“I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture.” – John 10:9
(Note: This “I AM” statement of Jesus includes a longer discourse from 10:1-10. If you have opportunity, please read this section in your Bible before moving on.)
Usually when I think of a pen with a gate, I envision a series of fence-posts, evenly spaced, with two or three parallel beams running horizontally between each adjacent post. This cuts down on the costs of materials, because the fence does not constitute a solid wall. There is just enough structure and strength to keep the animals from slipping through the gaps or breaking it down.
The fences of Jesus’ time were different. They were typically constructed of stones and sod. A sheep-pen would have been a solid enclosure. The sheep would sleep inside this at night, protected from wild animals outside by a wall of rock. There was only one opening for the sheep to enter or exit—the gate.
Jesus calls himself “the gate for the sheep” in verse 7 of this chapter. That might seem a little bit strange for our ears. Jesus compares himself to a door—possibly only an empty opening—through which the sheep come in and go out.
As was typical, Jesus was speaking here to the Pharisees. They considered themselves to be the ones who opened the door of spiritual enlightenment for the citizens of Israel. Through their teachings and their laws they thought that not only they would be saved, but that all who listened to them and obeyed them would also be saved.
The door to heaven ran through them! The path of righteousness lay in following their laws in addition to the ones that Moses gave them!
Who was this Jesus guy, and why was he now saying that he was The Gate? Moreover, he was calling the Pharisees and other teachers of the law “thieves and robbers” who tried to lure the sheep away from the gate “to steal and kill and destroy.”
Jesus, on the other hand? He says, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (10:10).
One of Jesus’ favorite teaching tactics was to completely blow up the worldview of his hearers. Up became down, white became black, Democrat became Republican—that sort of thing. Now he was telling him that their spiritual leaders that they had grown up with, who had taught them as children, whose lives and names were respected, were actually thieves and robbers and killers and destroyers.
It’s no wonder that at the end of this little discourse, a number of people would accuse Jesus of being demon-possessed. The words that were coming out of his mouth were completely contrary to everything they had grown up believing! Probably it sounded to them like the words of the Devil!
On top of it … Jesus offered life? Full life? It all just sounded too crazy! Either that couldn’t understand him, or they mocked him for this.
In the end, it would take a tomb to validate his claim.
Like those sheep-pens, the tomb in Jesus’ future was surrounded on all sides by rock. The tomb had only one opening through which a person could get in or out. And after Jesus was crucified by the Romans and laid in that tomb by his friend Joseph, anybody who had heard Jesus call himself The Gate through whom they would find life and salvation would have scoffed all the more. Jesus offered them life? How could he do that when he himself lay dead in a tomb? A tomb with no entrance in or out, because there was a huge stone barricading its entrance?
So much for that!
But then, on the third day of Jesus’ death, he stomped Death to death. The stone was rolled away from the entrance to the tomb to show the whole world that his grave had not confined him! The one who had died on the cross was now alive again! Through the gate of Jesus’ tomb, we look within to see that his grave is empty. Jesus has the power of life, just as he said, and he has the power to give fullness of life to all who come to him through the empty tomb of his resurrection.
The only way to life is found through Jesus, The Gate, who is God over all things.
Beware the thieves and the robbers, though! They are many, and they are everywhere. Some will come to you under the guise of worldly philosophers. They will tell you that your Christianity is oppressive, that it is responsible for all sorts of crimes past and present to turn it into villainy. They will tell you that your Jesus was a good man and nothing more. They will tell you that life is made whole by your marriage, by the pursuit of wealth, or by living like Jersey Shore characters.
Other thieves and robbers may come to you under the cloak of spirituality. They’ll insist that you must give them a certain portion of your money. They’ll tell you that certain prayers and rituals must be performed. They’ll try to turn your center into self or meditation or something other than Jesus. Be on your guard against these people and these ideas, because they are liars whose only goal is to steal you away from the only one who really matters for your life.
The one who matters is the Great I AM. He is The Gate. He is the one who was willing to pay the most terrible price in order to set you free from the path of sin by pouring out all that he had on a cross.
He is Jesus. Look into his tomb and see the proof! He is not there! Hundreds of witnesses attested to this fact. They were so convinced that Jesus had broken free from death that they themselves were willing to die to spread that truth to the world!
They were willing to suffer all sorts of persecution at the hands of their Jewish brothers and Roman emperors because they knew that Jesus is the Gate. They saw him standing alive before them again! He is the Door. Our entrance into heaven is only through him, for it is only by his blood that we have been bought. By his resurrection he has given that proof.
Over the next few days, I want you to take time and ask yourself these questions: In what ways have I been putting my trust somewhere other than in Jesus? What is at the center of my life and my happiness besides him? Pray then that your Savior would lend you his strength to see his empty tomb at the center of it all—this tomb with the stone rolled away that says, “He is not here! He is risen!”, and to help you throw off all those other things that hinder your walk as one of his sheep.
May God give each of us a heart that keeps him at the center, for only through him does life become ours.