“Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep… Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.”
It is pretty easy to picture Jesus as the Good Shepherd. We have all seen many beautiful and heart moving images of the Good Shepherd, Jesus cradling us as the lamb in His arms. This Good Shepherd Sunday we are asked to consider Jesus as the gate to the sheepfold.
Jesus as the gate to the sheepfold seems a little odd to us. If we come at it from the perspective of modern farming and ranching, we might see Jesus as a wooden gate or a metal fence gate. That seems – well – weird. We have to take a step back to Jesus’ time to recognize what He was really talking about.
In Jesus’ time, the gate to the sheepfold was a man. There would be a big stone pen with a man who stayed at its entrance guarding the sheep. The shepherds would lead their flocks in, and one would ensure their safety. When the time came the shepherds would return, the gate-man would allow them entry. They would call their sheep by name and they would follow the shepherds out to pasture. The gate-man would fend off robbers and carnivorous animals, protecting the sheep.
There are many allusions to shepherds and some even like to focus on those who are bad or indifferent shepherds. Let’s not do that. Our only focus should be on the Good Shepherd. Jesus is called that for a reason.
The reason He is called the Good Shepherd is because He is indeed Good. His shepherding is awesome. His voice is trustworthy. His words are music to us. He draws us to Himself. He leads us. He protects us. He has saved us. He suffered for us, fending off the power of sin and death to rob from us and to destroy us. He took up our defense at the cost of His flesh and blood; at the cost of His life. Finally, as the gate-man to heaven, He opened the door to everlasting life in the joy of the Kingdom – the promise made to each of us His faithful.
The people Peter and the eleven were speaking to were cut to the heart by the truth of Who Jesus is. They asked: “What are we to do, my brothers?” The answer is not fancy or complex, it is simple. Be baptized, enter in through Jesus, the gate-man. Enter through His death and burial so to rise to new life, life to the full, and live like you got it. “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” Live like you got it.