Good or Bad Shepherd?

Ezekiel 34 & John 10

Those who have followed the Bible Society’s Bible Course will be used to the idea of reading the bible with the questions What and Now What in their minds. ‘What,’ concentrates on what did it mean to the people at the time, and ‘Now What’, considers contemporary applications. When Jesus spoke about being the Good Shepherd John 10.14 and tells the story about the good and bad shepherds, the sheepfold, the door and the gatekeeper he did so in the full knowledge of Ezekiel’s prophesy in Ezekiel 34 applying it to the Jewish Leaders and himself. This passage comes after several accounts of the accusations and plots of Jewish Leaders to discredit and kill Jesus and their refusal to see the miracles that Jesus performed as well as his teaching as acts of God. Knowing Ezekiel’s prophesy helps us answer the question, what did Jesus’ teaching mean to the people who heard him at the time?

The Lord commanded Ezekiel to prophesy against the, ‘shepherds of Israel’, saying, ‘Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves! Should not the shepherds take care of the flock?’ Ezekiel 34.2 The shepherds were the country’s rulers. The rulers were accused of ruling for their own benefit and oppressing their own people and so the people without direction became aimless and uncared for. ‘My sheep wander over all the mountains and on every hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them.’ Ezekiel 34.6  The Lord therefore makes this promise. ‘I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock. I will remove them from tending the flock so that the shepherds can no longer feed themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths, and it will no longer be food for them’ … ‘I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep.’ Ezekiel 34.10-12 Ezekiel then expands on that basic theme in more detail.

Jesus was being very clear to the Jewish leaders and the crowds, saying I am the good shepherd and you Jewish Leaders, are the bad shepherds, the thieves and robbers who try to gain entry into the kingdom of God by devious routes, but there is only one way and that is through me. The evidence was before them and the question was could they see it? It caused consternation, misunderstanding, questioning and abuse. Eventually by the end of the chapter they were once again trying to stone Jesus.

Does it surprise us today if leaders lead for their own gain at the expense of the people they lead, even in the church? Does it surprise us if when Jesus’ teachings are spelt out they cause offence. Does it also surprise us if an accurate picture of Jesus is presented it may attract personal attack from religious and secular leaders?

Above All – Lenny LeBlanc

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