As I was working through Mark 14 for my sermon series, I came across the place where Jesus tells His disciples they will all be offended because of Him that night (14:27). He says this reality is in fulfillment of Zechariah's prophecy (13:7), "I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered." It occurred to me that there is a principle in this prophecy that we have probably all seen play out in various situations. Protecting ourselves and our ministries through prayer can help us guard against this principle playing out in our lives. Jesus was fulfilling Scripture of course, but no such prophecy exists for you and me. So, it serves us well to guard against this principle. How can we do that?
Probably all of us can think of at least one pastor-shepherd who was struck, and the sheep were scattered. Our minds all run to examples of moral failure. It is a very safe assumption to say that Satan targets pastors with temptations, because the fall of an influencer creates more ripples than the fall of random person #673 who is not an influencer. Pastors do not have to be looking to become a moral failure to fall. The trap stays set 24/7. Burnout is another method. The pastor becomes weary in well doing. He doesn't find time to rest, to exercise, to eat responsibly, to be intimate with his spouse, to invest in the lives of his kids. He is married to the job. It's not always his fault (completely). He can feel that his ability to put food on the table hinges on the success or failure of this weekend, or this effort, or this vision. He can see the burnout coming. He cannot talk with anyone about his loneliness, his discouragement, his outright depression. The shepherd gets struck, and the sheep scatter. Mutiny is another example. Somehow, some way, the sheep turn against the pastor. I've heard eyewitness testimony of a pastor threatened at knife point while standing in his pulpit. In essence: "Resign, or we will slit your throat." Doctrine was not the issue, nor was moral failure. It was just an issue of fit that almost cost the man his life. I've heard testimony of a pastor's wife who received a dead rat shipment, a pastor whose tires were slashed after prayer meeting by an enemy in the congregation. As a youngster, I myself heard a man say out loud in the aisle at church that if the pastor who had recently been forced to resign showed up to read his letter and say goodbye, that he would personally shoot him. (Still want to be a pastor?) It's an age-old trick, and it works so well. Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will scatter. Pastor, you can easily see why Satan would want to strike you. Now that you are aware of this, what does that mean for you?
1. Jesus has prayed for you. Jesus told Peter once, "Satan has desired to have you, but I have prayed for you." Jesus is making intercession for you now. Though you may be surrounded by an army that you can see, hear, and feel, surrounding them is the host of the LORD God. As you stay tender and faithful toward the one who called you, you will have His support. And even if you fail Him, His love for you will never change. (Keep reading Mark 14)
2. I will pray for you. Contact me. I'm glad to pray with you for protection from the evil one.
3. Build an army of prayer warriors for you.
4. Never put your protection on auto-pilot. You are always vulnerable - even you as the pastor. Take heed lest you fall. Stay vigilant 24/7.
5. As you disciple the sheep, plant their faith in the Lord Jesus, and they will be less likely to scatter, if something should happen to you.
What are some things you think are helpful in guarding against the shepherd being struck so that the sheep scatter?
Pastor Billy Shaw is a full-time pastor, husband, and father with a passion for helping other pastors.