What makes Jesus, The Good Shepherd, good?

April 15, 2016

The Pastor's Page

GoodShepherd2Good vs. Bad.  The Fourth Sunday of Easter is Good Shepherd Sunday.  It is important to know the difference between a good and bad shepherd, and both Jesus in the Good Shepherd Discourse (Jn 10:1-21) and God through the prophet Ezekiel (Ez 34:1-10) highlight the differences.

Bad shepherds work for money.  Bad shepherds put in their time to get paid, but they really do not care about the sheep.  It is all about the money and not about the sheep.

Bad shepherds do not pay attention or listen.  Bad shepherds do not spend quality time with their sheep.  They do not learn the names of their sheep, nor do they get to know their individual problems or concerns, nor do they offer personalized help and advice.  Then, when it comes time to lead, the sheep do not listen or follow because there is no relationship or trust.

Bad shepherds put themselves ahead of their sheep.  Bad shepherds are more interested in their own pursuits than in the needs of their sheep.  In times of crisis when the sheep are under attack, whether it is from the outside, such as wild predatory animals or thieves, or from the inside, such as a corrupt or evil shepherd, a bad shepherd is not willing to sacrifice or suffer on behalf of the sheep, and instead of battling the evil threat, the bad shepherd sits by idly and does nothing, withdraws, resigns, or flees.

Bad shepherds take advantage of their sheep.  The sheep produce the wool; the bad shepherds wear fancy clothes.  The sheep produce mutton; the bad shepherds dine in elegance.  The goats produce milk; the bad shepherds drink fine wines.  The affluence of bad shepherds is at the expense of their own flock.

Bad shepherds are controlling and harsh.  Bad shepherds are authoritarian.  Their rule is top-down.  They do not take advice.  They are unconcerned about the input, opinions or feelings of others.  They are heavy-handed and mean-spirited.

Bad shepherds do not put in extra effort.  Every flock has sheep that need special care.  Some are weak, others are sick, and a few wander off.  Bad shepherds are unwilling to put in extra time or go the extra mile.  Sheep in distress are left to fend for themselves, and vulnerable and defenseless, their plight often goes from bad to worse, and bad shepherds do not care.

The Good Shepherd.  Jesus is good, and there are many factors that make him good.  His primary concern always is his sheep.  For Jesus, it is never about him, the money, a high lifestyle, an influential position, or power.  He has a special concern for each and every sheep, particularly those who are troubled.  He is present.  He listens.  He is strong, yet humble and gentle.  He upholds the truth, yet he is kind and compassionate.  He lived simply. He came to serve.  He emptied himself.  He was willing to suffer and lay down his life for his sheep.

Good Shepherd Ministry.  Parents are shepherds for their children, teachers for their students, coaches for their athletes, managers for their workers, civil officials for their citizens, and priests for their parishioners.  Anyone in a position of leadership should avoid the pitfalls of the bad shepherds and pattern themselves on Jesus, the Good Shepherd.

About Father Michael Van Sloun

Father Michael A. Van Sloun is the pastor of Saint Bartholomew of Wayzata, MN. Ministerial interests include weekly Bible study, articles on theological topics, religious photography, retreats on Cross spirituality, and pilgrimages to the Holy Land, Italy, Greece and Turkey.

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