Entering the Sheepgate (from my book ‘A Shepherd’s Voice’, 2007)
“I tell you solemnly, I am the gate of the sheepfold. All others who have come are thieves and brigands; but the sheep took no notice of them. I am the gate. Anyone who enters through me will be safe: he will go freely in and out and be sure of finding pasture.” (John 10:7-9) This solemn declaration from the Lord about being the gate of the sheepfold has always puzzled me. I could easily understand what Jesus meant when he said that he is the Good Shepherd. But what did he mean when he claimed being the sheepgate? Did he mean that He is like a door of entry for the sheep that He gathers to the fold? Is there something we can learn from this metaphor that is worth reflecting on?
Dr. Lynn Anderson explains this powerful image of being the gate or door of the sheepfold. He describes it picturesquely in this way:
“When the day‟s grazing was done and night was approaching, the shepherd would gather the sheep together and lead them into a protective fold. Some were crude, makeshift circles of brush stick, and rocks, forming barricades four or five feet high-safe little fortresses in the wilderness. Others were limestone caves in hillsides. Even today, in Palestine, one can see roughly constructed, temporary sheepfolds dotting the pastoral landscape. But each circle is incomplete, broken at one place to form an opening into the fold. Beside this portal, the shepherd would take his place as he gathered his flock into the fold for the night, at times physically becoming the gate. Part of the nighttime ritual was the gentle inspection of each, individual lamb. One by one, each lamb would come under the shepherd‟s rod for review. Each would feel the shepherd’s hands and hear his voice speaking its name. Under the care of the shepherd, the sheep would come in and go out, and find pasture…. With the whole flock examined and bedded down, finally, the shepherd himself would lie down, stretching his body across the opening. So, the shepherd literally, and physically became the door! His body kept the sheep in and the dangers of the night out. No sheep could wander into danger because the shepherd’s body helped them in. Wolves and robbers could enter to harm the flock only over the dead body of the shepherd. Some claim that, even in modern times, morning will occasionally find scattered sheep, without a shepherd. Upon investigation, a bleeding, battle-worn shepherd will often be found somewhere nearby-sometimes even a dead one. The shepherd would literally lay down his life for the sheep.” (Dr. Lynn Anderson, They Smell Like Sheep, pp. 19-21, 2003)
This vivid description made me realize the very rich image of being a sheepgate. It has deepened my understanding of Jesus‘ love for me. As gate, He not only knows me very well as a brother and friend, but also makes me know Him in His words and deeds so that I will never wander off because of sin. As gate, He protects me from people who will lead me to sin and finds every way so that my soul will not be harmed by the Evil one. As gate, He lays down His life for me as I experience suffering and death so that I may receive eternal life.
Jesus, the Good Shepherd, fulfills his promise to us: “I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)
Share this insight during this glorious season of #easter