John 10:1 – 10

10 “I tell you the truth, anyone who sneaks over the wall of a sheepfold, rather than going through the gate, must surely be a thief and a robber! But the one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice. They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice.”

Those who heard Jesus use this illustration didn’t understand what he meant, so he explained it to them: “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me were thieves and robbers. But the true sheep did not listen to them. Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. 10 The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.

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This parable, or illustration, of Jesus is a good example of how Jesus used the events of every day life to help drive home some deep spiritual truths.  In verses 1-5, Jesus described in very simple terms what life was like for shepherds in the middle east and their sheep in the 1st century.  The listeners are most likely the “blind” Pharisees we read about at the end of chapter nine.

These Pharisees heard this story, and then it says that they did not understand this illustration.  Most likely, due to all their previous encounters with Jesus, the Pharisees knew that Jesus never told “simple” stories, just because they were nice stories.  No, they knew that there was some deeper meaning involved here, and they wanted Jesus to speak clearly as to what meaning He had intended for his audience to get out of this story.

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What is most interesting is that even though Jesus was asked a fairly straight forward question, his response is anything but a clear answer.  He used much of the same figurative language in his response to the Pharisees as He did in the illustration above.  Jesus still used metaphorical language of “sheep”, “gate”, “thieves and robbers”, and then adds “pastures” which suggests that the “sheep” will be well fed and nourished.

We just finished the last chapter where Jesus was basically accusing the Pharisees as being “blind” religious leaders.  This leads right into this story about those who are the “thieves and robbers”.  The leaders believed they were helping the people by imposing all the religious rituals that they thought would “save” them from sin.

Instead, their regulations and rituals kept them further away from a meaningful relationship with God.  And so, what they thought was for the good of the people actually was harmful to the people.  Thus they could be compared to “thieves and robbers” who destroyed true faith in God for the people.

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On the other hand, Jesus is the Good Shepherd, which we will see that more clearly in our next article.  Jesus is the One who truly cares about the people.  He leads them into places of refuge and safety (the sheepfold within the fenced area).  And He will lead them out into “green pastures” (see Psalm 23), where there is an abundant supply of very nourishing food.  Jesus is the source for us as we hunger for spiritual nourishment.  He will meet our spiritual needs.

But note one very peculiar thing here.  Not only is Jesus metaphorically our Good Shepherd, but He is also the Gate, through which all the sheep (which represent us as people) must go in order to find protection and salvation (going in) and find sustenance and nourishment (going out).  Jesus is both the Shepherd of the sheep and the Gate for the sheep.

This should seem a bit odd, that Jesus was referring to himself as both Shepherd and Gate.  And yet, at the same time, it should not be that odd.  For you see, Jesus was both man (formed into a human body) and also God incarnate (the fullness of God living among us).  This seems to be a paradox, but only because the human mind cannot fully grasp the full reality about the nature of God.

And there is one more mixed metaphor that is definitely worth mentioning here as we consider who Jesus was and what He is able to accomplish for all mankind.  Using the picture language again of Jesus being the Gate, it reveals a truth to us that we can only come to God by going through Jesus.  In John 14:6, Jesus said, ““I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

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We know by reading the New Testament that the means by which Jesus was able to save people from sin was to die on a cross to pay the punishment for our sins.  He was the “perfect sacrifice” offered up to God.  But He rose again, and so is still able to act as our mediator between us and God (see 1 Timothy 2:5).  That means that Jesus was and is both the priest who offers up acceptable sacrifice to God, and at the same time is the perfect sacrifice offered to God.

What a great message is contained for us in this passage.  Jesus is both our Sacrifice and our Savior.  He is our Guard and our Guide.  He is our Helper and our Healer.  Wouldn’t you like to get to know Him better and to experience the full life that He can offer?  Please feel free to write back to me if you have any questions about all this.  And may God bless you richly through Christ our Lord.

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