I am the Gate for the Sheep

I am the gate for the sheep

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.

Sometimes the grass really is greener on the other side.

Imagine you’re a sheep. You live in a sheepfold with a few gates, and each leads to different fields. Some are full of grass and daisies, some are pretty weedy – often you’re stuck in the weedy field while the other sheep are allowed to enjoy the grass. Sometimes you get to spend weeks in the best fields! None of it is actually all that satisfying. You eat, you sleep, you do it again. Sometimes wolves and thieves take your friends away, and you’re wounded yourself from time to time. You have a long standing crush on an attractive ewe (Baarbara) who does not return your affections. One of your front legs has an ache that never really goes away.

One day, a new gate appears. It wasn’t there before. The field beyond is a strange one. There’s enough grass – not as much as some of the fields you’ve been in before, but enough. By the end of the day it’s all gone – sometimes your stomach feels like it could have done with a daisy or two more, but you’re satisfied, and in the morning the grass has returned. Something else – where the other gates are open or shut to you on any given day, this one is always open. You might go back into the best fields, or even the weedy ones, but it’s the days you spend in the new field that leave you feeling most contented.

Wolves and thieves appear to be just as much of a threat in the new field too. You’re not sure, but there may even be one or two more wolves that visit there. Your leg still hurts, and Baarbara has become downright hostile. The new field is not without the dangers of the old, but there is a peace and a freedom that hangs heavy in its air.

But what’s most interesting of all though is the second gate. There’s a high wall at the end of the new field, and a solid gate in the centre. You can’t see over it, but there’s a smell that comes from the other side that’s sweeter than anything even the best fields have offered. It would almost be worth spending all your time in this field purely to be closer to that scent. You’ve seen a number of sheep go through – mostly older, although a couple of lambs and younger ones – each time you haven’t been able to quite make out what’s beyond, but there’s a rumour amongst the others that there are no wolves there. You’ve certainly never heard any howling from that direction – if anything you sometimes feel you can almost hear the calling of a half-remembered shepherd.

How can you watch the life of someone you love seemingly come to an end? How can you face your own mortality without fear or uncertainty?

Jesus says that he is the gate for the sheep. He is the way into a different kind of field. It’s not a field without sorrow. It’s a field just as punctuated by suffering and discomfort as any you may have known, and in all honesty if you choose to enter by this gate you may find it opens you up to additional pains. But it’s also a field that brings meaning and freedom and satisfaction to life. A field where there is enough to meet your needs, to cure you of your excesses and find that most elusive of prizes: fullness of life. 

More than that though, it’s also the field in which we catch the scent of the field beyond – and Jesus is the gate into that field too. The final gate through which no suffering, pain or heartache can follow you. The final gate into paradise, and a fullness with which no field on Earth can compare. If you choose to enter by the first gate now – trusting in Jesus, following him – then the second gate will be open to you when your life here comes to an end. If you don’t go in by the first gate now, the second gate will be forever closed to you.

There is so much you can put your hope in now – different religions, human goodness, vague assurance that there must be something else beyond this life – but Jesus is clear in what he says: all those other hopes are like thieves and robbers that come to steal and destroy. There is one gate, one God, one option to find your way into the field where fullness of life lives, and it is Jesus.

All this, and we haven’t even spoken yet about the best part – because the best thing about this gate, and the field it leads to, is the shepherd. We can talk about him next week.