"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.” (John 10:11-13)

Jesus is making a clear comparison between the kind of commitment he, a loving servant and representative of the Supreme Being has towards his followers, versus a professional ecclesiastical priest or teacher.

"The hired hand" is specifically mentioned here in this verse because it reflects those Jewish temple priests - the pharisees and high priests - who were not teaching to others as a service to the Supreme Being. They were teaching as part of their professional positions. Jesus had criticized this aspect before as he spoke of these professional priests:
"They devour widows' houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. Such men will be punished most severely." (Luke 20:47)
How were they devouring widows' houses? Because the temple was collecting tithings from the households of men who passed away to pay the salaries of the priests. This illustrates how Jesus abhored the professional teachers of the temple.

Jesus' parable illustrates the lack of commitment these professional priests have towards their followers: "So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away." In other words, the professional teacher is not prepared to commit his life to God and therefore his followers.

A professional priest, pastor, minister, reverend, pope, bishop or cardinal is teaching in exchange for a salary. This is not loving service to God. Loving service to God is unconditional. Loving service to God is not done in exchange for a reward. Service in exchange for a salary is a business arrangement. It is not love.

Jesus, John the Baptist, Jesus' disciples, Moses, David, Solomon, Abraham, Job, Joshua, Noah and so many other loving servants of God were not professional priests. They took no salaries from their students. Some of them had positions in the government - such as king or other professional positions. But their service to God was not done in exchange for a salary.

This is because they had committed their lives to the Supreme Being. A person who commits their life to God will not take a salary for their service. And a person who collects a salary for their service has not committed their life to God.

The result of these professional teachers throughout much of Christianity's history - after Jesus' disciples through today - is that Jesus' words have been twisted into interpretations outside and beyond Jesus' real teachings.

For example, in this verse, many ecclesiastical (professional) sectarian teachers will focus upon Jesus' statement, "The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep." They focus upon Jesus' dying on the cross for our sins. Their teaching is that all we have to do is accept that Jesus died for our sins, and we will be "saved."

Yet this is not what Jesus taught.
“Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will come to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles? Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” (Matt. 7:21-23)
Jesus clearly indicates that even those who were supposedly "saving" others in Jesus' name, or proclaiming to be "saved" ("Lord, Lord") - the equivalent of proclaiming that Jesus died for our sins - Jesus calls them "evildoers!" He will tell them to get "away from me"!

So what is Jesus teaching then? Clearly, he states "but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." In other words, Jesus is teaching us to serve God. Not only that: Jesus is saying that serving God is the only true pathway back to the spiritual world.

Isn't that what doing someone's will is? If we are doing God's will, then we are serving God. Voluntary service to God is also loving service, because it is not done in exchange for a reward. This includes salaries for teaching and even salvation.

So Jesus was not teaching us to just accept that he died for our sins and then we're saved. He was trying to teach us to love God, and serve God. This is stated clearly in his "greatest" instruction:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment.” (Matt. 22:37-38)
But what about Jesus' dying on the cross? Didn't that mean anything? It surely did not mean that we now have the permission to do whatever selfish thing we want and then come in to church to get cleansed by Jesus' crucifixion ("bathing in the blood" as many ecclesiastical teachers put it).

Jesus was murdered because of his teachings. He allowed himself to be arrested because he stood up for his teachings, and was showing us how important his teachings are. They are so important (and the Supreme Being is so important to him) that he was ready to sacrifice his physical body for them. 

This means, in effect, that he was ready to make this sacrifice in order to get his message through to us. Ecclesiastical sectarian teachers are misconstruing Jesus' sacrifice. Jesus' sacrifice should make us serious about learning to love and serve the Supreme Being. It should show us that loving and serving God are more important than the life of our physical body. 

This is Jesus' message. And if we take it, Jesus will be our shepherd. If we ignore it, then Jesus will tell us, as he stated, "‘I never knew you. Away from me.'"


(For a more appropriate translation of Jesus' statement, see the Devotional Translation of the Gospel of John Chapter Ten - translated from the original Greek texts without ecclesiastical sectarian influence.)