Shepherd or Hired Hand
John 5:11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. 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.
There was a radical difference between the good shepherd and the hired hand. The good shepherd loved his flock. The hired hand wanted to use the flock for his own benefit. The good shepherd was willing to lay down his life for the flock -- anything so that they might be saved. The hired hand ran from the flock and left them unprotected in the midst of danger for he had no vested interested in the survival of the flock, only in himself.
This text can be applied at three levels. The first is Jesus as the good shepherd and the other religious leaders as the hired hands. That was what Jesus was facing in his day. The religious leaders wanted to use the people to obtain power and wealth, but they certainly did not love the people, nor would they have given up their lives for them. But Jesus was the ultimate good shepherd. He came, knowing that he would have to sacrifice his life for the sheep, and this he was willing to do. As we celebrating his coming we realize that he was the ultimate good shepherd who has done all that he can to protect his flock.
At the second level ministers today are also seen as the shepherds of their flocks, or congregations. They will either be good shepherds, or hired hands. The good shepherd will learn to love their community and their people and will do just about anything for those people to be safe. Being safe means that we passionately preach the good news about Jesus Christ to them so that they will find eternal life. The hired hand is a maintainer. This is someone who works his/her shift and then heads home. There is no passion for the people within the congregation. More often than not there is frustration with the congregation and complaints about why they don't do more. Hey -- they are sheep! Sheep don't do things well without a shepherd who will lead them in the right direction and the best paths.
On an individual level we may choose to live our Christian lives as a good shepherd, or a hired hand. The good shepherd is a genuine follower of Jesus Christ and is filled with love and passion for the bridegroom. This love and passion overflows into their everyday life and reaches out to a lost a dying world for they have the compassion of the good shepherd. They see the world as an extension of Jesus' flock and realize that they are to participate together with him in reaching the lost ones. They leave the comfort of the 99 who are sitting in church, and they will go out after the one that is lost. Meanwhile the hired hand will show up from time to time at church on a Sunday and feel that they have "done their time." They have worked their shift at being a Christian. There is no overflow into their daily lives for when they are "off the clock" they can do whatever they please.
In just a few days we will celebrate the arrival of the Messiah. The Messiah came to change us at the very core, so that we could participate with him in his activity here on this earth as the good shepherd. The choice is up to us, either to participate with the good shepherd, or to live has hired hands. That decision has eternal consequences.
Lord, may I serve you, the Good Shepherd by participating with you in your mission to this world. Help me to flee from the temptation to ever simply be a hired hand. Amen.