May 3, 2020 (Sunday) - The Sheep Gate - A Reflection on John 10:1-10

Please open your Bibles to the Gospel of John. We are going to reflect on John 10:1-10.

“Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

In today’s reading we find our Lord saying, “I am the gate.” He says this twice, once in verse 7 where he says, “I am the gate for the sheep”, and another time in verse 9, where he simply says, “I am the gate.” These are one of the seven “I am” sayings of Jesus in the Gospel of John. You will find the others in John 6, John 8, one more in John 10, John 11, John 14, and John 15.  When you are done with listening to the reflection, look for them and mark them. Let’s get to the reflection now.

Why does Jesus say he is the gate for the sheep, or the sheep gate? Let me first tell you about how sheep were protected in ancient Palestine. There were pens — animal enclosures — to hold the sheep, and there were typically two types of pens. One was a community pen that villages would maintain with all the village sheep kept in it. Every morning, a shepherd would take his flock out, and every night, he would return his flock to this pen. The pen was protected by a strong gate that could only be opened only with a key, which was kept with the main shepherd.

The second type of pen was a containment area when sheep were kept out for the night. Do you remember the night of Jesus’ birth? Scripture says that “there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night” (Luke 2:8), What these shepherd did was make a circle of rocks to form a pen, and leave a small opening for sheep to go in and out. But the shepherd himself would act like a gate, laying across the entrance so nothing could leave or enter except through him. Are you getting the picture?

These two pens had two types of sheep gates. But there was another sheep gate, that had little to do with keeping the flocks safe. This was a gate on the North side of the walls of Jerusalem. Animals were brought in for sacrifice through this gate. For the sheep that were brought in, it was One-Way only, because no sheep that entered the temple courts came out again. They were sacrificed for the sins of their owners. Is the picture getting sharper? This is why Jesus calls himself the gate for the sheep.

But who are the sheep? Well, that’s us. Except for us, the sheep who enter through the Sheep Gate today, this isn’t a one-way street any longer because Jesus has already become the prefect sacrifice and no more sacrifice is needed for sins. The sheep don’t need to die anymore; they need to live and live abundantly. Therefore, as our Lord Jesus says, “we are now free to come in and go out and find pasture.” And we don’t have to really worry about anything because we have a shepherd tending to us, ensuring we have the best food to eat. And that’s because he isn’t just any shepherd.

He is the Good Shepherd. We’ll take a look at him tomorrow. Feast on the pasture you have found today. There’s plenty to be eaten.

God bless you.