Juxtaposition is a great word. The concept is used throughout scripture to expand the writer’s or speaker’s purpose. John writes of an interchange between Jesus and the Pharisees in John 8 and continuing into John 10. It begins with the declaration “I AM”. Jesus repeats the self declaration of God given to Moses in just another conversation with, the Creator of all things.
In Chapter 10, Jesus tells a story contrasting a good shepherd and a thief or robber. I am sure the Pharisees would have recognized the shepherd language from its origins in the Torah. The good shepherd has the interest of the sheep in mind. The thieve’s interest was self-motivated. Jesus could have talked about himself and his identity as the Good Shepherd. Or he could have talked about the Pharisees and their identity as robbers and thieves. He decided to bring up both and place them next to each other. This gives so much more meaning to the passage.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; John 10:10a
The thief is self motivated. His desire is for his own gain. The desire to not get caught and not get punished is less than the desire for the sheep and the food or money the sheep brings. Ezekiel 34 speaks about the un-shepherd. The leaders of Israel were supposed to look out for the flock. But these shepherds absorbed the flock like we would absorb food.
I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10b
Jesus is others motivated. His desire is for our gain. His desire for us is greater than the desires for safety or self. The beauty of this passage is that Jesus doesn’t just come so we may have life, but life to the full. This word means abundance or in excess. This means Jesus didn’t come to earth and die that we might live, but that we may have the best life. Quite the opposite of the un-shepherd.
This contrast is a clear divergence of internal motivations. I would hate to read this passage as an elder or pastor in a church. God’s desire is not that I am in a church or a leader, but his desire is that my motivation is rooted in God’s love. In a previous blog, I stated the opposite of love was obligation, but I was wrong. Obligation is self love. What I mean is that obligation is doing something because the result of leaving it undone was worse. For example, if I were to go to a job everyday that I hated it must be because not going to that job would be worse. Maybe I need the insurance or the money. The root of any obligation other than obligation motivated by love is self love. And the result of self love is every vice known to man. The Pharisee’s greed, jealousy, anger and pride are a result of their self love. Jesus’ humility, love and compassion are a result of God’s love.
The Brethren of the Feast is rooted in this motivation. Our churches, families and communities will never be the alternative cultures Jesus called us to without servant-leaders motivated by love. This means leading people and not absorbing them. In the Screwtape Letters C.S. Lewis writes from the perspective of a senior demon writing letters to his nephew as they try to trick and trap their prey. Below is a quote that I can’t improve by my writing. It is written too well.
To us a human is primarily food; our aim is the absorption of its will into ours, the increase of our own area of selfhood at its expense,” Wormwood says. “But the obedience which the Enemy demands of men is quite a different thing. One must face the fact that all the talk about His love for men, and His service being perfect freedom, is not (as one would gladly believe) mere propaganda, but an appalling truth. He really does want to fill the universe with a lot of loathsome little replicas of Himself –creatures whose life, on its miniature scale, will be qualitatively like His own, not because he has absorbed them but because their wills freely conform to His. We want cattle who can finally become food; He wants servants who can finally become sons. We want to suck in, He wants to give out. We are empty and would be filled; He is full and flows over. Our war aim is a world in which Our Father Below has drawn all other beings into himself; the Enemy wants a world full of beings united to Him, but still distinct.
Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis
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