Scripture Reading: John 10:1-8
The Pharisees are divided. In the preceding chapter, a man born blind receives his sight and the Pharisees just don’t know what to make of it. Some are “blind” themselves – ignoring the miracle and focusing on the fact that it unlawfully took place on the Sabbath. Others doubt the man’s claim that he was blind from birth. Still others do not find Jesus as credible as Moses or other historical leaders they revere.
The one thing the Pharisees do agree on is that the once-blind man should be thrown out of the synagogue for his stubborn faith in Jesus. So Jesus goes to find the man and, in doing so, confronts the Pharisees. It is right after this encounter that John records how Jesus uses the metaphor of shepherd and sheep.
The contrast is obvious between Jesus, the Good Shepherd, and the Pharisees, who are like thieves and robbers. Jesus leads His sheep by the “still waters” and “green pastures” while the Pharisees do not even enter the pen by the gate and abandon the sheep at the first sign of danger.
The metaphor goes even further, however. The Good Shepherd does not just lead the sheep, He has been entrusted with them. This parable is critical of the leadership of the Pharisees, but there is also an interesting and subtle connection to stewardship. The shepherd has a relationship with the sheep. There is a dynamic of care, not ownership. Their care and management are his primary concern.
Under the shepherd, the sheep experience a sheep-like shalom – the safety of being under the care of the shepherd where the dangers in the world around them are carefully navigated. The shepherd must confront all that would threaten the sheep – like “thieves and robbers” such as the Pharisees who were not stewardly with the spiritual gifts and legacy of leadership they had received.
Much like the shepherd, we, as stewards, care for what we have been entrusted with, confront all that threatens to waste or destroy, and manage responsibly what God has created. And we have been entrusted with much – relationships, time, wealth, God’s Creation, gifts of both ability and spiritual blessings.
Unlike the Good Shepherd, however, we are guilty of waste, the unjust use of resources, a lack of care. We do not lead as we should. Sometimes we act more like the thieves and robbers. But, praise God, there is grace for the undershepherd.
Deacons, you are shepherds of the people of God, along with the priests – leaders who will model the care that the shepherd extends to the sheep. Together, we are all called to expose spiritual dangers, such as those of excess and waste. We must show what the restoration of a just relationship with all creation might look like – how to live as caretakers, how to bring glimpses of shalom.
Deacons, you are called to model stewardship in your relationship with the good things God has entrusted to us. Of course this includes how you use people’s offerings, but it extends beyond that to your time, your gifts and your life – style.
But don’t be discouraged! Never neglect to look to the Good Shepherd. Jesus walks with you, extends His grace, and guides you as the perfect pattern of leadership and stewardly living.