“I AM THE GATE”
Doors and gates have always held a fascination for people – where do they lead? What is happening on the other side?
So, a small child will often be off and through a door or a gate and up the street in a flash – a gate or a door leads to a world of excitement and possibility.
Some doors are open and we wonder whether we should go through them. Other doors are locked and we wonder why – is it to protect us or is it hiding something very wonderful from us? And so, we talk about opening doors to opportunity – a new life, a new job, a new relationship, a new world. On the other hand there are doors we do not want to go through – hospital doors or dentist doors or the door to the examination hall.
And then there are gates that we really should leave well alone – when I was 18 months old I climbed over the gate at the bottom of the garden of my grandparents – I just had to see what was on the other side…and plummeted down the stone steps of the Welsh hillside home and ended up in hospital with my front teeth smashed up into my jaw!
Yes, gates and doors are significant entrances and barriers in life. And now we see, in our next “I AM” statement of Jesus – that He is very aware of this fact and wants to reveal to us another wonderful facet of His character and purpose in coming amongst us.
WHAT JESUS REVEALED TO US ABOUT HIMSELF
[Why not watch “The Visual Gospel of John” from 0:00 – 1:33:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E8e_fbpBfdU&list=PLCpgggEg1JgogOpSQ795yBb5486QRlVFH&index=10]
Jesus’ words as recorded in John 10: 1-14 are as follows:
‘Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 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. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognise a stranger’s voice.’ 6 Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.
7 Therefore Jesus said again, ‘Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.[a] They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
11 ‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own 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. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
14 ‘I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me
WHAT IS JESUS ACTUALLY SAYING TO US?
When Jesus claims to be “the gate for the sheep” (v. 7), He is really indicating that He is the door of the sheepfold. In ancient Palestine, Jewish shepherds brought their flocks back to the sheepfold for protection after a day of grazing. Predators such as wolves and other animals sought to eat the sheep, and they were particularly active at night. But they could not penetrate the sheepfold, which was a walled structure topped with briars to keep out those who wanted to destroy the sheep. It had but one entrance—its gate—and many shepherds would share the same sheepfold.
[At this point, ask the people what they see the two purposes of a gate to be]
A gate signifies:
- An entrance to
- A barrier to
- Entrance to:
- Eternal life – there is no other way than through Him to enter eternal life
- Safety and security for His flock right now – from all those who would try to harm us
John 10: 9 says: “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved” This word “saved” can mean either “saved” ie from death for eternal life, or it can mean “kept safe” ie now, from enemies.
- Barrier to:
- All those who would try to hurt His flock
- All those who would seek to find another way to come to eternal life – through their own works or other religions.
John 10: 1 says: “anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber”
JESUS IS THE “GATE” TO WHAT?
There are two ways in which the enclosed area that the gate gives access to is described:
- THE SHEEP PEN
“Pen” comes from the Old English “pennien” meaning to enclose, enfold, envelop or shut in.
I am indebted to Julie for showing me this one…Now, in many ways we don’t particularly like this concept of being “penned in”. Let’s face it – a “PENitentiary” is another name for a prison – it speaks of a place where a person is held – against their will. No! We want to be FREE – to go where we like, do what we like, be what we like. We want to be independent.
However…do we really??? My daughter loves dogs so much. She has three and she works them and races them. But, when they are at home, particularly at night or when they are left alone, she keeps them in dog pens. This is NOT cruel. In fact they love it! In fact, they wait by the gates of their pens to be let in. When they are tired and on their own they love the security of their pens. Left outside and untended they have attacked each other and have found chocolate that they devoured and almost killed themselves on – leading to vet bills of several thousand pounds!
A pen is NOT a bad thing. It is a good thing. It is a place of safety and security. However, it does speak of relinquishing control to another. Are you willing to do this? Are you willing to freely enter into Jesus’ sheep pen? Are you willing to allow Him to be in control of your life? Or are you wanting to do your “own-thing”, go your “own way”, insisting on doing it “my way”. Are you going to be “in-de-pen” or “independent”?
- THE SHEEPFOLD
I think that “sheep fold” is a much better description of what Jesus is the “gate” to. A “fold” speaks of that which “en-folds” you – like a warm, soft bath towel, wrapped around a small child when they are all nice and clean. This is what Jesus is offering – to come through Him (the “gate”) and into His place of total warmth and security where we can experience being “enfolded” in His loving arms. Your choice.
ANOTHER WAY OF UNDERSTANDING ENTERING “THROUGH” JESUS
John 10: 9 says: “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved”.
John 10: 11 says: “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” – now we understand this to be the death of Jesus for us, the sheep. But, it can be seen in a different way to: the shepherd would lay down across the entrance to the sheepfold and the sheep would then feel safe in passing over him and into the pen – they know it is safe to enter; they would not do this for a stranger – an enemy.
Jesus metaphorically called us to come “through” Him into the safety of His care now and His Kingdom for eternity. But, literally, through His death for us, He has become the One through whose body we cross into eternal life.
An amazing short film clip showing this can be found on the following site: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XvD0Rts53TE
WAYS WE BLOCK UP THE GATE OR BREAK DOWN THE WALLS OF THE SHEEPFOLD!
My dear friend, Alun, in speaking to the young people at Friday Youth Night warned them that Jesus is calling us to follow Him, “the Good Shepherd”, through Himself, “the Gate”, into safety now and security for eternity, but that we can ourselves block up the gate rather than enter it. A blocked gate stops us from entering. He also showed that we can ourselves break down the walls of the sheepfold that are there to protect us. How can we so foolishly do these things?
- BLOCK UP THE GATE
- Lack of faith in Jesus
- Too busy with life in the world to go through
- Distractions – other things are more interesting and exciting
- BREAK DOWN THE SHEEPFOLD:
- Say there are other ways to get eternal life – don’t have to go through Jesus but can put your trust in good works or other gods, or by saying that all can go in
- Believe things that are unbiblical
Do we truly realise the significance of blocking up the gate or breaking down the fold? Our safety now and our eternal security are thereby put in jeopardy! Let us ensure that we break down the barriers and re-build the walls!
When Jesus sees us as sheep, He sees those He loves and cares for.
When our enemy, the devil, sees us as sheep, he sees mint sauce! He sees those that he wants to devour!
Who are WE going to follow? Who are WE going to listen to? Are We going to enter over the laid down body of Jesus into His sheep pen or are we deceived into believing that we are best independent?