March 25, 2013
From the desk of Dr. A.J. Higgins
In It to Get Out from It
Hirelings, Thieves, and Robbers
John 10 is well known to us all. The chapter of the Good Shepherd is a delight to read and to meditate upon. It reveals the tenderness of the One Who “gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them in His bosom, and Who gently leads those with young.” But beyond the tender care of the Shepherd, we learn that He lays down His life for the sheep.
Against the background of the selfless and self-sacrificing Christ, we are told of three classes of people. They may not be three distinct classes and may allow of some overlap; but they are brought before us as a contrast to the Good or genuine Shepherd.
We are introduced first to the thief. He comes to take what is not his own. He will do it by “climbing up some other way.” He is interested in taking and getting. He wants to use the flock for his own gain and betterment. His work will leave them the poorer. Inherent in the word ‘thief’ is the idea of stealth, or secret work. It is from the Latin word which means to ‘crouch down’ or ‘to hide’.
The robber is similar to the thief in every way. But his actions are not quite so secretive. He takes by force, violence, or fear. Brazenly and openly, he takes what is not his to enrich himself. There is no thought for those he is impoverishing. Self is all that matters.
Finally, there is the hireling. No violence, no force, no subterfuge; he is simply doing a job. The details mean little. He puts in his time and gets his pay. An honest day’s work – but without heart or compassion.
Enter the Good Shepherd! How different! How lovely! The flock is His to begin with, and He came to enrich it, not impoverish it (John 10:10). The thief would kill and destroy; He would come to give His life for them. The robber would take by violence, but this Shepherd, the Good or genuine One, would endure the violence for us. He never harmed anyone, even those He dealt with in the Temple earlier (ch 2). His was not the benign nature of someone lacking power, but one in complete control of His omnipotence. Instead of a hireling, in it for what He could get back, He gave everything.
One of Satan’s accusations against Job was that he was in it for what he got back from God. That is the way he thinks. Satan cannot conceive of anyone being ‘in it’ for no other reason than to glorify God. But this Shepherd was not in it for what He got back; He was in it for what He could do for the Father, and what He could bring to us. Instead of taking He gave; instead of impoverishing, He enriched. Instead of destroying, He saved.
1. Link the thief, robber, and hireling with the men John 18, 19 (Barabbas, Judas, Pilate). What do you think it meant to the Lord Jesus when He stood before the nation and they chose Barabbas, a robber?
2. We are introduced in this chapter to the stranger, as well as to the thief, robber, and hireling. If the stranger has no knowledge of the sheep, the thief and robbers, no love for the sheep, and the hireling no genuine interest in the sheep, contrast the Lord Jesus with them all.