“I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.”
I don’t know about you, but I’m not very familiar with ancient shepherding techniques. Luckily, some folks much smarter than me have taught me a few basics that help to understand this verse a little better. Shepherds in Jesus’ time would lead their sheep from place to place during the day, but at night the sheep had to be protected somehow. Usually they were gathered into some sort of enclosure, maybe a cave or a barn, or even an enclosure on the hillside build from large rocks. What each of these enclosures had in common is that the shepherd sat at the entrance and kept watch. He would even sleep in the entrance so that nothing could go in or out without his knowing. He could keep out predators. He could make sure the sheep didn’t wander and put themselves in danger. The sheep were safe inside as long as the shepherd was at the gate.
Jesus uses this image to tell us more about himself. He tells us that he is the good shepherd, but here he goes into more detail about a specific role of the shepherd. He leads his flock to safety, he guards them and watches over them, and he doesn’t leave his post. He tells us that if we enter through him, then we are one of his sheep. No good shepherd would let a wolf into his pin. Instead, if we have come to God through him, we must be one of his own. When we have entered through him, we know that we have safety. Of course, in the metaphor the sheep are being saved from predators and thieves, but we are being saved from sin and death. Like sheep, we are helpless on our own. Without Jesus, we have no escape from sin and death, we’re easy targets. But he gives us protection that we couldn’t have otherwise.
If you believe in Christ, if you’re one of his flock, you can know that you will have safety. You can know that when you’re in his care, sin and death cannot touch you, they have no power over you. And in the end, you can know that when the morning comes, he will lead you again to green pastures.
Thank you for Jesus, our good shepherd. Thank you for the protection that he gives us, the safety that we have through him. Thank you for saving us, even in our helpless states, from the sin that preys on us. Keep us in your flock and don’t let us go astray.
In Jesus’ Name,