Our Reading today is from John 10 1-10:
“1I tell you the truth, anyone who sneaks over the wall of a sheepfold, rather than going through the gate, must surely be a thief and a robber! 2 But the one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice. 5 They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice.” 6 Those who heard Jesus use this illustration didn’t understand what he meant, 7 so he explained it to them: “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who came before me were thieves and robbers. But the true sheep did not listen to them. 9 Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. 10 The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.”
Who can tell me what today’s I AM statement is? (Allow a student to answer.) That’s right. In this passage, Jesus calls himself the gate for the sheep. This statement may be kind of confusing to us, since we don’t live in a society where there are a bunch of sheep all over the place. Sheep and shepherds could have been seen in practically every open field in Jesus’ day, so everyone would have known exactly what Jesus meant when he said he was the gate for sheep. We however, may need help to get the picture. So let me paint you a picture with words. Close your eyes, and listen to my story.
Imagine you are a sheep. You are a wooly little lamb in a big, big field. All your sheep friends are around you, and you are happily playing and eating and being happy in the green, green grass. You take a big, deep breath, and you can smell all the pretty white and yellow flowers in the field around you. You listen closely and you can hear a stream not far away where your shepherd leads you to drink. You lay down and feel anything that could hurt us.
In this passage in John, Jesus mentions thieves and robbers. In verse 10, he says, “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy.” These robbers, he explains in verse one, sneak in over the wall of the sheepfold! Now let’s keep in mind that Jesus is using a story to tell a biblical truth here. All throughout the Bible, people are referred to as sheep. We’ll get into that a little more some other day. For now, let’s just say that sheep rely on their shepherd for everything in life, from finding water, to staying safe and warm, to getting up when they fall down. They follow the shepherd wherever he leads. So, like in our story, we are sheep. Jesus says there are thieves and robbers who want to come in and steal us away!