jesus’ description of the Shepherd and work He does. The two words normally used for GOOD are, AGATHOS and KALOS. Agathos “simply describes the moral quality of a thing.”
Kalos (which is used in this verse), “means that a thing or a person” goes beyond good. It has a double meaning - more than power of goodness but also quality of character.
When people speak of a good doctor, they don’t just mean the technical abilities and knowledge of the Doctor. The level of training etc. Describing a doctor as good means more. We are thinking beyond the doctor’s medical skills to his/her kindness and compassion. The way they do their job. Any of us can be able, if not expert, in our work but we’re not always good or lovely at it.
The first item on this job description is that Jesus is not just a shepherd, not just a competent Shepherd, not just a technically able shepherd but a good shepherd. One who cares more for the quality of the job at hand but cares for the sheep. Not just able to do the job well but is of such a character that can be trusted. An embodiment of the character of God himself that comes only from the Holy Spirit and His fruit of love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
So to the next part of the job description “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (v. 11b). This brings to mind David, the shepherd boy who kills a lion and a bear in defence of his sheep (1 Samuel 17:35-36). Surely some shepherds lose their lives trying to protect their sheep from wild animals or thieves. Others lose their footing as they search for lost sheep at night, suffering injury or even death. Being a shepherd is not for the fainthearted.
I remember once watching the documentary about Aryton Senna the F1 driver who died at Imola GP in 1994, they interviewed numerous people from owners, engineers, friends, family and the press about the sport and Senna in particular. What struck me was the idea that F1 drivers have something different about the way they think. Some believe that they have something missing in their brains even. And it’s this, they don’t believe anything is going to happen to them. What they meant by that was, as the car speeds into a corner at stupidly fast speeds, normal human beings think “what ifs' ' what if the tyre bursts, what if my brakes fail, what if… and so they are unable to take the corners as a F1 driver would. It’s almost ignorance not courage that enables a F1 driver to keep the foot down when others would ease off. Normal Good Shepherds don’t plan to lay down their own lives, but rather to make their foe lay down his/her life. They protect the sheep but do not want to die in the process.
But Jesus goes beyond that. Goes beyond being a good shepherd. A good shepherd will risk his life to protect the sheep, but that is different from laying down one’s life. The shepherd who risks his life for the sheep does not expect to die, but expects to live. Occasionally, a shepherd will die in an encounter with animals or thieves, but most will not. People who engage in risky occupations typically believe that it will be someone else who is likely to die. Jesus lays down His life for the world as the good shepherd.