Thirty pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12-13)

How the temple valued Jesus’ leadership is no different to how they valued God’s leadership in the past.

Zechariah 11:12–13 (NIV)
12 I told them, “If you think it best, give me my pay; but if not, keep it.” So they paid me thirty pieces of silver.
13 And the Lord said to me, “Throw it to the potter” — the handsome price at which they valued me! So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them to the potter at the house of the Lord.

Thirty silver pieces? Isn’t that the price Judas got for Jesus? Is there a connection? We’ll need to see what this means in Zechariah first, to understand what Matthew 27:3-10 makes of it.

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Is God a good Shepherd if we have bad shepherds? (Zechariah 11)

Why are we living under leaders who fight each other (wars) and crush their people (injustice) if God is on the throne?

Open Zechariah 11.

The Lord will be king over the whole earth (Zechariah 14:9). That’s the theme of Zechariah 10–14, and what an astounding promise! This is the gospel Jesus proclaimed, the good news we believe.

But some find it hard to believe there’s a God taking care of us when there is so much injustice, so much evil in the world. Zechariah 11 faces that issue. God asks the prophet to role-play what our human shepherds do: acting out of self-interest rather for the justice of the eternal Shepherd.

We explained how the shepherd metaphor was used for gods and kings in the Ancient Near East. That makes it the perfect term for addressing the inconsistency between what the Shepherd wants versus what the shepherds are doing. All the wars of history — including the suffering of God’s people at the hands of the nations — it all arises from the disconnect between the Shepherd and the shepherds.

Continue reading “Is God a good Shepherd if we have bad shepherds? (Zechariah 11)”

Shepherds, good and bad (Zechariah 10)

Zechariah provides the background for understanding Jesus as our shepherd.

“The Lord is my Shepherd,” said King David. “I am the good shepherd,” said Jesus. Are there bad shepherds? What’s this shepherd imagery about?

Shepherd is a keyword in Zechariah 10–14, a passage Jesus and the Gospel writers kept alluding to. What was Zechariah saying about the shepherd? How does this help us understand Jesus?

The shepherd metaphor

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The shepherd’s heart (Matthew 18:12-14)

The Shepherd is less likely to blame the sheep than we are.

As established in the beginning, the kingdom of God consists of the whole earth under heaven’s management, with humans as God’s agents providing his care to the rest of creation.  How we care for the animals is therefore a great analogy for how God cares for us:

Matthew 18:12-14 (original translation, compare NIV)
12 What do you think? Say someone had a hundred sheep, and one was misled from the others. Wouldn’t he leave the ninety-nine on the hills, head off, and search for the misled one? 13 And if it can be found, I tell you truly that his joy over this one is greater than over the ninety-nine that were not misled. 14 None of those who gather around your Father in the heavens want any of these little ones to come to ruin.

This is God’s heart for the whole human family. Neither the Sovereign himself nor any of the angels who gather around his throne and read in his face how he feels when humans mistreat each other (18:10) want any of God’s children to come to harm.

Continue reading “The shepherd’s heart (Matthew 18:12-14)”

The good shepherd (John 10:1-18)

Jesus is the good shepherd? What does that mean?

Open John 9:40 – 10:18.

In our culture, religion is an optional religious experience for those who like that kind of thing. It’s good clean fun, time with friends, decent music, more inspiring than Ted Talks. Australia views church as a recreational activity, a time of being refreshed after the work and political struggles of the week, a bit like binging on Netflix except you have to dress up and go out.

So when we read Jesus talking about the kingdom of God, we can’t make any sense of it. We copy the Psalms and sing, “God reigns,” but we don’t think of ourselves as a kingdom.

Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11), but we don’t understand what that meant to Israel. A shepherd was a ruler, one who led the herd. In Jesus’ day, the Sanhedrin had that responsibility. So if he claimed to be the good shepherd, what was he implying about Israel’s other shepherds? Continue reading “The good shepherd (John 10:1-18)”

How the Shepherd gathers his sheep (Matthew 10:5-8)

Our Shepherd empowers us to care for his people.

Open Matthew 10:5-8.

“Sheep without a shepherd” — it’s a disturbing image for a ruler who cares for his people (9:36). One man cannot round up the scattered sheep (9:37-38), so Jesus commissions twelve undershepherds (10:1-4), sending them to the lost sheep to announce his kingship (10:5-8).

Continue reading “How the Shepherd gathers his sheep (Matthew 10:5-8)”

“Shepherds After My Own Heart”

What does it mean to be a leader in God’s kingdom? God desires “Shepherds After My Own Heart.”

The best study on Christian leadership I’ve ever read is Timothy Laniak’s book, Shepherds after My Own Heart: Pastoral Traditions and Leadership in the Bible (IVP, 2006). Where many leadership books derive principles from business or bureaucratic settings, Laniak derives his from the heart of God, as expressed in the Biblical narrative. Continue reading ““Shepherds After My Own Heart””

Jesus our shepherd (Matthew 9:35-38)

We have a shepherd, so you have a place to belong.

Open Matthew 9:35-38.

Matthew 9:36 (my translation)
Seeing the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and thrown down like sheep with no shepherd.

What do we mean when we call Jesus our shepherd? Do you imagine yourself as a fuzzy little lamb being stroked by the shepherd? If so, you’ve missed the powerful metaphor.

For Israel, shepherd was a metaphor for a ruler, a leader of the nation. Occasionally a priest or prophet could be called a shepherd, but it was usually the king. David literally was a shepherd until God chose him to shepherd Israel: “You will shepherd my people Israel, and you will become their ruler” (2 Samuel 5:2).

Sheep without a shepherd is therefore a picture of a nation that’s lost its ruler. As Moses reached the end of his life, he asked God to appoint a successor “so the Lord’s people will not be like sheep without a shepherd” (Numbers 27:17). When the prophet Micaiah saw a vision of Ahab dying in battle, he said, “I saw all Israel scattered on the hills like sheep without a shepherd” (1 Kings 22:17).

The last king of Judah was Zedekiah. The Babylonian invaders slaughtered his sons in front of him and then gouged out his eyes. From that moment in 586 BC, Israel had been sheep without a shepherd.

Among the scattered sheep in exile, Ezekiel explained that God had to remove the bad kings; yet he also promised that God would raise up a son of David to rule over them again: Continue reading “Jesus our shepherd (Matthew 9:35-38)”

Voice of an under-shepherd (Psalm 23)

You have people in your care? See yourself as an under-shepherd.

Open Psalm 23.

If you like mysteries, how about the clue above verse 1 in Psalm 23? The compilers who arranged the Psalms after the exile added some clues about how the Psalm was used or understood. Some of these headings are musical instructions. Some provide a historical setting. Almost half the Psalms are labelled “Of David.” What does that mean?

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