Avoiding an Improper Distinction in John 10

The point of John 10 is to contrast the Good Shepherd with the bad shepherds who were over his people Israel. (Note that the bad behavior of these false shepherds was illustrated in chapter 9.)

In thinking through this passage, the interpreter must avoid making a false distinction between the Good Shepherd and all human shepherds. The Lord raises up humans to shepherd his people in his absence much as the shepherds of the ANE in Jesus’ day would hire undershepherds. Peter talks about “undershepherds” (1 Peter 5) and the word “pastor” literally means “shepherd.” Paul told the Ephesian elders to “shephrd the flock of God (Acts 20:28).

The true pastors (shepherds) will live, serve, and care for the flock in the same manner that the Good Shepherd would. They will not always get it right because they, too, are fallen, but they will minister in the same pattern taught them by the Good Shepherd. The undershepherd acts on behalf of the shepherd, not in place of the shepherd. Indeed, the undershepherd is not trying to act in place of the shepherd. He simply tends the sheep until the shepherd arrives. If your church has a good undershepherd be grateful for him and let him point you to the Savior.

Once the interpreter puts that false distinction to rest, he or she can focus on the distinction here between the Good Shepherd, who gives his life for the sheep, and the false shepherds, who are only concerned about what they can get from the flock.


About Michael R. Jones

Pastor and PhD candidate writing on Paul's theology of suffering.
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