By: Fr. Afrayem Elorshilmy
In the New Testament in John 10:1-18 Jesus Christ introduced Himself as The Good Shepherd “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers. This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them. Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it
down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.”
The figure of the shepherd and the sheep finds in Christian faith its most profound application in Christ as the Good Shepherd of all sheep. The shepherd and the sheep relationship between Christ and man is briefly but powerfully expressed in Mark , when Jesus “saw a great throng, and He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and He began to teach them many things.” In the parable of the ninety-nine sheep there was one sheep lost, and again the role of Christ as the Good Shepherd (Math. -14) (Luke 15:3-6) is to search for it. The curing of the man born blind was the event that led Jesus to mention the words on sheep and shepherding..
Christ is the shepherd who saves, sustains, and redeems the life of all that will come into His fold. “I am the door of the sheep. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.” “He who is not a shepherd sees the wolf and leaves the sheep and flees because he is a hireling.” (John 10:7-9)
“Jesus speaks polemically, comparing His care for the sheep with that of others who are called thieves, robbers and hirelings. His identification of Himself as the door of the sheep and the Good Shepherd are part of this polemic.”
Many questions are raised by the parable of the good shepherd. How can death be the action of the good shepherd? Who are the thieves and the robbers? Who are the hirelings? How is it that He shows the Father’s love for Him? How can this death lead other sheep that are not of this fold?
He is good while others are wicked. He describes the identity of the Good Shepherd based on the relationship He has with the Father. The parable plays on the use of the door in pastoral practice. There are two ways to enter a sheepfold, depending on whether one wishes to shepherd or to harm the sheep. When the sheep hear the shepherd’s voice they respond to it. Each sheep knows its familiar name and responds immediately to the voice of the one calling it by that name.
In this parable, Jesus addressed the Pharisees who could not hear His voice. They were unable to recognize what He was saying to them because they would not listen to what He was saying. The door of the sheep was the right access to the sheep, and Jesus presented Himself as that door. Only Jesus was the door of the sheep and only through Him can one have right access to the sheep. Jesus is the mediator who will provide what the sheep need for life. The thief comes only to steal, destroy and kill.
There is nothing life-giving about those who came before Jesus. Jesus came so that the sheep could have pasture, and a protected door by means of which the sheep are safe.
Jesus condemned the negative nature of the relationship between the hireling and the sheep. The Good Shepherd gives his life for his sheep, and the hireling is only interested in personal gain. The hirelings can not know the nature of the sheep and do not care if any harm happens to them. But Jesus is the Good Shepherd who knows His sheep, and His sheep know Him. The sharing of knowledge between Jesus and the sheep and between Jesus and the Father leads to the Good Shepherd who is ready to lay down His life for the sheep.
The Jews were astounded when Jesus said that there are other sheep that are not of this fold, that is to say
“If we want Christ to be our shepherd, we have first to be among His own sheep. The most important trait in the shepherd is that the sheep should love him and depend completely on him. The wolf catches the conceited sheep, the proud which trusts itself and sees itself stronger than the wolf.”
The Lord Jesus chose His disciples and taught them how to be good shepherds for His people. Jesus said to Peter: “Feed my lambs, take care of My sheep, feed my sheep.” (John 21:15, 16, 17). The apostles themselves became good shepherds and chose spiritual leaders and asked them to be good shepherds: “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers, as God wants you to be ! Not greedy for money but eager to serve, not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.” (1Petetr 5:2-4)
Shepherding is not an easy matter; it requires good preparation and good qualifications. God prepared Moses for forty years in the wilderness. He learnt from shepherding to be a good shepherd of
In every generation society needs both political and spiritual leaders. They should be chosen in a real democratic way. They should be honest to their mission.
“The service of the sheep is the proclamation of love, so those who refuse to be shepherds and have the virtues do not love God. Some escape from the responsibility as they feel they do not deserve it because of their modesty.” 1But when the responsibility is put upon them they have to submit to God’s order and leave disobedience.