Matthew 7:13-14; John 10:1-10
A few weeks ago, we launched a new sermon series on the self-descriptions of Jesus found in the gospel of John known as the “I am” discourses or statements. Eight times in the gospel of John, Jesus said “I Am.” Seven of those times He added a divine attribute and then explained what He meant. Through the “I am” Statements, Jesus is opening up a new understanding of who He is so our faith and trust in Him are deepened. In the “I am” Statements, Jesus, uses a language and images that were so familiar to the His audience especially the Jews. Jesus claims divinity. He claims to be God’s equal. He claims to be part of the eternal Godhead. He is the great “I am” of the Old Testament.
We’ve already covered the first two “I am” statements, “I am the Bread of Life” and “I am the Light of the World.” This morning we will be looking at the third “I am” statement, “I am the gate for the sheep.” Please notice that Jesus does not say that He is a gate but that He is the gate. In John 10:7 we read, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep.” In other words, if we are to get to God, we must deal with Jesus. Access to God comes no other way.
The Setting of the Third “I am” Statement
In order to understand this statement, we must first understand a Middle Eastern sheepfold. Today we may picture a corral or a barn but that’s not an accurate comparison to an ancient sheepfold. The well-known Old Testament Scottish scholar Sir George Adam Smith (1856-1942) once related a story of an incident that happened to him as he travelled through the Middle East. As he travelled, he came across a shepherd with his sheep. After talking with the shepherd for a while the man took him to the place where he kept his sheep at night; a place with four low walls and a narrow opening. Smith asked, “This is where they go at night?” The shepherd replied, “Yes, and when they are in there, they are perfectly safe.” Smith replied, “But there is no door.” With a twinkle in his eye, the shepherd responded, “I am the door.”
Of course, the shepherd was not a Christian; he was simply speaking from a shepherd’s point of view. Smith asked, “What do you mean you are the door?” The shepherd replied, “When the light has gone, and all the sheep are inside, I lie in the open space, and no sheep ever goes out but across my body, and no wolf, no lion, no bear, no thief can enter by the sheepfold unless they cross my body; I am the door. I am a good shepherd: I give my life for the sheep.” To prove his point, the shepherd draws back his eastern robe, and sure enough, there are scars on his arms and body. He explains that these are wounds which he has suffered as he has fought off animals while defending his flock.
The Blessings of Entering Through the Gate
With that as our background, let’s take a closer look at these few verses of John 10. As the gate, Jesus gives us some wonderful blessings. In John 10, Jesus mentions at least three benefits for those who come through Him; three benefits for those who enter through the gate: salvation, safety, and satisfaction.
Salvation is the gift of all gifts. In John 10: 9 we read, “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.” Those who enter through Christ will be saved. We are saved from sin’s penalty, the anger of God that separates us from Him and makes us His enemies instead of His sheep. Throughout our lives as Christians, we are increasingly delivered from sin’s power. And someday, when we pass into God’s holy presence through death, we will be saved from the actual presence of sin. Those who enter through the gate will be saved.
“I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.” Those who enter through Christ will be safe. That’s what Jesus meant by “going in and out.” It’s the thought of being at peace, being so secure, so well protected, that there is no fear in coming and going. The Good Shepherd has placed His body across the entrance in order to make us safe. At the cost of His life, we are secure.
Nothing in all creation can shake the sense of security we have in the Lord; no cancer, no stroke, no job loss, no financial distress, no broken relationship, nothing. Psalm 121 says, “The Lord will keep you from all harm – He will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.”
That leads us to the third benefit, satisfaction, finding good pasture. “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.” And that was a challenging feat in Palestine. The skills of a good shepherd were needed to find fresh grass for the sheep to graze. In Psalm 23:2, the Scriptures tell us that our Good Shepherd makes us lie down in green pastures, He leads us beside quiet waters.” It is an abundant life. I love the words of Psalm 37:19-20, “They are not put to shame in evil times, in the days of famine they have abundance. But the wicked perish, and the enemies of the Lord are like the glory of the pastures; they vanish—like smoke they vanish away.”
“I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.” As Matthew 7:13-14 instruct us, though that gate may not seem very appealing to many today because it is narrow and small, it leads to life. Salvation, safety, and fulfilment, are three important blessings of being in Christ. Jesus is the entryway of God’s blessings. He is the gate to salvation. In Him, we are protected and provided for, we are nurtured and satisfied. “I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.” In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen!
First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (Sunday, July 14th, 2019)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor