Saint Anne's Church at the Sheep's Gate in Jerusalem
John 10:1-10 (A)
As Jesus helped the man born blind (John 9), the Pharisees, the Disciples, and a crowd gathered around. When Jesus taught him that the truly blind were those who did not recognize God's Sign, the Pharisees became offended. In return, Jesus shared this Parable. For Jesus wanted us to know the difference between a False Shepherd and a True Shepherd.
Jesus first tells us that the man who enters by the Gate is the Shepherd of the sheep. But anyone who comes in by some other way is a Thief. The man who enters by the Gate is the Shepherd of his sheep. The Watchman (Keeper) opens the Gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. A Shepherd is someone who has made it their life's work to take care of their sheep. So the Watchman knows who the Shepherd is. The Watchman welcomes him gladly, because he knows that the sheep are now in Good Hands. In truth, we are all lost sheep who really needed God's Care. So God sent Jesus to be our Good Shepherd.
Jesus' Parable also reveals that others than the Shepherd try to lay claim to the sheep. These people have not been sent or approved by the Owner. Like the Serpent Who slithered into the Garden of Eden, Robbers and Thieves climb in by some other way. The difference between the Shepherd and the Thief is the motive behind their entry into the sheep pen. The reason the Robber climbed in by "some other way" was to grab some sheep out of His Selfish Desire in order to sell them or eat them. Thieves and Robbers can appear good-minded as well, even as girl-friends or boy-friends. In our nation, we are awash in an Epidemic of Sexuality. On surface, things appear romantic. But often one person takes what they can get, and then says good-bye. As a result we are a nation of Wounded people. Many are Discouraged and loose their Youthful Idealism, because something has been stolen. In the Academic World people no longer talk about Scholarship, but about the Business of Higher Education. As a nation, we have become personally and corporately Selfish. It seems Terrible, but we must not give up. Because we have a Good Shepherd named Jesus. His Motive is not in the least bit Selfish. His Motive is Love.
When Jesus told this Parable, everyone understood that He was trying to tell them something. But they didn't know what. To help them, Jesus expanded upon the images in this Parable, describing Himself in Two Ways. The First Way, was as the Gate.
Therefore Jesus said again, "I am the Gate for the sheep". A Gate performs Two Functions. It is an Entry and Exit, and it is a source of Protection. Why did Jesus feel it was so important to call Himself the Gate? Behind Jesus we are Protected from Thieves and Robbers. In a world of Evil it is good to know that Jesus is here to Protect us. The Life that Jesus gives us can never be extinguished. He will never Leave us, and never Abandon us.
In Jesus' time, Israel's Shepherds were supposed to be the Pharisees, Scribes, and Teachers of the Law. They should have taught the people to live as a Kingdom of Priests and a Holy Nation. But they dreamed only of an earthly Messiah Who would make them rich. They had totally lost their spirit to teach the Way of God to other Nations, and became Xenophobic and Legalistic. Still they kept their High Offices and took the people's money for their paycheck. In this way they maintained their Pompous Lifestyle, and became Thieves. But worse than pretending to be Truthful Leaders, was that by doing so, they Stole from the people what they really needed. In that generation, the brokenhearted People of Israel needed to know that God's Promises to them were still True, and that God's Grace was still freely available to all who came to Him by Faith. Instead, the people were Weighed Down with many Laws and Customs. The Prophet Ezekiel saw this time coming and wrote, "Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: 'This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who take care only of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally".
Worse still, was that they Stole from God the Love and Praises due Him. There should have been a national celebration, a country-wide revival when news came that Jesus had opened the eyes of the blind. Instead the Temple Rulers tried to hush everything, they tried to keep their power and influence over the people. In doing so they Stole God's Glory.
So when Jesus taught that anyone claiming to have some way of Salvation apart from Him, is a Thief and a Robber, whose only desire is to Steal and Kill and Destroy, He had these Pharisees in mind. But is Jesus the only one who takes care of the sheep? Is Jesus the only model for a Shepherd? In our multi-cultural time, it seems heretical to claim that there is only One Way. But, in fact, there is only one way. Because only Jesus has conquered our true Enemies. Poverty, Injustice, Crime, and Selfishness are all just symptoms of a culture weighed down with Sin. It is Sin and the Power of Death that are our true Enemies. When Jesus poured out His Blood from the Cross, He paid the cost for our Sin. And when Jesus rose from the Grave, He demonstrated to all that in Him is the Resurrection and the Life. Jesus is our Salvation. Jesus is the fullest expression of our Heavenly Father's Love, for only Jesus can conquer Sin, Satan and Death, and give us the Kingdom of God.
In conclusion, Jesus is not only the Good Shepherd (John 10:11); He is also the Lamb of God (John 1:29) and even the Sheepgate. Dont let anyone enter your life, family, or community except through Jesus. For example, dont Marry anyone who tries to enter your life through mere friendship or Sexual attraction. Dont let people into your life just because of business or money. TV personalities, athletes, and entertainers have a major influence in millions of peoples lives, but they probably have not entered through the Sheepgate, Jesus. Whoever does not enter the sheepfold through the gate but climbs in some other way is a thief and a marauder (John 10:1).
Not only are others trying to enter our lives, but we are entering their lives and worlds. Jesus promises: I am the Gate. Whoever enters through Me will be safe. He will go in and out, and find pasture (John 10:9). Whatever you get into, make sure its Jesus idea. Live in, with, and through Jesus. Then you will be Safe rather than Hurt, Fed rather than Drained.
If we enter into things through our Pride, Desires, Intellect, or Selfishness, we will be Ripped Off, Slaughtered, and Destroyed (John 10:10). If we make Jesus our only Gate, our only Way (John 14:6), we will have the Fullness of Life (John 10:10).