I Am The Gate
1. "Jesus said, 'I truly say to you, I am the gate for the sheep," (verse seven). Immediately after that, the Lord also said, "I am the good shepherd," (verse eleven). His words become a little hard to understand when he says that is both "the gate" and "the shepherd" at the same time. So, I would like to speak to you on this section, this month and the next. Today I would like for us to ponder together that Christ is "the gate of the sheep."
Thieves And Robbers Don't Enter Through The Gate
2. "I am the gate of the sheep." This is the gate to the fence around the sheep. In the mornings, the sheep would be led out of the enclosure by the shepherd. Then in the evenings, they would be led back into the protected area and be kept safe. Both the shepherd and the sheep went in and out through the gate. Christ says that I myself am this door to the sheep's protected area.
3. The reason he is making reference to this gate to the sheep's enclosure is that there had been people coming in without going through the gate. That would be the sheep stealers. In verse one, the text says, "I truly say to you, though he enters the sheep's enclosure, he who crosses over any other part of it and doesn't come through the gate is a thief and is a robber," (10:1).
4. The relationship between the shepherd and his sheep in Palestine is said to be closer than one may find among any other species. The shepherd calls the name of the sheep. The sheep also know the voice of their shepherd. When their shepherd goes into the fenced area and leads them it is only for the purpose of helping them live. But, in contrast, the sheep stealer isn't that way. The sheep stealer isn't coming into the enclosure to help the sheep live. From start to finish the only thing ever on his mind is his own good.
5. So, Jesus is probably pointing to someone with these words of "thief" and "robber." When we look at verse six, Jesus explains that he told this parable against the sect of the Pharisees. (In the original text, it has "against them," but as we consider the tie-in here with chapter nine, as the New Interconfessional Version shows, "they" refers to the Pharisees.) Because Jesus does not tell the story in the third person, which would have made it unrelated to himself, it is clear that this parable is speaking about the Pharisees. But, they do not fully sense that this speech [of Jesus] is given about them. For that reason they were listening quietly.
6. Then, like he was giving these non understanding men another blow, the Lord states, "All those who have come before I did are thieves and robbers," (verse eight). This goes the same way again. Jesus pointed to all of it, the doctrine of the Pharisees who had already been in existence, and the religion of the law that had already been in existence, the system of religious rule that had already been in existence, and he said it was all "thieves" and "robbers." In other words, their doctrines did not help God's sheep live in any true sense of the word and he gave them a scathing criticism to that effect and also he criticized them that from the scratch they were not working to help the sheep live.
7. The reason something like this is written in [one of] the gospels is not because some teaching of the Pharisees still remained strongly rooted as a problem long afterwards. "Thieves" and "robbers," in any time period, sneak in with different forms. As a matter of fact, since the church's beginning, the church has been troubled by this problem. When we read Paul's letters, over and over we find references to false teachers. Doctrines that are not conducive to any real life for the sheep, doctrines that do not bring life, doctrines that instead of bringing life would snatch life away and bring on murder instead, this type of doctrine has taken on various different forms and has snuck on in. Today it's the same way. In an age glutted over with information, through many forms of media, many messages are always bearing down upon our attention. But, we don't have to break off with the world out there or isolate ourselves so they don't make it in.
8. So, it becomes important to tell [things] apart. We have to listen with distinctions in mind. The text says, "But, the sheep did not listen to what they had said," (verse eight). Likewise then, it is imperative that one is not led by the thieves and the robbers.
9. So far then the problem is about where the differences are between the true shepherd and the thief. [One of] those differences, says the Lord, is "Where do they come in through?" The shepherd enters in through the gate, he leads the sheep to go through that gate. The thief avoids the gate, enters from somewhere else, and takes the sheep out from some other place except for the gate. What does the gate stand for? Christ says, "I truly say to you, I am the gate of the sheep," (verse seven). Christ is the gate. The problem lies in whether or not you are coming in through Christ and whether or not you are being led to go through Christ. We must look there.
The Person Who Comes Through The Gate Will Be Saved
10. Now, what does it mean to say one goes through Christ? Taking it further, Christ said this," I am the gate. He who comes through me will be saved. He will go in and out of my gate and find pasture," (verse nine). That gate is the gate of salvation. Also, it is a gate for those who have partaken of salvation to receive daily nourishment and to live the abundant life. Christ says he is that kind of gate. However, in order to be this gate for the sheep, there was something Christ had on his mind. Christ the gate says he is "the good shepherd" at the same time. The good shepherd gives his life away for his sheep. What Christ had on his mind was that he would be laying down his life for his sheep. He would surrender his life because of his love for his sheep and no one was snatching his life away, and besides that he would re-claim his life. In verse eighteen, the text puts it like this, "No one is able to snatch away my life from me. I give it away by myself. I can give my life away, I can take it back again. This is the commandment I have received from my father," (verse eighteen).
11. He gives his life away. Then he will take it back. This obviously points to Christ's crucifixion and resurrection. Christ said, "I am the door for the sheep." Christ the door for the sheep, if we go the next step with that, is the crucified and the risen Christ. If we define it in strictest of terms, he is "the crucified to atone for our sins and resurrected Christ." This indeed is the gate of the sheep, it is the very gate of salvation.
12. The teaching that one comes in without going through this gate of the sheep is a salvation teaching that makes no importance of the atonement for sin and makes no importance of the cross or the resurrection. The teaching of self justification and self empowered salvation does not make need of the atonement for sin. The teaching of the Pharisees was truly like that. According to them, a person keeps the law and will be saved. A person will arrive at eternal life by his or her good works. If that were so, there would be no need for the atonement, [would there?] Also, the heresy that would later be called Gnosticism was the same [way]. The religious elite who had acquired a special knowledge would be saved. Theirs was a religion of self empowered deliverance but under a different guise. With them then, the atonement wasn't necessary. Or even, today some who may knock on the gates of our church or some who try to read the scriptures may have thoughts like this: "Good things are written in the scriptures. Won't you become a good person if you study something good? Won't you be saved if you become a good person? The man called Jesus was a man of love. Let's live by emulating the one named Jesus. Let's live by keeping his teachings of love. Won't I too become a person of love if I do that? By doing that, it will lead to saving others and to saving me." But, if one is saved by that means, the atonement for sin is no longer needed. Neither would the cross or the resurrection be needed [either. If that were true,] we might just read Christ's Sermon On The Mount alone, (Matthew, chapters five through seven.)
13. But, as for Christ, Christ says, "He who crosses over from some other place without entering through the gate is a thief and is a robber." He says that the person who enters in without going through the gate does not bring true life or salvation. Why is that? - Because the Lord knows the depth of humanity's sin and because the problem of human sin is not resolved by the law. A human being will not be saved by becoming a little bit better or by improving little by little. In fact, we will understand when we take another good look at ourselves and give it some thought. Do you think that you will truly be saved by listening to good teaching, keeping it, and then becoming a little bit of a better person? Do you believe that a person who has lived up to now a sinful life but has just become more serious minded or has become some sort of a person of love by imitating the Christ will be saved by that? Is eternal life that cheap?
14. When I was a kid, when I argued with my friends, we would insult each other by saying, "You're a fool inside and out! Once a fool, always a fool!" But, I think about it now. I wonder aren't all people really "incorrigible fools till they die?" Sinful human beings [that we are] are going nowhere even with all the making of our little tweaks in our lives along the way. [A person] will only die once. [People] will only dig a grave one day for each person [as his or her turn comes]. But, if that's all we got to say about it, shouldn't we just kill ourselves? And since killing ourselves would only bring destruction to ourselves as its consequence, that truly wouldn't be salvation.
15. So, instead of our dying, Christ died for us. "Once a fool always a fool [to the grave]." For us like that, Christ died. Bearing our sins on his back, in our place, Christ died as a sinner. Therefore, when we believe in Christ and are joined to him, we participate in Christ's death and we ourselves become dead. This is so that we will live the new life as persons who were once dead. Yes, indeed: We can live anew.
16. Baptism as practiced in the church clearly shows this fact. In chapter six of The Epistle To The Roman Disciples, the scriptures put it like this: "We are buried with Christ through baptism and have become partakers of his death. It is so that we too will live new lives just as Christ was resurrected from the dead by the glory of the father," (Romans 6:4).
17. Christ said, "I am the gate. He who enters through me will be saved." Coming through the gate called Christ, becoming a sheep of Christ, that is a sheep which is within Christ's protective enclosure means believing in Christ, being dead with Christ, and becoming a person who lives the new life. That's where salvation is. Christ has become that kind of gate. He has become the opened gate of salvation! So, the sheep who have come through the opened gate called Christ will live by daily nourishment through the true shepherd called Christ, even until their attainment of the completion of that salvation.