I am the Gate for the sheep John 10:1-10

Being a shepherd in the Middle East in the time of Jesus was not an easy job! If your picture of a shepherd comes from Emmerdale or One Man and His Dog then forget it. Think instead of the cowboys in the Wild West. Pasture land was spread out so widely that every day the shepherd needed to lead his flock on to new pastures. Every night the shepherd would keep his flock safe by leading them into one of the sheepfolds which littered the hillsides. Just simple walls to keep the sheep in and the wolves out. And once all the sheep were gathered safely inside the wall the shepherd would take up his place, lying across the only gap in the wall and closing the sheepfold. There he would rest all night, on guard, ready to defend the flock from predators and thieves. So it was that Jesus said,
John 10:7 Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep.
I am the door. I am the gate. One of the seven great times in John’s Gospel when Jesus said, “I am … ”. It may be the least familiar of these “I am” sayings. But it is a powerful image with important things to say to us today.
9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.
A gate works two ways. It lets people in and it keeps people out.
Whoever enters through me will be saved.
We are SAVED as we enter into God’s sheepfold through Jesus who is the Gate. Sheep in the countryside of Palestine needed saving! Without the protection of the shepherd, sheep would be dinner for wolves and bears and other wild animals. At the same time thieves and robbers would steal sheep and cattle if they weren’t protected.
Human beings equally need saving. We need saving from the devil who has the whole of this fallen world in his clutches. We need saving from our own selfishness and pride and greed. We have a great need of a Saviour – and we have a great Saviour for our need. Jesus is the gate. Jesus is the door to safety, the door to heaven, to door to peace, the door to eternal life.
Gates let people in. And then gates also keep those who are inside safe from all the dangers lurking outside.
Whoever enters through me will be KEPT SAFE. Once we are inside the fold we are kept safe and protected by Jesus who is the Gate for the sheep. The future passive tense here has both these senses. We will be saved, as an event. And we will keep on being saved, as a continuous state. Once we are saved, Jesus will keep us safe. His love keeps us and protects us. Once saved, always saved.
John 10 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.’
Safe in Jesus’s hands where nobody and nothing can snatch us away. Once saved always saved. We will think more about this wonderful truth next week.
Jesus is the Gate who lets us into God’s sheepfold. And once we are inside Jesus is the Gate who protects us and keeps us safe. But there is more to this picture of the Gate.
John 10:7 ‘Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who have come before me are thieves and robbers … 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;
Notice what strong language this is! Thieves and robbers who come only to steal and kill and destroy. Jesus is warning us against others who come to us claiming to offer salvation, but are actually deceiving us. There were a number of times when Jesus warned his disciples not to be deceived.
Matthew 24:24 For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.
The apostle Peter also warned the first Christians. 2 Peter 2:1 But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. 2 Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. 3 In their greed these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.
False teachers with destructive heresies. Depraved conduct, greed and fabricated stories. There have been people like that throughout the history of the church and there are still some today. Celebrity so-called evangelists who are actually leading people away from God rather than bringing them to Jesus. I am very sad to say you can sometimes hear them on Christian radio and television channels. Not every preacher who claims to be Christian is. Some are thieves and robbers who only come to steal and kill and destroy. So be on your guard!
Throughout the New Testament and not least here in John’s Gospel Jesus Himself criticises and indeed condemns all the other ways people claim lead to God.
John 14 6 ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
In my lifetime, Britain has changed from being a predominantly Christian country to being a pluralist society. Instead of just one religion, there are many – a veritable supermarket of beliefs competing for our custom. The church is under pressure from every side to accept these other religions as equivalent to our own. Sometimes even from within our own ranks we hear Christians telling us that we should show love and charity and accept other religions. But we cannot do that because Jesus Himself teaches us that HE is the only way to God.
8 All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, Jesus said.
World religions, cults, even perversions of the true gospel we find in the so called Health Wealth and Prosperity teaching, are all thieves and robbers, Jesus says. So true Christians will be called intolerant and prejudiced and bigoted, and much worse. But we must stand our ground. The thief only comes to steal and kill and destroy, Jesus said. And that is all that false religions can ever bring. However sincere their followers may be, they are sincerely misguided and misled. And as Christians we have to say that. Jesus is the Gate for the sheep. Jesus is the only way into the sheepfold – the only way of salvation. That is the message we have to proclaim to our friends and neighbours and our town and God’s world. Jesus is the Gate – the only Gate into the sheepfold. But once we are in God’s sheepfold this is God’s wonderful gift to all who put their trust in Jesus.
10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
NRSV I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
NLT A rich and satisfying life.
The Message: I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.
So what does Jesus mean by this life in all its fullness?
. 2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.
Life in all its fulness is a personal relationship with God. Listening to his voice. Jesus calling us by name and leading us. And we follow Jesus because we know His voice. A personal relationship with God. We will read on in this chapter next week.
John 10:14 ‘I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.
So Jesus knows us and we know Him in the same wonderful way that Jesus knows the Father and the Father knows Him. We share the same kind of amazing relationship with God that Jesus the Son of God does! That is what salvation is all about in John’s Gospel – knowing God.
John 10 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.
Following Jesus means knowing God personally.
John 17:3 Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.
Eternal life is simply knowing God and knowing Jesus.
Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sin, so that we could be forgiven. But us being forgiven was not an end in itself but merely the necessary means to an end. The reason Jesus died for us was to remove the barrier of sin so that we could have a relationship with the God who created us and loves us more than we can possibly fathom. Forgiveness was not the end but only the means for us to enjoy life in all its fullness in our relationship with God.
Life in all its fullness is a life to be enjoyed! The chief end of man, the reason we were created and redeemed, is for us to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. Not just pie in the sky when you die but cake on your plate while you wait. Children love to be with their parents, playing, doing jobs together, chatting, and even just being together. It is only in the rebellious teenage years when home becomes a hotel and parents become just the cooks and the laundry service and the chauffeurs and the cash machines and some teenagers don’t want to spend time with their parents or even to talk to them any more. But we can become like that with God. We want all His blessings of peace and healing and grace and joy. But we can become to busy with our own lives to pray or worship or read our Bibles. We can forget that the blessings only come to us through our relationship and never apart from Him. David Watson was absolutely right when he said, “Nothing is more important than my own personal love relationship with God.”
Jesus is the Gate. All who enter through Him will be saved and He will keep us safe. Jesus the Gate is the ONLY way of salvation. And that salvation is nothing less than a personal relationship with God, life in all its fullness.
After the death of Billy Graham last week, I read that somebody once asked him this. If he could live his ministry life over again, would he do anything different. Billy Graham had replied, “I would speak less and study more, and I would spend more time with my family…I would also spend more time in spiritual nurture, seeking to grow closer to God so I could become more like Christ…”
Spending more time in spiritual nurture: seeking to grow closer to God so I could become more like Christ. How is your relationship with God going? How is your prayer life? What about your Bible study? Worship? Fellowship? Is your relationship with God a battle, or a chore? Or is it non-existent? Seeking to grow closer to God and become more like Christ. Here is the offer Jesus makes to us all.
John 10 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. … 10 … I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

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