TEXT: John 10:11-18 (Own Translation)
11 I am the Shepherd the good one. The Shepherd the good one his self is laying down for the sheep.12 The one getting paid is not the Shepherd for the sheep are not his own. He sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees – and the wolf snatches them and they are scattered, 13 because he is the one getting paid and he does not care about the sheep. 14 I am the shepherd the good one, and I know my sheep and my sheep know me, 15 Just as the Father knows me and I know the Father, and my self I lay down for the sheep. 16 But also sheep I have that are not from this flock; it is necessary that to those ones I go and my voice they will hear, and there will become one shepherd, one flock. 17 On account of this the Father loves me because I lay down my self, so that again I receive it. 18 It is not taken from me, but I lay it down from myself, and I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This is the command I have received from my Father.
Sir Alan Stanford, the Houston financier has been accused of running an $8 billion Ponzi scheme by the securities and exchange commission. Of course while things were going well Stanford was happy to take credit for his firm’s success. But now he’s told the media that, and I quote, “I did not run the bank, I'm the chairman.”
Kenneth Lay, the former chairman of Enron, was indicted by a grand jury in July of 2004. Enron of course was the biggest bankruptcy in US history at that point and cost 20,000 employees their jobs and many people their life savings. Some investors lost millions and some even billions of dollars. Of course when confronted with these facts, Lay pled not guilty. He insisted that Enron's collapse was due to a conspiracy waged by short-sellers, rogue executives, and the news media. In short, it was not his fault.
Gen. Joseph Boyle served as the head of the Canadian military in 1996. He might well have served longer, but was forced to resign due to his involvement with the scandal of covering up documents relating to treatment of prisoners in Somalia. When asked to defend the cover-up, rather than taking responsibility, general Boyle came up with a rather novel defense. He suggested that since he was only giving orders, he couldn't be held responsible for what the soldiers under his command did while in the field.
I'm sure you have stories of your own, stories of people in positions of authority, positions of trust, abusing that trust, misusing it, and hanging the people looking up to them for direction out to dry. This is precisely the point that Jesus is making when he says that the hired hand cares nothing for the sheep.
The word "hired hand" literally means "the one getting paid." This is somebody who is not looking after the sheep because he loves the sheep. He’s looking after the sheep in order to make a living. Not necessarily making a quick buck, mind you. Not necessarily taking on the job because he has it in for the sheep. He takes on the job precisely because it is a job. It puts food on the table. It puts money in the bank. He's looking after the sheep for his sake, and perhaps even for his family's sake, but not for the sake of the sheep.
ILLUS: I'd like to switch gears for a moment and have us think about the giant oil companies that so many of us have learned to hate. I'm sure all of you have heard, and maybe even some of you have said, that it's simply obscene -- irresponsible even -- that companies like Exxon Mobil, Shell, and BP, should be making tens of billions of dollars off a commodity -- oil -- that all of us need. Maybe we don't say it as much now, but we were certainly saying it when gas was over four dollars a gallon. Surely no company should be allowed to make that much money! We say these things, because we've forgotten something very fundamental about these companies. The founders of Exxon, of Mobil, of Citgo, and all the rest, are not drilling, refining, distributing, and selling oil to benefit us. They are not doing it for our sake. They are doing it for the reason every business does what it does. They're doing it to make money. So long as we understand that, we will find it hard to begrudge them their profits. They're doing what they're doing because it's what they do.
So I do not think that Jesus’ point in his discussion about shepherds and sheep is to gather together a lynch mob to go out and get rid of the hired hands. Jesus does not have it in for people just doing their jobs, just trying to make a living. He is not suggesting that the one making money and doesn't care about the sheep is somehow evil. But what he is most definitely saying is that we should not for one moment expect that a hired hand has our best interests at heart. With very few exceptions, most people that start oil companies, retail stores, investment banks, and any other business or service you can think of, are not doing it for you. They are doing it for themselves. No matter what their ads might say.
So why are we so surprised that when the wolf comes, a hired hand heads for the hills and leaves the poor sheep to fend for themselves? Why are we so surprised when a company makes billions of dollars of profits when it has the opportunity to do so? Why are we so surprised that a CEO or chairman of a Board of Directors would lie to protect themselves and their family? Why are we so surprised when, backed into a corner, even a military leader will start justifying themselves and their actions, even if it means hurting the people who serve under them?
Good Shepherd Sunday, celebrated the fourth Sunday of Easter each year, could also be called "misplaced trust" Sunday. Rather than beating up on the poor hired hand, we should be taking an intense look at ourselves. In whom do we put our trust? Do we really expect that a mere human being, or a corporation, political party, or even a government made up of mere human beings, will take a bullet for us? Will lose their life savings and livelihood for us? Will risk life and limb in the jaws of a wolf to protect us?
Jesus says that he is the good Shepherd. By that he means that he tends the flock because he genuinely likes looking after sheep. Even if he wasn’t paid a red cent (which he wasn’t), he'd still want to be out there, leading the sheep to green pastures and beside still waters, restoring their souls, protecting them in the valley of the shadow of death, feeding them even while they're surrounded by their enemies. The hired hand does it for the money. The Shepherd does it out of love for the sheep. The question for us is: who will we trust?
ILLUS: Bryan Duncan, “Recognize a Lover from a Thief”
One's educated, one has been to school Who is the genius, who is the fool Well, it's hard to tell one from the other They both have all the answers.
One gives a promise and the other his word One is a teacher and the other is heard They're both calling your name, and the offer's the same But only one delivers.
There are those in this world who are hired hands. Do not expect them to be working for you, to drop everything to help you, to be willing to sacrifice their life for you. Then there is the son of God, who gives all that he is and has for you. There is his Father, who gives the one thing he has to give that he has not already given you, his only son. There is the Spirit, breathed out on all flesh, that we might all have life, and have it to the full, in Jesus’ Name.
Jesus is the Good Shepherd, who lays down his life for you. He didn’t come to earth to make money, to make a living, to look after “his own.” He wants all the sheep to come to him and be protected from the Big, Bad Wolf of the world, the devil, and our own sinful nature. He doesn’t want your money. He doesn’t want your servitude. He doesn’t want your “good deeds,” your “heart,” or your “life.” His Father has given him everything: what can you add to everything?
All Jesus wants is this: he wants you to know that he loves you. He wants you to know that he is not a hired hand, doing this for himself. He is the good Shepherd, who lays down his life for the sheep. He lays down his life for you.
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