Saturday 18 August 2012

The good pastor (John 10:11-18)

What are you looking for in a pastor?

A friend? A leader? Someone to be an example? A good preacher, perhaps? Or someone who says little but gets a lot done? Are you looking for assertiveness? Graciousness? Patience? Youth and potential? Or age and experience? Must he have the right credentials? Should he come from the right kind of background? Should he be Chinese? Should he be good with kids; respected by his peers; adored by the elderly? Can the pastor be a she? Does it matter? What about his family? Should the pastor be married? Should his kids be committed believers?

What are you and I - what are we as a church - looking for in a pastor? Now I must start off by saying that this question is secondary to today’s passage. It isn’t the main question. And yet, it is a question that many come to this passage with, and in a way, it is a question that helps us understand the context behind what Jesus is saying.

Jesus is dealing with expectations from the crowds, from his friends, from his critics. But as he does so, he compares himself to the expectations of the religious leaders of his day. “I am the good shepherd,” Jesus says in verse 11; and again in once verse 14. The latin word for shepherd is where we get the English word, pastor. “I am the good pastor.” That is what Jesus is saying. That is what the people around him would have heard Jesus say. “I am the good pastor.”

In doing so, Jesus builds upon the imagery and symbolism of the shepherd (or pastor) that was familiar to his hearers on two distinct levels. Firstly, sheep and shepherds were part of everyday life in first-century Israel. The way the shepherd called out to his sheep and they gathered around the sound of his voice (they did not use sheepdogs then). The way the sheep were kept in a secure area, fenced off to keep out the wolves and and robbers and thieves. Shepherding was hard work. It could even be dangerous work. It was always work carried out by men.

Secondly, shepherds were symbolic of leaders in the Old Testament. Moses was a shepherd. David was a shepherd. Arguably the two greatest leaders in their nation’s history learned responsibility, humility and courage first by being shepherds of sheep; not forgetting of course the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, who were all, at one time, shepherds of their own flocks. (Even so, shepherding was not the popular career choice. Remember how the Egyptians detested shepherds in Joseph’s day - Genesis 46:34). Such that when God addressed the leaders of Israel, again and again, we find God calling them shepherds. We see this in the writings of Ezekiel, Jeremiah and Zechariah, where the shepherd was God’s title of address for the leader, the prophet and the king. Israel was God’s flock, and they were placed under the care of religious leaders, prophets and kings who were to serve as shepherds over God’s flock.

So on the one hand, for Jesus to identify himself with a shepherd, what he was doing was associating himself with a position of lowliness, great responsibility and hard work. On the other hand, he was picking up a thread running right through the Old Testament connecting Jesus with the kings, the priests and the prophets entrusted by God to rule over Israel, to lead as shepherds over God’s flock.

It is rather unfortunate how our modern understanding of the church pastor builds on neither one of these imageries. Mention the word “pastor” today, and we immediately think of a counsellor; someone who offers us tea and biscuits and an encouraging word of advice when we’re feeling down. Seminaries run courses on “pastoral studies,” which have nothing to do with bible study or preaching, but instead, focus on counselling techniques, providing marital advice and comforting the bereaved. Don’t get me wrong. Counselling is important and it is a vital part of a pastor’s job. And yet, it simply isn’t what the bible means by pastoral ministry. It certainly wasn’t what Jesus was talking about when he called himself the good shepherd.

I want us to see three ways that Jesus fills out this image of the good shepherd; three markers of what it meant for Jesus to call himself the good shepherd.

1. The good shepherd is not the hired hand
2. The good shepherd knows his sheep and his sheep know him
3. The good shepherd receives the authority to lay down his life and to take it up again

1. The good shepherd is not the hired hand

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 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. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
John 10:11-13

The word for hired hand misthostos, comes from the Greek word misthos, which means salary or compensation. In other words, he is an employee; someone who is doing a job for the money he gets paid for doing that job. Now Jesus isn’t saying that the employee is bad at his job. Nowhere does Jesus imply that this guy is lazy or irresponsible. If anything, Jesus is telling us how unreasonable it would be to expect the employee to do something that isn’t part of his job description; to do something he isn’t paid to do.

Earlier on in the passage, Jesus talks about the bad guys - the thief or robber who climbs in the back door (verse 1) only to steal, to kill and to destroy (verse 10). It is important to see that those guys are different from this employee right here. Those guys are breaking in to steal the sheep. This guy is being paid to look after the sheep. He isn’t the shepherd, that’s true, but he is a guy hired to do a shepherd’s job. This is the kid you pay to watch the store on your day off. This is the temp you bring in for that big project your company is working on. While it is reasonable to expect this guy - the employee - to get his hours in, not to slack off at work, to get all his paperwork filed before clocking out each day; what is unreasonable, says Jesus, is to expect this guy to sacrifice his life and well-being as part of his job.

“When he sees the wolf coming,” Jesus says in verse 12, “he abandons the sheep and runs away.” Jesus tells us why in verse 13, “The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.”

In effect, Jesus is saying to us, “What do you expect? Of course, he is going to run!” What Jesus is doing is giving us - not a worst-case scenario - but a real-world best-case scenario. The guy who has to be paid a salary in order to do his job, to do the ministry of leading God’s people, can only be expected to do so much. There is a limit to what he will do. When trouble arises and he is forced to choose between himself and the church he is serving, between his life and the lives of those under his care, the employee will inevitably choose himself. Again, without a hint of condemnation on the part of the employee, Jesus is saying to us, “What do you expect of the hired hand? Of course this is going to happen! He is going to let you down.”

It is against the picture of this employee, this hired hand, that Jesus introduces himself as someone entirely different. He is a shepherd, yes, but more than that, he is a good shepherd. He is a good shepherd, yes, but more than that, he is the good shepherd. Not just another shepherd, but the Shepherd of shepherds. Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd.”

What does this mean? Jesus explains in verse 11, “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” In the face of real danger to the sheep and real risk to his own life, the good shepherd responds with real sacrifice. He lays down his life for the sheep. The Greek word huper can also mean “in place of” or “on behalf of”, meaning Jesus lays down his life in place of his sheep. The question is why?

If you remember the story of David and Goliath, it is set at a time when David is still a young man working as a shepherd looking after his dad’s sheep. Even so, David says his experience in protecting the sheep has taught him courage and trust in God in the face of his danger. He says this:

“Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth.”
1 Samuel 17:34-35

David the young shepherd rescues his sheep by risking his life to fight off the lion and the bear. Furthermore, he says “When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it.” In other words, David, acting as a good shepherd fights for the life of his sheep and fights for his own life.

Jesus, however, does something entirely different. The way in which Jesus rescues his sheep isn’t by risking his life, it is by giving up his life. He lays down his life. There is a fundamental difference between David, a good shepherd by all accounts, and Jesus, the good shepherd. In effect, what Jesus is doing is raising the bar of expectation, because If there were any shepherds there that day, frankly, they would have said to themselves, “This is crazy! I love my sheep. I understand that my work has its hazards. But sacrificing myself for sheep? What good would that do?” And if there were any there who knew their bibles - and there definitely were, as the context in Chapter 9 has Jesus directly addressing the Pharisees and religious leaders of his day - they would have picked up on the shepherd analogy in the Old Testament. Yet even they would have gone, “What kind of leader is Jesus comparing himself against? King David saved Israel by conquering his enemies, not by dying at the hands of his foes! That looks more like defeat than victory!”

To answer that question, we have to look at the sheep. So far, our attention has been focussed on the shepherd. We have been preoccupied with what Jesus can offer us as a shepherd, what makes him the good shepherd, what makes him stand out as the kind of shepherd we would want in our lives. But it is only when we understand how the bible portrays us as sheep that we begin to grasp how Jesus is the kind of shepherd we really need.

Sheep are stupid, smelly and rebellious creatures. Other animals - cats, dogs, rabbits, hamsters - are Einsteins compared to sheep. You can teach a dog to do tricks, not sheep. When your pet cat gets lost, it learns to survive (usually by eating out of the dumpster), not sheep. When sheep get lost either one of two things happen: they stay lost or they get eaten. They really can’t do anything for themselves. When a predator appears - like the wolf does in this story - the sheep are too slow to run away, they are too dull to find a place to hide, they certainly can’t fight back; so the one thing they can do is flock together, that is, they band together to form a ginormous cotton ball. And the wolf takes his pick of the juiciest, slowest sheep of the flock. Sheep are defenseless, witless and dull.

So when Jesus calls us his sheep, he’s not saying how cuddly and cute you are. He’s calling you dense. And when the bible refers to all of us as sheep, it is a way of describing the sinfulness and lostness of man. The prophet Isaiah says this:

We all, like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Isaiah 53:6

How does Jesus’ death save the lives of his sheep? By taking the God’s punishment on our behalf. “The LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” This is something the best of pastors can’t do for you. Your shepherd cannot take your punishment on your behalf. But the bible tells us that is precisely what Jesus did when he died in our place on the cross. The good shepherd laid down his life for the sheep, so that his sheep “may have life and have it to the full.” (John 10:10) He gives us eternal life by taking upon himself our sin, our punishment of death on the cross.

The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep. Which brings us to the next question: Just who are Jesus’ sheep?

2. The good shepherd knows his sheep, and his sheep know him

I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me - just as the Father knows me and I know the Father - and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.
John 10:14-16

The background to Jesus’ words here in Chapter 10 is a miracle that Jesus performed back in Chapter 9, when he healed a man blind from birth (John 9:1). In fact, if you look just a few verses on in Chapter 10, verse 21, the people around him are still debating about whether to believe Jesus’ words in light of the miraculous healing that had just taken place.

If you’ve ever sung the hymn, “Amazing Grace,” composed by former slave-trader John Newton, a line from that famous song echoes the words of the blind man, who says, “One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” (John 9:25) And by the end of the chapter, the man meets Jesus but doesn’t recognise him. Jesus says to him, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?
Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.”
He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshipped him.
Jesus said, “For judgement I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.”
John 10:36-39

Notice what Jesus says. He didn’t simply come to open the eyes of the blind. No, Jesus has come to bring judgement over this world, to cause blindness in those who claim to able to see. By that, Jesus didn’t mean physical blindness, of course. We know that because in the very next verse, the Pharisees immediately say to Jesus, “Are we also blind?” Listen to Jesus’ answer:

Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt, but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.”
John 10:41

The reason why the Pharisees don’t believe is not for lack of miracles. It is not for lack of evidence. It is not for lack of experience. Jesus says it all boils down to one reason alone: Spiritual blindness. The Pharisees were blind to their sin. “Now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.” They were blind to their need for forgiveness of sin. They were blind to their need for Jesus, the good shepherd who lays down his life for our sin.

All that follows here in Chapter 10 is a response to the Pharisees blindness; Jesus declaring himself as the door; Jesus saying, “I am the good shepherd” - is Jesus’ response to the Pharisees who are trying so desperately to disprove Jesus as nothing else but a fraud. And you would have thought that Jesus’ response to the Pharisees ought to have been, “Look at the miracle! Explain what just happened!” But he doesn’t. That’s quite remarkable. Everyone was going on about what a big deal the miracle was. What does Jesus do? He speaks. Jesus says to them, “I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep and my sheep know me.” Jesus speaks to them about himself. Jesus reveals who he is through his words and through his voice. Look down to verse 25.

The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.
John 10:25-27

Whether or not someone believes in Jesus has nothing to do with miracles. I mean, the miracles do testify to Jesus; they do point to him. But the miracles themselves don’t bring anyone to faith. No, what determines whether someone belongs to Jesus is not works but his words. “My sheep listen to my voice.”

Do you recognise his voice? The reason why Christians call the bible the Word of God is because God speaks to us through the pages of this book. The bible is God’s voice calling us to put our trust in Jesus Christ. When Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice,” he is saying more than that Christians need to pay attention during the sermon. We listen to Jesus because we want to know him better. We listen in order to obey him as our shepherd. We listen because he knows us better than anyone else, and each time we hear his voice, we know him better. In short, this is Jesus’ definition of a true Christian believer: someone who listens to him. It is that simple. Are you listening to Jesus, thinking hard about what he is saying, maybe even wrestling with his words in your mind, treasuring them in your heart? That is the sign that you belong to him. It is a sign that you love Jesus - that you love and treasure his word.

The way to see Jesus most clearly is by listening to his voice. That is tremendously good news for those who have never heard about Jesus before, who have never been to church, who are new to the bible because Jesus says to you in verse 16, “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.”

Who is Jesus talking about - these other sheep? People of different races? People of different religions? People from different social classes? Yes, absolutely yes and amen. I will come back to this in a just a moment - about who Jesus is talking about when he says there are other sheep he needs to bring into his flock, but in the first instance, I need to remind all of us here in the Chinese Church, that he is talking about you. Yes, you. Some of us have been here so long, we think we own the place. We know all the songs. We turn up for all the bible studies. We have stories about what it was like in the good old days. Every now and then, I need to remind us so-called old-timers that we are all outsiders. We didn’t start out belonging to Jesus. We came from a different culture, a different people, a different religion. Our ancestors worshipped different gods and idols, not Jesus.

The only reason things changed; the only reason why there can even be such a thing as a Chinese Church, is verse 16. “I have other sheep not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also.” Jesus looked at you and said, “I must bring him in. I must bring her in.” Do you hear what Jesus is saying? I must! And you heard his voice calling you - the voice of the good shepherd - and you responded by saying, “I must follow him.”

Listen to what Jesus was saying to the old-timers in his day. He looked straight at the Pharisees and religious teachers, the pastors and elders who had been running the church all their lives, and said to them, “I have other sheep. I must bring them in.” Can you imagine a day when the Chinese Church is filled with non-Chinese people? That’s what Jesus is saying. When you look at your Muslim friends, your Buddhist friends, your non-Christian atheist friends, do you say to yourself, “I must bring them in?” Do you see it as an obligation, not simply optional? Jesus does.

That’s why we keep the bible open. We want his voice to be heard. We want to his word to be proclaimed. We want Jesus ot build his church - his word calling rebels, sinners, outsiders into his presence and into his flock. It is not our programs and planning that does this, only Jesus’ voice heard in God’s word, the bible. It means amazing things will happen if we continue to preach the gospel here at the Chinese Church - people will come to know Jesus. Not necessarily the kind of the people we expect. Not the kind of people we might want or like. Sinful people. But for those who respond to Jesus, his people.

Jesus says, “There shall be one flock and one shepherd.” This is a direct reference to a prophecy found in the Old Testament recorded by the prophet Ezekiel (The whole of Ezekiel Chapter 34). There, God rebukes the shepherds of Israel who take advantage of the flock only to feed and clothe themselves, all the while neglecting their responsibility to care for the vulnerable. Because of this, God responds with judgement - he holds the shepherds accountable for their actions and removes their positions of responsibility - but God also responds with salvation - and this is pretty amazing, because God says that he himself will search for his lost sheep. God himself will be the shepherd of his people Israel. God says, “I myself will search for my sheep... I will rescue them... I will bring them out from the nations.... I will pasture them on the mountains... I myself will tend my sheep.... I will shepherd the flock with justice.” Do you hear what God is saying? He removes all other shepherds and he himself becomes the shepherd of his flock. God himself becomes senior pastor of his church.

Now Jesus comes along and says, “I am the good shepherd.” Throughout John’s gospel we find Jesus making seven of these bold statements about who he is and what he came to do. Each one begins the same way, “I am...I am...” Jesus says.

I am the bread of life (John 6:35)
I am the light of the world (John 8:12)
I am the gate (John 10:9)
I am the good shepherd (John 10:11)
I am the resurrection and the life (John 11:25)
I am the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6)
I am the vine (John 15:5)

Jesus begins in the same way each time (“I am”) to emphasise his exclusivity and intentionality (“I myself,” the same way God spoke in Ezekiel’s prophecy), but also, to give his hearers a glimpse into his divine identity. “I AM” was the personal name God revealed to Moses and to Israel (Exodus 3:14), and if you think the Jews didn’t get that, you only need to look at the end of John Chapter 8, to see how the crowds tried to stone Jesus because of what he said (John 8:58-59). Jesus was saying something quite radical. He was drawing on the promises which God made for hundreds and thousands of years to Israel, through his prophets and messengers, and saying that all of them pointed to him. Jesus had come as God himself - the great I AM - intervening into human history.

At the same time, Jesus is clear to distinguish himself from his Father. He says, “I know my sheep and my sheep know me - just as the Father knows me and I know the Father.” (John 10:14,15) Jesus’ relationship with us as his sheep is first and foremost, shaped by his intimate relationship with his Father. In that same passage from Ezekiel, we find these words spoken from God:

I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd.
Ezekiel 34:23

God himself will shepherd his flock. God himself will rescue his people. No one else. Yet in the same breath, God says he will place over his people, another shepherd - one shepherd. I wonder if you get how mind-blowing this statement is. God is transferring his full authority, his divine right, his kingly majesty to another individual, “My servant David.”

This brings us to our final point, which is the most important one of all. Here, we explore Jesus’ relationship with God the Father. It is a pity that many a bible study and sermon stop short of looking at this last point. I can understand why, though. The previous verses talk about us and Jesus. The previous verses talk about how Jesus is a good shepherd in relation to our needs and our fulfilments. But this final section is about Jesus and his Dad. In effect, he is saying to us, if we want to know who Jesus really is, we need to look that relationship first, because Jesus tells us, “This is the reason the Father loves me.”

3. The good shepherd receives authority to lay down his life, and to take it up again

The reason my Father loves is that I lay down my life - only to take it up again. 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.
John 10:17-18

Notice that the same phrase gets repeated again and again, “I lay down my life... I lay it down... I have authority to lay it down.” In fact, if you have been paying attention so far, each and every time Jesus identifies himself as the good shepherd, he immediately qualifies it by saying, “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep,” (verse 11) and, “I lay down my life for the sheep.” (verse 15) Above all, this is Jesus’ definition of the good shepherd: he lays down his life for the sheep.

What we have here is Jesus turning up the volume. “He lays down his life... the good shepherd lays down his life.” Each time, the people around him must have been thinking, “What does that mean... laying down his life?” Jesus tells us in this final section. It means this: Jesus has received authority from his Father and it is the authority to save through sacrifice.

We think of authority as something easily abused, and it is. We think authority means telling people what to do. The pastor has authority to decide on the programs for the Mid-Autumn festival, and we have to do it, no questions asked. The father has authority over the remote control, and the family has to watch Expendables on a Saturday evening. The boss has authority to cancel the employee’s Christmas holiday plans but take an extended break himself.

Jesus receives authority from God the Father, and it is the authority to lay down his own life. He dies on the cross. “This is the reason my Father loves me,” Jesus tells us, is “that I lay down my life - only to take it up again.” You could rightly translate that as, “in order to take it up again.” That is, the reason why Jesus lays down his life and sacrifices himself on the cross, is in order for him to be exalted, glorified and magnified when he is raised from the dead. In other words, God the Father said to his Son, “Here is my glory. Here is my authority. But the way that you are going to be glorified is through the cross. You will be rejected. You will be despised. You will die.” And Jesus receives that command and submits to that command (verse 18 - “This command I received from my Father,” - entole can also be translated commandment). He submits as a Son to his Father willingly, obediently, lovingly. “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord” (verse 18).

People have a hard time understanding this kind of relationship. It seems burdensome to have to submit to one another. It seems needless to have to sacrifice yourself for the sake of another. And if we’re honest, it sounds old-fashioned - Who does this anymore?

Husbands do this - “Love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Wives do this - “Submit yourselves to your husbands as you do to the Lord.” As Christians, we are all called to do this - to have our relationships with one another shaped by our relationship to Jesus, shaped by Jesus’ relationship with his Father. This is sacrificial headship mirrored by obedient submission - in husbands and wives, parents and children, church leaders and church members, Jesus and his flock, and even as we have seen in this passage, God the Father and God the Son.

Jesus receives authority to lay down his life. That is saying to those of us in authority - as husbands and fathers, as pastors and bible study leaders - what we have received is the call to die. It’s not the call to boss people around. It is the right and privilege to die to our own needs and to die for the sake of those under our care. That’s pastoral ministry - to lead authoritatively, lovingly and sacrificially. It means taking responsibility not passing the buck. It means putting the needs of others above your your own needs. It means bearing the consequences of the mistakes of your flock and your family, coming clean with your own, and turning to the cross again and again in repentance, faith and trust.

Yet at the same time, it is important for those of us who have been called into leadership to recognise that there is only one shepherd, there is only one flock. Jesus is the good shepherd who entrusts us with responsibility and leadership over his flock. The best thing you can do as a husband, a father, a leader, a Sunday School teacher, a friend in Christ - is to bring those under your care to him. Only his sacrifice brings forgiveness. Only his death brings new life.

The New Testament passage most turn to is 1 Peter Chapter 5, where Peter calls upon the elders in the church to “be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care.” (1 Peter 5:2) It is one of the key passages in the bible that connects the pastor as the elder. Peter is telling the elders to be “pastors” of God’s flock, in anticipation of the appearing of the “Chief Shepherd,” or if you like, the Senior Pastor, who is Jesus. All elders are called to be under-shepherds of the one true Shepherd, Jesus Christ.

But the passage I want to end with is a different one. It has no mention of elders or deacons, of husbands or dads, and yet has relevance to all these positions of leadership. The passage I want to look at is Hebrews Chapter 13. Hebrews 13 is very interesting, in that it makes repeated reference to what I think are the elders in this church, yet the author never once uses the term. Instead he uses the word hegoumenon, a very generic word for “leader”. He defines leaders as “those who spoke the word of God to you” (Hebrews 13:7) and as those who “keep watch over you (literally, over your souls/lives) as men who must give account” (Hebrews 13:17).

If you are a Christian leader, that’s your job description: Your job is to speak about Jesus and to call men and women to Jesus. That’s the Hebrews 13 definition for a leader. Whether you are an elder or deacon - or even if you don’t have any titles to your name, a Christian leader speaks the gospel and watches over the lives of those redeemed through the gospel. Of this Jesus will call you to account. Sunday School teachers, you will have to give an account for kids under your care. Fathers, for your family. Elders, for the church under your watch. Have you told them about Jesus? Are they living for Jesus? It’s not how many programs you ran this year. It’s not even how many turned up at that evangelistic concert. A Christian leader will be held accountable by Jesus for the gospel and for souls redeemed through the gospel. Have you told them about Jesus?

Near the end of the chapter, Hebrews has this to say:

May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with doing everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Hebrews 13:20-21

It is a prayer that reminds us who the real Shepherd is. The leaders are leaders, they are important, but only Jesus is the “great Shepherd of the sheep.” Even as he talks about greatness, notice how the emphasis falls on Jesus death - the blood of the eternal covenant, the death of Jesus from which he was raised - reminding us of his sacrifice as the good shepherd. We see the greatness and the goodness of the Shepherd most clearly on the cross where Jesus was glorified.

What are you looking for in a pastor? It’s not wrong to ask that question. That was the question God asked of his leaders, his pastors. He wanted them to be generous, to be righteous, to be submissive, loving shepherds over his flocks. Even God had expectations for his pastors. They are held accountable for the lives - for the souls, even - of those under their care.

But friends, do you know the true pastor? That is the real question. Is Jesus Christ the Senior Pastor in your church? Is he the shepherd of your soul? Could it be that the reason why some of us are so eager to connect with our pastor and then get frustrated when our needs are not met, get anxious when our phone calls aren’t answered, is because we have forgotten who the Senior Pastor is. We have forgotten what his voice sounds like. “My sheep hear my voice.” That’s how you know you belong to Jesus, if you hear his voice. That’s how you know you are loved in Jesus, if you listen to his word.

Shepherd of my soul I give you full control,
Wherever You may lead I will follow.
I have made the choice to listen for Your voice
Wherever You may lead I will go.

Be it in a quiet pasture or by a gentle stream,
The Shepherd of my soul is by my side.
Should I face a mighty mountain or a valley dark and deep,
The Shepherd of my soul will be my guide.

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