11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and the sheep do not belong to him. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. (John 10)
These words of Christ as "The Good Shepherd" are motivated by the context in which he spoke these truths. The Pharisees in the Jerusalem synagogue proved to be bad shepherds, thinking only of maintaining arbitrary authority, without feeling the slightest compassion for the man born blind, nor joy and empathy for the restoration of his sight. However, the Lord lovingly recovers the sight of that poor blind man, who finally followed him out of the fold of Judaism, after the Jews expelled him from the Jewish religion (John 9:34).
“Of all the figures applied to God in the Old Testament, that of the 'Shepherd' is one of the most beautiful.”
I believe that this moving case illustrates what Jesus, as the good shepherd, was going to do with those genuine believers who professed that religion dead, reaping only apostasy and self-righteousness. The Lord's mission would be to lead them to good pasture under His loving care and direction. (Psalm 23)
Now, before this new scenario in which we find ourselves; a worldwide pandemic, covered not only in physical illness, but how great the need in the Church of the Lord for men invested with the person of Christ!, pastors who imitate the Good Shepherd Jesus Christ and feel that same compassion for the flock in great need of consolation in these tumultuous times. Without a doubt, our Bishops will have a great work before them in light of the recent changes in the world.
“Priests (Bishops) must also be merciful, compassionate to everyone; that they return to the straight path those who have gone astray, that they visit all the sick, without forgetting the widow, the orphan, the poor, but always thinking of doing good before God and men.” (Polycarp of Smyrna, Apostolic Father)
I notice that of all the figures applied to God in the Old Testament, that of the “Shepherd” is one of the most beautiful. Other figures can better illustrate his glory, majesty, and power, but none like the figure of a Shepherd denotes the tenderness and attentiveness of the Lord for his people, indispensable requirements of a Bishop.
In our passage, Jesus defines himself as the one who owns the sheep, "the Good Shepherd" whom they hear and follow. It is He that guides them to good pastures and who takes care of their enemies, even willing to give his life for them- (v.11) “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives his life to the sheep". Without a doubt, it is a very interesting role that speaks to us of ownership, care, protection, intimate knowledge, unlimited and sacrificial love.
Shepherd or Hired Hand?
When we call attention to the important work of a qualified Bishop we must consider the Lord's words: “The hired hand is not the shepherd, and the sheep do not belong to him. When he sees the wolf approaching, he abandons the sheep and runs away; then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. " (v12). Unfortunately, unlike the true pastor, the hired hand is distinguished by his lack of commitment. These "shepherds" are those who love the benefits and profit more than the craft, and who think only in terms of what they can gain, hence, when danger strikes, they flee and leave the flock unprotected.
In this matter we need discernment. Why do we say this? Because this kind of shepherd can even be "good" men, who occupy the pastorate as just another job that provides them with a salary with which to support their family and at the same time a respectable position within the community, but basically they are only interested in their own interest and safety. Hence, the Bible exhorts Priests and Bishops: 1 Peter 5: 2 “take care as shepherds of the flock of God that is in your charge, not out of obligation or out of ambitious gain, but eager to serve, as God wants.”
So, it may be that while everything is going well, they may be able to act as shepherds, and to a certain extent get the job done, but when they have to make some personal sacrifice in favor of the sheep, they will back down and abandon the flock. The following quote applies to this class of shepherds: "Avoid cunning and shrewdness. People will detect this, and they will have the impression that you are more interested in yourself and your intelligence than in the truth of God and their souls.” - Martyn Lloyd-Jones.
Sheep completely depend on the shepherd being competent, watching over, protecting and guiding them. It is well known that sheep have a natural inclination to go astray. This truth of nature serves very well to represent people, as the prophet Isaiah said: Isaiah 53: 6 "We all go astray like sheep, each one turned aside in his own way." The Lord Jesus Christ also used this same detail when he told the parable of the lost sheep (Luke 15: 1-7) The posture of the sheep is submission and dependence, which is why the Lord chose them on numerous occasions to illustrate what a true believer should be.
Pray for a Bishop who imitates the Good Shepherd
In the Old Testament, the prophets used the relationship of the shepherd with his sheep to describe the relationship of God with his people, as Isaiah 40:11 say: “Like a shepherd who takes care of his flock, he gathers the lambs in his arms; He carries them in his bosom, and carefully guides those who recently birthed."
The Father sent his Son to gather his sheep into a good fold. And in his own words, Jesus tells us: "I am the good shepherd." A shepherd cares for his flock minute by minute, strengthens the weak, heals the sick, bandages the broken and seeks those who have strayed and the lost. And that is why Jesus came to be the good Shepherd, the Shepherd who loves and protects and gives his life for them.
How much need we have for this type of Bishop guided by the Holy Spirit! Without question, we fervently pray that the Shepherd of the Shepherds will raise up for us a Bishop who delights in loving and serving the people of God. Throughout the history of the Church, God has used holy men despite their imperfections and defects; we do not want a perfect Bishop, because there is none, but we do pray to God for a Bishop who puts all his effort toward imitating the Good Shepherd.
Certainly, we can make the following words our own: "For you went astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer (bishop) of your souls." (1 Peter 2:25) What a blessing to be in the fold of the Lord.
Alexis González MatusPastor, Iglesia Anglicana Comunidad de Gracia
Alexis is an ADSW Postulant whose church is in Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico. He has been a reformed pastor for many years and has come to love Anglicanism. He used to write his own theological magazine and still writes prolifically. Alexis also leads a seminary in Xalapa, teaching classes online these days. You can find more of his writings here.