Lesson 11: Leadership ( John 10: 1-21)

Jesus the Good ShepherdIf John’s unique version of the Love Command is to do as he does (Love one another as I have loved you), then what seems to be a gospel explaining who Jesus is becomes a guide to what we should be doing. What some read as obnoxious egotism becomes radical challenge. John 10: 1-21

That means Jesus’ calling himself the Good Shepherd means far more than a Sunday School picture of his carrying a sheep on his shoulders. It, also, serves as a job description for Christian leaders. Well, for that matter, it is a job description for all leaders, something like what Jesus said in the other gospels about leaders serving their people.

If the Good Shepherd knows his sheep and the sheep their shepherd, they have to spend a lot of time together. If the sheep trust her voice, she has proven herself worthy of that respect. Surely, that means that the pastor and other leaders share their people’s lives, just as God shares ours in Jesus.

If the shepherd “opens the gate”, so his flock can go out to find what they need and come in to find safety, then our leaders should call us out of ourselves and homes, so we can live a full and satisfying life. And they should call us back to the safety of the Church when we are weak from living in a hostile world. What is often read as an exclusive claim for Jesus’ granting salvation is much more a promise of his supplying what we need in a hostile world. And he does this through his leaders who nourish us through words and sacrament, counseling and teaching, and especially by being present when we face danger.

Because the world is a dangerous place, the shepherd leads the flock acting as scout, skirmisher, and pioneer. Often she leads into uncharted new fields of food because, after all, meadows are quickly emptied by hungry sheep. This means the pastor must be on the forward edge of society, always prophetic, always innovative.

The passage comes to a climax when Jesus acknowledges the world is so dangerous for his people, his leaders must be willing to give their lives for their people. The Good Shepherd places herself between the sheep and the Wolf that is always out there. Certainly he is describing how we should hear his Passion story, not that Jesus dies for us as a substitute for a punishment we deserve, but rather as a loving act that protects us from evil and danger. So the true pastor is willing to sacrifice herself for her people.

Finally, the Good Shepherd Jesus promises to increase the size of the flock. So we should expect evangelism from our pastors. No more of this, “I serve the faithful even if they have become a smaller and smaller group.” What kind of self-righteousness nonsense is that? And how it flies against the logic of the covenant where God blesses us, so we bless others, until all nations are blessed.

Lest this does not ring true to your former understanding, consider that John ends his gospel by telling Peter if he truly loves him, he will care for his sheep. For him, this meant martyrdom.

So how does our current leadership do? Oops, I’m talking to leaders.

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3 Enlightened Replies

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  1. Fritz Foltz says:

    Myron reports I was not clear enough about the atonement theory comments in paragraph 6. I was trying to say John does not support the penal substitution theory first taught by Anselm in the 11th century and proclaimed in so much popular preaching. A crude take is that God’s Law must be fulfilled. Disobedience to it raises God’s Wrath that cannot be satisfied unless a price is paid for sin. On the Cross Jesus takes the punishment and pays the penalty we deserve. It does not take much thought to see this flies in the face of proclaiming God’s unconditional love. In fact, it subordinates God’s love to his law and leads to all the nonsense preached on television making Christianity simply a revelation of the laws of creation.

    The early theologians, such as John and Paul, presented the Cross as an act of God’s love without trying to explain it in some logically theological manner. John certainly still speaks of Jesus acting on our behalf , but it is a loving act such as a shepherd giving his life to save his sheep from the Wolf or a friend giving his life that his buddy can live. It follows John’s treatment of the Love Command that we love others as God loves us, providing relevant guidance rather than a belief statement that has nothing to do with the life we lead. And, of course, John is all about the Way of Life.

  2. Fritz Foltz says:

    Rita e-mailed the lesson reminded her of ‘the recent expression of Pope Francis that the shepherd should have the “smell of his sheep.”‘ as well as inspiring words spoken by theologians, such as Michael Morwood, that force us to see Jesus and his death in a new way. She characterized her teaching college students as her own ministry of “shepherding.”

  3. Fritz Foltz says:

    I, also , got a number of e-mails expressing sadness on hearing about Bob Nordvall’s death and appreciation for his willingness to share his insights in the past.

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