“Jesus said, ‘I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.
He will come in and go out, and find pasture.’” – John 10:9
Earlier this summer, I was down the hill visiting my wife’s family. My father-in-law, an avid hiker, asked if my wife and I would like to join him for an early morning hike. The three of us woke up bright and early and started our trek. But after only about 10 minutes, we hit an unexpected obstacle: A large, locked metal security gate blocked the trail. Normally a city employee would have unlocked the gate by this time, but obviously he was running late. What had started out as a pleasant outing came to an abrupt end, reminding us of a very important reality: Everyone needs an open gate.
In John 10, Jesus tries to explain this reality to the Pharisees. He had just healed a blind man in the temple courts, and as they tended to do, the Pharisees had a problem with this healing. When they confronted Jesus, he told them they were more blind than the man had been before his healing—because they were spiritually blind. Jesus then shifted to a familiar scene in
: a sheep pen. He said, “I
tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but
climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The man who enters by the
gate is the shepherd of his sheep” (John 10:1-2). Israel
You see, in Jesus’ day, most shepherds in
had small flocks, and it was common for small villages to have only one sheep
pen for the whole village. The pen was usually a wall of large rocks with only
one break, or gate, through which the shepherds would usher their sheep every
night. In the morning, each shepherd would come to the entrance of the sheep
pen and call his sheep by name. Although the flocks were intermingled overnight,
a sheep would only come out when it was called by its own shepherd. Israel
During the night, a watchman guarded the entrance to the pen, so an intruder would have to get past him … unless they scaled the wall. But since a sheep would answer only to the voice of its own shepherd, the only way for the thief to get the mutton out of the pen was to kill it, then throw it over the wall and harvest the victim’s remains for its meat or wool. As Jesus describes in verse 10, the thief came to steal, kill and destroy.
When Jesus depicted a scene where true shepherds lead their sheep, while bogus shepherds steal and kill other people’s sheep, he was clearly rebuking the Pharisees as bogus, fake pastors.
Theologians have debated what the sheep pen represents. Since the sheep enter and leave each day, it doesn’t seem to correspond to salvation or heaven, since we don’t commute back and forth from either of those. The best interpretation I’ve heard is that the sheep pen represents
. Just as the pen protects
the sheep within its walls, over the centuries God repeatedly protected and
preserved Israel ,
His people. This interpretation makes even more sense when we read what Jesus
says in verse 16: “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen…. They too
will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.”
Doesn’t that sound like God’s plan for welcoming Gentiles to the fold through
Jesus Christ? Israel
For us today, the sheep pen may represent our comfort zone. We need to venture out of it to graze and be nourished by God’s teaching, or eventually we’ll starve. But first, we all must listen to our good shepherd’s voice. Jesus tells the Pharisees, “I am the gate for the sheep…. Whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture” (vs. 7b-9).
By rejecting Jesus, the Pharisees were rejecting the only true gate—the only real door to salvation, freedom and green pastures. May we never be so foolish as to follow in their footsteps.
If you’ve been missing out on a relationship with God, if you’ve been feeling hungry for more satisfying spiritual food, or if you’ve been feeling trapped in whatever sheep pen you find yourself in--Jesus is the gate. Jesus is the doorway to the peace with God and the freedom and joy you’ve been missing.
Dane Davis is the Lead Pastor of First Christian Church in Victorville. For more information,
visit www.fccvv.com and join us for worship Sundays at 10 a.m.