7 Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 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.
Throughout the Old Testament, God is often referred to as a Shepherd. Sheep herding might be a foreign concept to you and me, but in Jewish culture the reference would have been widely understood. God as a shepherd represented God’s unique role as their provider and protector. Knowing this about Jewish culture you might think that Jesus’ words in today’s verses were no big deal. But let’s dig a little deeper!
Jesus’ words come on the heels of a miracle (John 9). Jesus had just healed a man born blind, but he did it on the Sabbath. The Pharisees were already infuriated by Jesus, and this only fueled their fire. Jesus hadn’t played by their rules and the Pharisees questioned the legitimacy of the miracle indicating that Jesus was not of God. But Jesus wanted to be clear about just who he was, so he used that old tried and true reference revolving around a sheep pen, its gate, the dangers that often befall sheep, and eventually the Shepherd himself. But this time Jesus took it up a notch, as he often did, He personalized it! He said, “I am the gate for the sheep.” In doing so He made it abundantly clear where he had come from and that He and the Father were one. He also made it pretty clear he was God and what his purpose here on earth was for – to protect, provide, and care for, and redeem his people. It shook the Pharisees up, but for us it is a good place to start as we dig into these verses for the remainder of this week.
Jesus revealed who he really was – God, in the flesh, right there among them. Wow! But that truth is just as important today – for you and me – as it was back then. Jesus is meant to be our protector…our provider…our caregiver…and certainly, our redeemer, too.