I Am the Gate (John 10:1-10)

“Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.

Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them.I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (New International Version)

In an idyllic world, we would never have to contend with thieves and interlopers within the flock of God. But, as you well know, we live in a less than perfect world. The spiritual robber-baron is the one who poses as a religious figure, yet is really around to fleece the sheep.

Obviously, anyone who has to jump the fence, instead of entering through the gate, has something nefarious up their dastardly sleeve. In fact, these interlopers feel they have a right to get in, by any means, because of their inflated sense of self-importance.

Jesus, of course, is using metaphor and figure of speech to communicate something important: The thieves are robbing God’s honor for themselves and bringing harm to God’s people. By trying to take away the way, the truth, and the life, the religious leaders were spiritual burglars attempting to be both gate and gatekeeper.

In short, the religious leaders believed they were more important than Jesus; and they tried to keep Christ and the people from connecting with each other.

And that is the insidious form of all religious quackery – to keep people separated from what can help them the most so that the charlatan can soak up all the attention, authority, and accolades.

But a faithful and true shepherd enters through the gate with confidence and care. Such a person has no other agenda and no other concern than Jesus and what Christ has said, has done, and will do.

The pastoral ministers amongst us help lead the flock through the gate so that they might enjoy safety, security, and succulence. The shepherd calls people by name, and doesn’t generically yell at nameless folk, to bring them alongside the Good Shepherd.

Thus, we are to have a faithful concentration and commitment to Christ; a voice which is discernibly oriented toward pointing people’s attention to Christ; and a teaching and leadership which moves into the world in order to bring Christian speech and action that blesses the world.

One of the problems many persons experience is that they listen to strange voices, instead of the familiar voice of their trusted pastor and the voice of Scripture, reason, and history. They follow a pet preacher’s or person’s interpretation of everything without reservation, rather than seeking to hear the voice of God in everything which is said.

Big churches, large ministries, and eloquent people are not necessarily the vocal chords of God. We must be discerning and wise. Not everyone who says, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven. It’s only the person and the faith community which does the will of God that’s able to get in.

Wolves in sheep’s clothing exist. So, we must beware.

Idioms, figures of speech, and metaphors get lost on some folk. That’s what happened for Christ’s original hearers. A lot of head-scratching was happening because they couldn’t figure out what in the world Jesus was talking about. “They” are the people who interpret all of life through personal agendas and selfish means. Their self-absorption prevented them from seeing the person right in front of them, who he really was, and what he was actually saying to them.

I Am the Gate of the Sheepfold, by Kathrin Burleson

So, Jesus plainly told them that he himself is the gate of the sheep. “I am” the gate. Deliverance, reconciliation, freedom, and protection all come together in Christ to provide a good life, a life of abundance that is worth living. We have peace with God through the Lord Jesus.

In today’s Gospel lesson, we learn from Jesus the following:

  • The key to being a good shepherd is being faithful to Jesus Christ
  • The concerns of a good shepherd are to attract, bring in, protect, free, feed, and lead God’s people into a good life through Jesus Christ
  • The way for a good shepherd is to love the sheep, care for them, and be with them through thick and thin, as Christ does
  • The preoccupations of those who ignore entering through the gate, which is Jesus, are to gain for themselves what rightly belongs to God: glory, honor, praise, power, authority, accolades, and devotion.

Everything hinges on Jesus as the gate of life. In centering ourselves completely around Christ, and by giving up the false self of keeping up appearances to others, we find our true self, connected to God in which all our needs are fully met and satisfied.

Merciful Father, you gave your Son Jesus Christ to be the Good Shepherd. In his love for us, he laid down his life and rose again. Keep us always under his protection, and give us grace to follow in his steps, in the strength and enablement of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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