“I am the Gate…”

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“Therefore Jesus said again, ‘Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.” (John 10:7)

This is the third of Jesus’ seven “I am” statements (for the others, see John 6:35; 8:12; 10:11, 14; 11:25; 14:6; and 15:1, 5). This means that the Lord’s message is Himself. Christianity is not primarily a list of rules or rituals; Christianity is Christ Himself.

Nothing less.

And a great deal more. He is both the Introduction page,and the contents too. Jesus is the book of life itself.

And so He uses the solemn “truly, truly” to alert us that what follows is important (John 10:7): “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.”  And there’s something really vital here:  There’s an insistence on exclusivity that must be taken seriously.

The scene was a common sheepfold in the village where the different shepherds would bring their sheep each night. There was a hired doorkeeper to guard the entrance. But now, the scene probably has shifted to the country, where the shepherd would take his sheep for summer pasture. The shepherd would build a protective enclosure for the sheep so that they could go in for protection and go out to feed. The shepherd himself would lay across the opening to the shelter at night. Thus Jesus could be both the shepherd and the door. Any intruders had to get by him to get to the sheep. As the door, He let in the true sheep, but He excluded predators or thieves that would harm the sheep.

About a century ago, George Adam Smith wrote of meeting a shepherd in Palestine who showed him the fold where the sheep were led at night. It consisted of four walls with a way in. Smith asked, “That is where you go at night?” “Yes,” the shepherd said, “and when the sheep are in there they are perfectly safe.” “But there is no door,” said Smith. “I am the door,” the shepherd replied. He was not a Christian man, but rather an Arab shepherd. But he was using the same language that Jesus used. He explained further, “When the light has gone, and all the sheep are inside, I lie in that open space, and no sheep ever goes out but across my body, and no wolf comes in unless he crosses my body; I am the door.”

Jesus is the door of the sheep. J. C. Ryle pointed out that no apostle or prophet could make such a claim. Only Jesus the Messiah could legitimately claim, “I am the door.”

It’s almost the same thing that He later claims (John 14:6), “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” Jesus was claiming to be the exclusive, only way to God. Just as there was only one door into the ark and only one door into the Tabernacle, so Jesus is the door to salvation and God’s presence. The apostle Paul put it (Eph. 2:18), “For through Him we both [Jewish and Gentile believers] have access in one Spirit to the Father.”

These days it’s more acceptable  to say “Jesus is a door to God.” Int his sense all religions lead to God. There are many doors.” And when you draw the line that Jesus seemed to draw and insist, “No, He is the only door,” you get labelled as intolerant and bigoted. So how are we to think about this? C. S. Lewis, in Mere Christianity  wrote:

“There are people who do not accept the full Christian doctrine about Christ but who are so strongly attracted by Him that they are His in a much deeper sense than they themselves understand. There are people in other religions who are being led by God’s secret influence to concentrate on those parts of their religion which are in agreement with Christianity, and who thus belong to Christ without knowing it.”

This is partly helpful, but would seem to come somewhat short of the declaration of Acts 4:12: “There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”

So what about those who have never heard of Christ? Apart from this point being a stimulus to world evangelism, what of those who just never get a chance to hear? The main passage in the Bible that talks about this is Romans 1:18–23:

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.”

This indicates that all people “know God,” even if they have never heard the Bible. “What can be known about God is plain to them” (1:19). “Although they knew God… ” (1:21). The way they know God is by the way God has made the world and their own consciences (1:19–20).

So though we can’t really say “All roads lead to God,” we can insist that God travels all roads, and that all those who seek Him will find Him. We can also say that all roads may lead to Christ, and Christ  is the “true, living way.” (John 14:6)

And we are truly safe in Him, and able “to go in and out and find pasture.” Ultimately, this is not an exclusive country club refusing entrance to non-members, but family, home, security, and peace.

 

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