May the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, The Love of God and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.

John 10:11-18 (NASB) “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. {12} He who is a hireling, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, beholds the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep, and flees, and the wolf snatches them, and scatters them. {13} He flees because he is a hireling, and is not concerned about the sheep. {14} I am the good shepherd; and I know My own, and My own know Me, {15} even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. {16} And I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they shall hear My voice; and they shall become one flock with one shepherd. {17} For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. {18} No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.”

It is the Fourth Sunday of Easter and under the three year series of Bible readings, the Fourth Sunday of Easter is Good Shepherd Sunday. The only difference between the years is which part of Jesus’ Good Shepherd sermon is read for the church service. This year, we get the middle part– John 10:11-18.
In the middle part of Jesus’ sermon, He draws a contrast between Himself as the Good Shepherd and a hireling. In verse 12 Jesus says, “He who is a hireling, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, beholds the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep, and flees, and the wolf snatches them, and scatters them. {13} He flees because he is a hireling, and is not concerned about the sheep.”
The hireling is not like the Good Shepherd. He is the exact opposite of the Good Shepherd. The hireling is not unlike the thief and robber Jesus talked about in the first part of His Good Shepherd sermon where in verse 10 Jesus likened faithful religious leader to a “thief (who) comes only to steal and kill and destroy” as opposed to the Good Shepherd who “came that they (the sheep) may have life and have it abundantly.”
The English word to describe the “anti”- good shepherd is “hireling.” There’s some confusion over how that term is to applied in the New Testament Church. Some Christians and Christian denominations believe this passage prohibits professionally paid ministers. But the term hireling has nothing to do with pastors, church teachers and church workers, full or part-time. The Greek word used here is “misthotos,” which in the usage of the day had more to do with being a mercenary or a prostitute. These are people who are loyal to no one and no cause except making money for themselves.
Misthotos isn’t referring to somebody who receives support in their vocation as a faithful servant in the church or as an under-shepherd–pastor. Misthotos refers to a person who is nothing more than a wage earner. This is a person who simply punches the clock. They’re only in it for money. They care only about themselves and the amount of money they can put in their pockets.
Thus hirelings tend to tread carefully so as not to disrupt the flow of money from on pocket to another. They don’t make the hard choices. They don’t want to offend people. In regard to working in the church, these people usually don’t have an interested in the truth. They don’t preach the Law as given and intended. They don’t call sin, sin. They don’t hold firmly to doctrine and practice. After all being faithful to the Word of God and God-pleasing practice is usually bad for business. This is a misthotos– a hireling.
Martin Luther called these kinds of churchmen “belly servers.” St. Paul made reference to such men in Philippians 3:18-19. “For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.”
Now misthotos does not simply apply to pastors or others who draw some kind of benefit or salary from the congregation or church body. The term applies to anyone in the church, lay person or pastor who worries more about the budget, money, and bank accounts than they do about the members of the household of faith, the poor, the sick, the lonely, the hurting, the lost, and the like.
There are a lot of organizations that began with real compassion and a genuine concern for people suffering under some kind of specific kind of malady. But as time marched on, their governing boards began to act more like a bank, worrying about the balance sheet rather than the people they originally set out to serve. Given of choice of spending the money to advance the goal of meeting people’s needs and making sure the bank account remains full, they save the money, rather than the people.
The problem is all the worse in the church. Big churches find themselves in so deep they can’t, even if the pastor so desires return to the faithful practice of the faith once delivered by the saints. To do so would “cost” too much. “If the pastor and congregational leaders aren’t going to give me what I want, I’ll take my business elsewhere!” That’s misthotos too. It happens all the time.
And yet…the voice of the Good Shepherd still is heard and His sheep know His voice and follow Him. The Good Shepherd doesn’t abandon us because there are hirelings running around the sheep pen. The Good Shepherd loves us not our money. He stands and fights for us, not as a mercenary, but as the Shepherd. He feeds His word and Sacraments, even as the wolves and thieves and robbers and the hirelings do what’s in their natures to do.
Thus Jesus describes Himself as the “Good Shepherd.” And here again we need to look at another Greek word. Remember Jesus is contrasting the Good Shepherd with the hireling, the Good Shepherd with the thieves and robbers that sneak into the sheep pen to kill and destroy the flock.
There are a few New Testament Greek words that get translated into the English word “good.” One of those Greek words is ἀγαθός. Agathos carries with it the idea that one is good, that is competent, professional, and skilled. He or she is good at their craft. If this were the word Jesus used, then He would be saying that unlike the hireling, He is a competent, professional, and skilled shepherd. But a hireling can also be professional, skilled, and competent. Misthotos speaks to the motivation, to the reason why a person does what he does. The hireling does it for the money alone.
But the Greek word used by Jesus here, which also translates into the English word “good” is καλὸς. Kalos means good as in “noble, heroic, genuine, and excellent.” Jesus is not merely competent, professional, or skilled. When Jesus refers to Himself as the Good Shepherd, He means that He is the excellent, noble, genuine, and heroic shepherd.
Now the owners of the sheep wanted their hired men to be competent, professional, and skill sheep herders. When talking about hired hands and shepherds, the word agathos is the word that one would expect.
To describe a shepherd as kalos would be strange. It’s not the adjective one would expect when talking about one of the lowliest vocations of the day.
Shepherds in first century Israel were not raising flocks of beloved pets. They raised sheep so that they could make used of them. Sheep were primarily for wool, mutton, and sacrifices. They did not tend to and protect sheep because they loved the sheep. They were sheep herders and shepherds because it was their source of income. Not to mix metaphors, especially this kind of metaphor, but they raised sheep to bring home the bacon.
It was a hard and dangerous life, but they did it because they had families that needed food, clothing, and shelter. When a predator began stalking the flock, the shepherd’s concern for the sheep was based on the bottom line. He fought off the wolves because they were taking food off table and the clothes off their backs.
A sheep herder or hireling might get killed by predators, but that was not what they came to do. They do not do is willingly lay down his life for the sheep. The hireling and shepherds do not give up their flesh and blood so that the wolves can feed on their flesh rather than the sheep.
But Jesus described Himself as the “Good …that is the noble, heroic, genuine, excellent Shepherd. The good shepherd (who) lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11). The Good Shepherd Jesus Christ does not need anything from the sheep. He defends the sheep with His life simply because He loves the sheep. 1 John 3:16 “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us.”
Our Good Shepherd fought sin, death, and the devil. He did it in a most unusual way. First the heroic Good Shepherd became one of the sheep. That’s Christmas. The Son of God took on human flesh … the Good Shepherd laid in a manger wrapped in swaddling clothes. Though He was Lord of lords, He humble Himself and became a little lamb, under the Law. Then He grew to become the Lamb of God Who took away the sin of the world by His atoning sacrifice on the cross. He is both the sinless Lamb and the Good Shepherd. Just as He is Prophet, Priest, and King. One God–Man filling all the necessary offices. On the third day, He rose again.
There’s a hireling within all of us. Too often we worry more about money and material things, both in our personal lives and in our congregations. We set our minds on things below, not the things above. When it comes to the things of God, to the church, to our confession of Christ we are not kalos– noble, heroic, and excellent.
We are ignorant of God’s Word and right theology, when we ought to know. Philippians 1:9 – “this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ.”
We are silent when we ought to speak. Romans 10:8–“But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, 9 [a]that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”
We are motivated by self interest instead of love for our neighbors. ! corinthians 10:24 “Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor.”
None of these things is true of the Good Shepherd. When He laid down His life it was the defining moment for our Shepherd and for us. That is what makes Him better than any other shepherd. When Jesus said, “I am the Good Shepherd,” He was claiming to be the Shepherd of Psalm 23. He was claiming to the Lord God of Ezekiel 34 who came to seek the sheep of His pasture. When Jesus looked down upon the church of God, He did not see a way to make a living. He saw a way of dying and by doing so He gave His sheep an eternal pasture.
Pastors are called and expected to be faithful. Pastors are to feed, teaching, and protect the sheep. Christ created the office and appointed the men to fill the office so that they would literally shepherd the sheep of His pasture from this world and life to the next world and life. St. Paul speaking to the elders, the under-shepherds in the city of Ephesus instructed them saying (Acts 20:28) “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.”

Misthotos and Kalos

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