Jesus said, “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.“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.” (John 10:1-10)
“I am the Gate… I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”
In our Gospel Jesus says, “I am the Gate of the Sheepfold,” but what does he mean by that? The answer is in the very next verse, not included in our lectionary text. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” That’s the verse we know and are most familiar with. So how is Jesus the Gate and the Shepherd?
During the time of Jesus, the Shepherd would end the day, by bringing the sheep into the sheepfold, which was a fenced area to gather the sheep for rest. After all the sheep were in, the Shepherd would lay himself down between two posts, essentially creating a gate that protected the sheep. The sheep could not leave the enclosure without disturbing or waking the Shepherd and a thief could not capture the sheep without trying to go around the gate. Therefore the Shepherd literally, lays his life down for the sheep. “I am the Gate,” Jesus says, “whoever enters by me will be saved.”
Yes, this is a foreshadowing of Jesus laying his life down for all humanity. It is an act of selfless love for the other. The same love we hear of God in John, “For God so loved the world He gave His only son.” We also hear in John other “I am” statements in regard to Jesus, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, I am the bread of Life, I am the resurrection and life. So how does “I am the Gate” translate into eternal life?
On January 13, 1982, Air Florida Flight 90 took off from Washington National Airport and moments later crashed into a bridge and landed in the Potomac River. 74 passengers including the pilot and crew perished. 6 people survived the initial crash and floated down the icy river until they came to a point where they were stuck in the mud. Twenty minutes later a helicopter came to the rescue and threw down a rope and a ring. The first time it came down, a man grabbed it, went up, and flew off to safety. The second time it came down, the ring landed in the arms of Arland Williams, but instead of riding up to safety, he passed the ring to the women beside him. The crew returned, Arland got the ring again, and once again passed it on. The fourth time was no different, Arland received the ring and passed it again, ensuring the safety of everyone around him. When the crew returned for a final time, his lungs had filled water and he died in the icy river. Arland like a good shepherd laid his life down for the sheep with an act of selfless love and compassion for the other.
Dr, Liviu Librescu was a professor at Virginia Tech. When he heard the gunfire of a deranged teenager, he realized that the only thing between the teen and his students was the door. At 76 years old, he threw his body against the door and held it shut. He was shot five times and died, but because of his actions because of his selfless love and compassion for the other, all but one student in the classroom made it out alive.
These selfless acts of Love gave life not only to those whom they saved but to everyone who hears their stories.
I am the Gate of the Sheepfold…I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
This week we heard a missive from our presiding Bishop, “What would Love do?” He spoke of God’s rubric of Love… to love one another, to feed, tend, and feed my sheep. So how does “I am the Gate” translate into eternal life?
Jesus’ sacrificial love for all humanity and the world gives life not only to those whom he saved but to the masses that hear and rise to the occasion meeting Jesus at the gate. This is the place where we leave our old lives of selfishness and self concerns and transition into a world of loving our neighbor, having compassion, thinking of the other, and sacrificing our worldly lives for our spiritual ones. This is the gateway to eternal life, to love one another as God has loved you.
So as our presiding Bishop has asked, in all you do, in every decision you make, in every place you walk, “What would unselfish sacrificial love do?”
I mentioned a couple of heroes this week from the past, who exemplify this Sacrificial Love, but we see the heroes every day, around us; from our healthcare providers to our postal workers, grocers, and more. Let us always remember to thank and exemplify those who give of themselves, all of themselves for the other. Let us remember all who have laid down their lives in Love for one another as we walk together through this time, and may we always demonstrate in our own lives this life-giving, unselfish, sacrificial love for one another. This is the gate, the true and holy work of the Shepherd.
May God Bless you and keep you always safe in the arms of our Good Shepherd, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Blessings, Mo. Allison+