Jesus the Gate (08-07-20)
Bible Reading: John 10:7-10
Therefore Jesus said again, "Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
Walking around the local countryside, as we have been doing in the last few months, we have been through many fields and seen many sheep. For walkers, the entrance to the fields has varied from five-bar gates to styles, kissing gates and cattle grids, each of them principally designed to keep the sheep in and the rustlers out
What we haven’t come across in twenty first century Northamptonshire is the type of gate Jesus was referring to in our reading. In biblical times the sheep would be allowed to graze freely during the daytime, under the watchful eye of the shepherd, but at night they would be gathered into a sheep fold for safety. This would probably be circular and made out of boulders and stones, with thorns placed around the top. The pen would have a relatively small entrance through which the sheep would go in and out. There would be no gate as such, but at night the shepherd himself would lie down across the entrance, preventing the sheep from wandering out and also preventing thieves or wild animals from going in.
The Greek word, ‘thura’, normally translated as ‘gate’ in John’s gospel, can also be translated as ‘entrance’. Jesus is therefore saying that he is both the entrance through which the sheep go into the sheepfold and the gate which keeps them safe once they are there. In the same way that a gate today provides both the entrance to a field when it is open and protection when it is closed, Jesus is the entrance into God’s Kingdom, the means by which we are saved; he is also our protection once we are part of his flock.
I think this image is a wonderful development of the idea of Jesus as the good shepherd. As well as reinforcing the truth that Jesus is the only way by which we can be put right with God, it also conveys the idea of the freedom that Jesus gives us, under his watchful eye, during the relative safety of daytime, and the protection he gives us during the darker and more dangerous times of life.
Thank you, Lord Jesus, that through you, not only do we find salvation, we also find freedom to be ourselves and protection from harm. Keep me from straying from your watchful eye and give me the grace to run to you when times are tough.