Jesus, the Gate and Good Shepherd
The Rev. Kathy Brumbaugh, Special Writer
Background text: Ezekiel 34:1-31
Devotional text: John 10:7, 11, 14
This week, the fifth week of Lent, we continue with the next two “I Am” statements of Jesus found in the gospel of John. In this 10th chapter of John, Jesus refers to himself as the gate or door by which the sheep entered their pen, as well as then referring to himself as the good shepherd.
As we look at these statements, along with background information from the Old Testament, we have a better understanding of the terms gate, flock and shepherd, and how they lead us to understand the gate we step through when we believe in Jesus, how the people are the flock, and the good shepherd, who is Jesus, has offered us all salvation through his death.
Jesus was again speaking to the Jewish people as he spoke these statements explaining who he was (and is) and gave us a wonderful analogy of his character as the good shepherd.
In verse 10:7, he said, “I am the gate for the sheep” (some translations use the word door).
In verses 11 and 14, he begins both paragraphs with the words “I am the good shepherd … ” Jesus used the analogy of the shepherd because it was something the people knew and could understand. There were many shepherds in ancient Israel (King David himself was a shepherd in his younger days).
When it was night or there was inclement weather, the shepherd would open the gate to the sheep pen so the sheep could be protected and safe. Their pens kept out wild animals and gave them a place during storms. Of course, there were nights the sheep also remained in the pasture with the shepherd watching over them.
When the sheep were penned, it was common for the shepherd to sleep in front of the gate as a protector for the sheep. This way, if an animal or a thief tried to get in, the shepherd was there to stop them.
Jesus is still our good shepherd, and we are his flock. He still protects us and leads us in the way we should go. As we look at Psalm 23 and the well-known opening phrase, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want,” we see this analogy come to life.
He “leads us to green pastures;” he “restores our souls.” This Psalm lets us know that the Lord is always with us, filling us with his spiritual goodness and mercy “all the days of my (our) life.” And as his flock, we will eventually have eternal life as we “dwell in his house forever.”
In Ezekiel 34:1-31, we find a contrast between the shepherds who are good and the ones who are bad shepherds. It is here, too, that we find hope for the coming salvation of humankind, as we are pointed toward Jesus, who was descended from King David.
In verses 2 to 6, the attributes of the bad shepherds include: taking care of themselves but not the sheep, clothing themselves with wool and eating the best sheep themselves, not caring for the weak and sick animals under their care and not searching for the ones who become lost but, instead, just letting them wander away.
In contrast to the actions or inactions of the bad shepherds, Ezekiel addresses the attributes of the good shepherd in verses 11 to 16. The shepherd that is good to his flock cares for them, doesn’t eat them, searches for the lost, gathers them in for protection, then gives them good pasture for grazing when they are out of the pens. He also binds the injured, strengthens the weak and “shepherds his flock with justice.”
If you are still unsure of Jesus being the good shepherd, read Ezekiel’s words from verses 22 to 24: “I will save my flock; they no longer will be plundered … I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David … he will tend them and be their shepherd … I the Lord will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them. I the Lord have spoken.”
When God spoke to Ezekiel about his servant David being the shepherd and the prince among them, these words referred to a descendant of David (David, the King, was long dead by this time). The reference is to Jesus, who was descended from the lineage of David.
To make things even more clear, in verse 31 it is written, “You are my sheep, the sheep of my pasture are people, and I am your God, declares the Sovereign Lord.”
So, we see that our Lord Jesus, the good shepherd, is the one who leads and protects us, heals us , searches for us when we have gone astray and saves us.
Jesus spoke to his disciples three times about his coming death and resurrection (Matthew 16:21, 17:22-23, 20:17-19, Mark 8:8-37, Luke 9:22-25). Whereas he spoke about his coming death by using parables to the crowds of people who followed him, he also spoke more clearly to them as he did here, through the analogy of the good shepherd.
In John 10:9, the Apostle wrote the words of Jesus who said, “I am the gate (door); whoever enters through me will be saved.”
These lines remind us of taking a stand to believe in Jesus as our Savior.
From verse 10, we find Jesus saying, “The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it more fully.”
The thief refers to the evil in the world whereas the good shepherd refers to the Lord who helps us through every aspect of our lives, to give us good lives full of his mercy and grace.
The scripture continues with this verse: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
Here we find a precursor to the future, as Jesus gives a clue concerning his coming death on the cross. He died for our sins. He resurrected from the grave. And because of his death and resurrection, we as believers are forgiven people. That is the story of Easter.
As believers, we read the Bible, pray and meet together with other believers. We come to know our God more and more, as well as understand his loving care for us. As we grow in our faith, our belief and trust grows stronger.
We can joyfully say he is the good shepherd, and we are his flock.