In this chapter Jesus compares himself to a good shepherd. While Jesus is the ultimate shepherd and “overseer of our souls,” as a pastoral shepherd myself I want to imitate his model of shepherding. This, of course, sets the bar quite high in several ways when it comes to my shepherding of his flock, the church. In verses 11-13 Jesus says that the good shepherd is willing to lay down his life to protect and preserve the sheep under his care. He does not abandon the sheep when he sees trouble coming, but stands in between his sheep and the looming trouble. The typical hired shepherd cares more about his own self-preservation than the protection of the sheep. It’s just a job to him and not a vocation through which he lays down his life, his rights.
To be honest, there have been several times when trouble has come against a church I was pastoring and I wanted to jump ship. I wanted to leave ministry or at least leave that group of sheep. There have been a few times during my first few years at SWC when I was tempted to quit my shepherding role not because God was calling me away but because there were problems I didn’t want to face with courage, commitment, and sacrifice. By the grace of God, I stuck it out and I’m so glad I did. Whenever I am tempted to make pastoral ministry more about me and my natural desire for comfort, convenience, and safety, I am hit in the face by Jesus’ challenging words- “the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (10:11). And, as you know, Jesus laid down his life, literally, for us sheep! The question that challenges me is, will I do the same for the sheep under my care?