‘I Am The Good Shepherd’

Dave Andrews

The people in the Middle East often refer to their leaders as ‘shepherds’ because, unlike Western shepherds, who go behind the sheep and drive them where they are supposed to go, Middle Eastern shepherds are supposed to go ahead of the sheep and lead the way to green pastures and still waters.

However, the people in Jesus’ day, much like the people in our day, were profoundly disillusioned with their leaders. Their protesters cried, ‘woe to you shepherds … who only take care of yourselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? You have ruled them harshly and brutally. You have not strengthened the weak or healed those who are ill or tended to the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost.’ (Eze.34:2-4) Sounds to me very much the same as criticism of our leaders we have today.

It is into this context Jesus comes, saying, ‘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. I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me. I have other sheep that are not of this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd…. I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.’

(John 10.10-16)

Jesus models leadership the disillusioned, disadvantaged and disenfranchised cry out for. Firstly, he humbly leads from the front. He doesn’t expect anyone to do what he isn’t prepared to do himself. He wouldn’t live in luxury while others live in the poverty of a New Start allowance. Secondly, he is prepared to put his own body on the line to protect his people. In Australia today he’d be there on the front line with the firefighters fighting the threat of fires. Thirdly, he is dedicated to developing meaningful mutual relationships with his people. Not just organizing photo opportunities with the public – but making time for them to get to know him and for him to get to know them personally. Moreover, he is very clear his understanding of ‘his people’ includes others, ‘outsiders’ who are not typically accepted by traditional religious ‘in groups’. He is radically committed to nurturing authentic unity in diversity. 

Fortunately for us in our community we have minister who exemplifies Jesus’ model of leadership. Alan Moore is the Rector of St Andrew’s, the church I attend. Though he is called the ‘rector’ or ‘ruler’, he says, he has been called ‘not to be served, but to serve’. And he practices what he preaches. He welcomes the most marginalized people in West End as his special guests. He is the first one to tend to the sick, even cleaning up their vomit on the floor. He is the last one to leave the church, after tidying up after everybody himself. And he creates the space for people with serious disabilities to experience ‘life in all its fullness’ by giving them the opportunity to fully express themselves.

This is the kind of leadership we need at a national and international level.


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