Growing up, my dad served in the military. He spent 24 years in the Air Force and for many of those years, we lived in on-base housing. When we were stationed in south Florida at Homestead AFB we lived in a housing development just off the main base. It was still government property though so there was a gate to enter through guarded by a member of the base’s security police. If you didn’t have your military ID, you were not getting on base.
Thinking about that reminded me of Jesus as our gate and shepherd.
“I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice. I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. And when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me- just as the Father knows me and I know the Father- and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life- only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand”
(Jesus speaking in John 10:1-18, 27-29)
Because of our sin and our lost state, we can have no access to God. But then came Jesus. He paid the penalty for our sins and gave us entry into the throne room of God. Only through Jesus and his blood sacrifice can we have access to our perfect God. Jesus is our gate but he is not a meal ticket as some like to treat him. In fact, many would believe that Jesus came for us to have an abundant life here on earth. On the contrary, Jesus came, not so we would be comfortable here, but so we would follow him to heaven. It is there that the gate of Jesus leads. While in this life, we should follow him and no where in his word does it say that path would be easy. The rewards are a godliness reflected to the world. And that godliness ultimately brings glory to God, not to ourselves.
But Jesus is also our shepherd. A shepherd during Jesus’ time would have done anything for his flock. He would be all-consumed with their well-being and Jesus is that way with us today. He knows us, he guards us, he lays down his life for us. Jesus guides us in this life, setting an example for us to follow. If we really are his sheep, we should listen to the voice of the shepherd. And when we listen, we should obey.