I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.
As I continue the theme of doors, I began to think of how gates are like doors too. In fact, different versions of the Bible translate the passage above as either door or gate. It is interchangeable. But I do have a slightly different vision in my mind when I think of a gate. Growing up on a small ranch we had gates that had to be opened to go in and out of the pastures where the cattle were. It was not a good thing to hear Dad ask (in a not-so-happy voice) “Who left the gate open?” And next, “The cows are out again. I need you all to come help get them back in!”
I also think of the neighbors down the road who had sheep. I loved going in the evening to the pasture where the sheep had been grazing. With the help of their sheep dog, my friends and I would round the sheep up and herd them across the road and through the open gate to the barnyard, where they would be safe for the night. I often thought, “If only those cows would be this easy!”
One of my best memories of a gate is the one that opened into my grandmothers back yard, filled with beautiful flowers. I would open the gate and my heart would feel a little happier as I went through, saw the loveliness of her well-kept yard and knew I would be entering the back door that led into her home which offered warm hospitality, love, and always good food, with smells that made my mouth water.
I believe that one of the most beautiful, yet powerful images we have of Jesus is of the good shepherd. In John 10, we read where Jesus calls himself both the sheep gate and the one who opens the gate for the sheep. That one is the shepherd of the sheep who know him, trust him, and who come to him when they hear his voice. In the beloved Psalm 23 the psalmist writes, “You anoint my head with oil …” In ancient Israel, if they were close enough, the shepherd would lead his sheep through the gate in the city at the end of the day, and the sheep would enter the pen with other sheep. But the shepherd would gently care for his own sheep, calling each one by name. Picking out thorns and bugs, he would then pour oil over their heads and rub it into their fleece to heal their wounds and give them comfort. The next morning, even though there were many flocks of sheep in the pen, each shepherd would call their own flock and those sheep would recognize the voice of their shepherd and would follow him out through the gate.
Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—” He said “… the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” Sometimes, the shepherd was truly the gate at the sheep pen. If there was no actual gate to close, the shepherd would lay himself down across the opening of the pen, acting as a gate, protecting the sheep from wild animals and thieves.
Jesus says, “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.”
Jesus is the Good Shepherd who has laid down his life for us at the cross, saving us from sin; from the thief that would rob us of our joy and of life itself. He offers us the most gracious hospitality and gentle loving care. He leads us safely through the gates of life and he will safely lead us home. We are his beloved sheep.
When did you first hear and recognize the voice of the Good Shepherd?
This song, sung by Cindy Powell, is titled “Gentle Shepherd.” Be blessed!