John 10:11-18: The ‘beautiful’ shepherd.

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.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. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life – only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.’ NIV

There are, apparently, at least two words for ”good” in the Greek language. One means aesthetically good/pleasing to the eye. The other means morally good, and there is the idea of ”beautiful”. Jesus is the ”beautiful” shepherd, and this is the beauty of holiness.

The beauty of Jesus shines through in His leadership. Goodness is attractive, and there will be a winsome radiance about any leader who comes anywhere close to Christ-likeness. Robert Murray McCheyne said, ”It is not great talents God blesses, but great likeness to Jesus.” Here is something to aspire to. Our world seems to prize the C.E.O model of leadership. This has also affected (infected?) the church. Senior leaders in business tend to sit atop a hierarchical structure, and are far removed from most of the people in the organisation. I know I generalise, but I believe this is often the case. They probably don’t know many employees by name. But in the Bible, kings were called shepherds too. The ideal ‘rule’ (leadership style) is one of servanthood, care and concern. As a leader, I want to be teachable; to be able to learn anything that is good and true and helpful from all types of leaders. But I must not lose sight of the particular kind of leadership I am called to in Scripture. It is exemplified in Jesus, and we are to follow the pattern.

In the Old Testament God is shown to be the shepherd of Israel. This is one of several portraits of Him. When He came into this world, incarnated in Jesus, He declared, ”I am the good shepherd” (11). Biblical leadership must be seen through this lens. It’s what leaders in the church are called to. It entails the laying down of our lives for the sake of others (11, 15, 17, 18), and there is more than one way to die. It is Christ-centred and therefore cross-centred. It’s a self-sacrificing way of life.

It involves caring for others at cost to yourself (12, 13). You don’t put your own convenience or safety first. Someone described Jesus as ”the Man for others.” Every leader in Christ’s church is called to be a man or woman ”for others”;
It involves knowing people and being known (14,15) – being available and accessible;
It has a missionary heart/an evangelistic heartbeat (16). ”I must…” There is a sense of urgency and compulsion. Jesus was speaking here about His mission to bring in the Gentiles.

Paradoxically (and the Christian faith is full of paradoxes) this way of dying is the way to life (17, 18). It is as we lose our lives that we find them. Try it and you’ll prove it’s true!

PRAYER: Lord make me like you.