There is Only One
The text this week is John 10: 1-10. This is the story of Jesus the good shepherd. Right away Jesus makes an eschatological point. Anyone who enters the sheepfold other than by the gate is a thief and a bandit. That is they are a false prophet. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the flock. This is clearly claiming a unique status for Jesus as leader and prophet. This is made abundantly clear at the end of the passage when Jesus makes the stunning statement that He is the gate, as well as the shepherd.
What is interesting and often overlooked is the role of the gatekeeper. It is the gatekeeper who opens the gate for the shepherd and lets him in. It is likely that in Jesus’s time the gatekeepers were the Pharisees and other religious leaders who rejected Jesus and did not open the gate for Him. Thus they would have forfeited their place as true gatekeepers. Perhaps pastors and church leaders are the gatekeepers today. Perhaps we are today individually gatekeepers opening the gate for Jesus to enter the sheepfold, it is not clear. What makes me think this may be the case is that the sheepfold is not the only place the sheep live. They are led outside to graze and to live. The sheepfold is where they go for safety from predators and to rejuvenate themselves with rest. This strikes me as the role of church, to serve as an oasis to refresh and rejuvenate for life outside the four walls. In any event the gatekeeper, whomever that may be, readily gives Jesus (both gate and shepherd) access to all the flock.
Isn’t Sheepishness a Bad Thing?
Being called sheepish is generally a pejorative comment. I have used it this way, as many do; “we are just a nation of sheep, waiting to be shorn”, etc. Jesus, however, turns this imagery upside down, as He so often does. Sheep far from being weak are quite intuitive. Sheep know the voice of the shepherd and will follow that voice. They also can distinguish a voice that is not the shepherd and will not follow that false voice. How much better a world would it be if we could all be as wise as the sheep and stop chasing after false voices.
It is the sheep who understand that Jesus is the gate through which we must pass to have an eternal relationship with the Father. They know all this simply because they trust. The sheep hear God’s word, and they believe that this word is true, so they follow. We should end up with more respect for sheep and a desire to be more like them. Which is to say that we, like sheep should simply believe, then obey.
Praise Be to God