John 10: 1-10

Jesus said to his disciples. “Let me set this before you as plainly as I can. If a person climbs over or through the fence of a sheep pen instead of going through the gate, you know he’s up to no good – a sheep rustler! The shepherd walks right up to the gate. The gatekeeper opens the gate to him and the sheep recognize his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he gets them all out, he leads them and they follow because they are familiar with his voice. They won’t follow a stranger’s voice but will scatter because they aren’t used to the sound of it.”

Jesus told this simple story, but they had no idea what he was talking about. So he tried again.

“I’ll be explicit, then. I am the Gate for the sheep. All those others are up to no good—sheep stealers, every one of them. But the sheep didn’t listen to them. I am the Gate. Anyone who goes through me will be cared for – will freely go in and out, and find pasture. A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.

Gospel Reflection

The ‘I am’ sayings of Jesus in the fourth gospel are very significant. ‘I am … the bread of life … the living water … the light of the world’ etc. They indicate to us Jesus’ divine status, since God himself (when asked his name by Moses) declared: I AM WHO I AM. The pictures and images which Jesus uses show us the face of God.

This is true of the image used here. When Jesus says he is the ‘gate’ of the sheepfold, his listeners will be aware that God is presented as a shepherd in the Old Testament – most famously, in Psalm 23. The ideal of a good, caring shepherd is even more vivid, when we are told that the custom was for the shepherd himself to sleep crouched at the entrance of the sheepfold – in other words, the watchful shepherd was, literally, the ‘gate’.

The lovely phrase, found only in John’s gospel, that Jesus ‘has come so that we might have life and have it to the full’, is very attractive. We have here a picture of total freedom, together with total security; really, a New Testament version of Psalm 23, where the sheep wants for absolutely nothing, and who is followed, for its whole life, by goodness and mercy.