A few years ago, I had the opportunity to tour Berlin, Germany. I visited the remnants of the Berlin Wall—a manmade obstacle that brought grief, death, and despair to countless Europeans living behind the iron curtain during the Cold War. Over 100,000 people attempted to escape to freedom between 1961-1989, and over 600 died trying. Most were shot and killed by communist East Berlin border troops. East German troops deployed on the border received commendations, special passes, and bonuses for murdering unarmed civilians attempting to escape to freedom. What an evil and warped system. During my visit, I walked thru checkpoint Charlie, and this was the gateway to freedom—the American sector of West Berlin. If people living in communist areas made it thru Checkpoint Charlie, then they could realize the dream of living in freedom, free from communist indoctrination and oppression. They could achieve a better life for themselves and their families. They could pursue their dreams and not have to live in perpetual fear of communist authorities disrupting or destroying their lives.
As we read in our passage from John 10 this morning, we see how Jesus discussed another gate that led to freedom. Jesus says very clearly in verse 7, “I AM the gate.” The Greek word used is thyra (thear-uh) which can be translated gate, door, entrance, or portal. Why does Jesus use this analogy of a gate and shepherd in this passage? Well, we need to understand the context. Jesus has just performed a miracle. In chapter 9, we read that Jesus healed a man born blind on the Sabbath. The Pharisees—the religious authorities of the day are alarmed by Jesus. He is a threat because he performs miracles, and the Pharisees hate Jesus because he exposes their selfishness and idolatrous worship of power and control. So they want to discredit Jesus when they hear about this miracle. Here’s where the story picks up.
24 So a second time they summoned the man who had been blind and told him, “Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner.” 25 He answered, “Whether or not he’s a sinner, I don’t know. One thing I do know: I was blind, and now I can see!” 26 Then they asked him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27 “I already told you,” he said, “and you didn’t listen. Why do you want to hear it again? You don’t want to become his disciples too, do you. 28 They ridiculed him: “You’re that man’s disciple, but we’re Moses’s disciples. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses. But this man—we don’t know where he’s from.” 30 “This is an amazing thing!” the man told them. “You don’t know where he is from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners, but if anyone is God-fearing and does his will, he listens to him. 32 Throughout history no one has ever heard of someone opening the eyes of a person born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he wouldn’t be able to do anything.” 34 “You were born entirely in sin,” they replied, “and are you trying to teach us?” Then they threw him out. 35 Jesus heard that they had thrown the man out, and when he found him, he asked, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 “Who is he, Sir, that I may believe in him?” he asked. 37 Jesus answered, “You have seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.” 38 “I believe, Lord!” he said, and he worshiped him.
So this miracle and interaction between the healed man, the Pharisees, and Jesus leads us into chapter 10. Let’s take a look at the first 8 verses again.
“Truly I tell you, anyone who doesn’t enter the sheep pen by the gate but climbs in some other way is a thief and a robber. 2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought all his own outside, he goes ahead of them. The sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 They will never follow a stranger; instead they will run away from him, because they don’t know the voice of strangers.” 6 Jesus gave them this figure of speech, but they did not understand what he was telling them.
7 Jesus said again, “Truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep didn’t listen to them.
Why does Jesus use this metaphor of being a gate for the sheep and being a shepherd? He’s explaining to his audience that Messiah has come. He is calling his sheep, his followers to Him. Those who are responding to Jesus’ voice, his teaching, his miracles in faith—are the disciples of Jesus. Jesus is leading the people of faith out of Judaism and into Christianity because He is the long-awaited Messiah. To westerners, this metaphor of Jesus as a shepherd and a gate for the sheep-it doesn’t quite hit us the way it would to easterners. The Jewish audience listening to Jesus would have instinctively understood Jesus was comparing himself with some of Israel’s greatest leaders. Both Moses and David were, after all, shepherds. But Jesus is saying those people in Israel’s history were under shepherds. They were guardians or watchmen of the people of faith. They were following the Great Shepherd—after all David says in Psalm 23—the LORD is my shepherd. Moses a shepherd in Midian follows I AM to Egypt. He is shepherding the people of Israel, but God is the One leading them out of Egypt. God is the One who crushed Egypt thru the plagues and led the people of Israel by a cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night.
That’s why when the Pharisees say they’re Moses’ disciples—they’re lying. They aren’t following the God of Moses. If they were, they would recognize His voice, his teaching, and they would have submitted to it. Instead, the Pharisees worshiped power, comfort, and control—these are the idols I AM destroyed thru the exodus and by doing so brought the kingdom of Egypt to its knees. Jesus calls them thieves and robbers, because they are not coming to God on His terms and they’re not interested in serving the Great Shepherd. They’re not guardians of the people of faith–they want to bypass the gate—because they want to harm and destroy the sheep. They’re consumed with selfishness, pride, envy, and greed. These are the poisonous fruits of their idolatry.
In verse 4, Jesus says the sheep follow him because they know his voice. Let me ask you this. Are you familiar with the voice of Jesus? Are you listening for the voice of Jesus in your life?
A few years ago, my parents visited Ireland, and they saw a shepherd with his flock. When the shepherd called his sheep, they came running to him. They knew his voice and responded. Now, my parents were talking and observing, but those sheep didn’t give them the time of day. They weren’t listening to them. They were focused on their shepherd.
How do we hear God’s voice? 1. Word of God (reading, singing, reflecting, meditation) 2. Holy Spirit works thru our conscience. 3. Thru His people – corporate worship and missional communities (preaching and teaching God’s Word; speaking truth from God’s Word to one another).
Do your children know the voice of the Good Shepherd? Parents, we have a responsibility to teach our children about the Good Shepherd. We do this by reading the Bible together as a family, singing hymns and spiritual songs together—some of the best songs to sing—are songs that reflect or quote Scripture. If you don’t have kids here, you can still serve with Agape Kids and help them hear the voice of the Good Shepherd. We still need about 20 more volunteers to join this ministry, so we can serve every child that comes to Agape.
9 I am the gate. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will come in and go out and find pasture.
Jesus explains that He is the Gate—because He is the long-awaited Messiah—the One who has come to save His people and lead them to freedom. The gatekeepers were the prophets—Moses, Elijah, John the Baptist—were among the greatest gatekeepers. They were shielding the people of faith—but they were always looking for and pointing people to the Good Shepherd.
In the first century, shepherds would often build a wall of rocks to protect the sheep. The shepherd would lie at the door or gate to rest for the night. In the morning, he would lead the flock to pasture. A good shepherd would risk his safety, his life to protect the sheep. Jesus says in this passage, I AM the gate. If you join my flock, you will be saved eternally, and your needs will be satisfied. Jesus contrasts Himself with the thieves. While Jesus brings life, the thieves bring destruction and death. They are followers of Satan, the thief who entered the Garden of Eden in the form of the lying slanderous serpent to shatter the relationship between God and humankind and who brought death.
10 A thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.
The thieves and robbers – these are false prophets, Pharisees –they don’t care for the flock. They are trying to bypass the gate to harm the sheep. We see this today. Who are the false messiahs of our day – false teachers who preach a false gospel—a gospel of works based salvation. They preach a counterfeit gospel that you follow your desires to freedom. They are politicians on the right and left, heal the oceans, their words are smooth and sweet—but their motivations are selfish and abusive. They use people to gain power, control, comfort, and approval. We’ve seen these thieves and robbers enter and exit the world stage for millennia. Over the past century we’ve seen them come in Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Castro—even in our own country—I’m convinced some of our leaders would rob us of freedom and joy thru false promises and by gaining as much power as possible. The result is that people are hurt, crushed, murdered in many parts of the world—their joy is robbed when they finally see these false Messiahs for who they really are. Look what they did in Jesus’ day.
34 “You were born entirely in sin,” they replied, “and are you trying to teach us?” Then they threw him out.
They don’t care about him at all. But Jesus cares for and leads his flock from the front. Verse 3 says, He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought all his own outside, he goes ahead of them.
He confronts the valleys and shadows before us. On Good Friday, we’ll have a short service at 6 PM called Tenebrae. We’ll reflect and meditate on Jesus’ suffering as he confronted the valleys and shadows on the way to the cross. I hope you’ll make plans to attend, because it’s important that we ponder the depths of His sacrifice for us. There is no Easter Sunday without the pain and suffering Jesus endured on Good Friday. He faced the enemy, suffering, and evil head on. After the Pharisees throw the healed man out of the synagogue, Jesus searches for him.
Jesus heard that they had thrown the man out, and when he found him, he asked, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
Jesus is essentially asking him, “Do you believe I AM the Good Shepherd and want to enter the gate to join my flock?” “I believe, Lord!” he said, and he worshiped him.
That’s how we enter the gate. We hear the Shepherd’s voice, and we respond in faith and obedience to worship Him. We put all our trust and all our hope in the Good Shepherd.
My son Jonny and I recently watched a documentary about orcas. Now killer whales are extremely smart, and they work well together when attacking prey. As we watched this documentary, the orcas execute a system where they surround and chase their prey into the open sea. They leave an opening for the great white sharks, seals—whatever they’re chasing—and the prey is deceived into thinking they have a gateway to freedom. But as the prey is being chased and fatigued, they orcas chase them right into a pod of orcas who are waiting. They swim right into an ambush. You see the gate that they thought would lead them to freedom—is really a gate that leads to death.
My question for you is—are you running full throttle towards a gate that leads to death? If you try to find pasture—if you look for safety, security, freedom-in anything other than I AM—Jesus—then you’re headed for disaster. Are you trying to find peace by being a workaholic? Are you searching for freedom and joy in a human relationship, a promotion, or from one adventure to the next? You won’t find it there. God wants us to enjoy our work, he wants us to have loving healthy relationships, He wants us to explore and discover—but we can begin to worship the gifts instead of the Giver. When we do that, we’re deceived, worshipping an idol, and headed for destruction.
The Bible says we have all sinned by wandering away from God. “We all went astray like sheep; we all have turned to our own way; and the Lord has punished him for the iniquity of us all.” Isaiah 53:6
Here’s how you can tell if you’ve wandered away from the Good Shepherd. When confronted with sin, do you repent or rationalize it. God wants to remove our sin. We want to redefine it.
But the Good Shepherd pursues us, and though we deserve eternal punishment and death for our sin, the Good Shepherd stood in our place and took all our punishment on the cross as our substitute. In Luke 15, Jesus told the parable of the lost sheep to help us understand how much He loves us and wants to bring us back into relationship with Him. We need to listen for His voice and return to the Shepherd.
In the Cold War, East German border guards would machine gun their own countrymen trying to escape to freedom simply for money, recognition, or time off work. What an evil and tragic system. It’s no wonder so many perished in despair. But when I toured Berlin, I also discovered amazing stories of self-sacrifice and heroism. So many ordinary people risked their lives to provide freedom and opportunity to others. They were quietly waging war against evil, and they were the guardians of freedom.
The greatest freedom fighter the world has ever seen is Jesus. In John 10:10, Jesus says His mission was to save us from the greatest evil and oppression that has plagued man since Adam and Eve’s sin in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve’s sin led to their forced departure from Eden. They walked thru the gates of Eden in sorrow, because they had rebelled and sinned against God. But the second Adam, Jesus, came so that in His sacrificial death and resurrection, we could be reconciled with God.
10 I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.
I AM came from Heaven to reverse the curse of sin—to remove the sting of death. He came to bring life—and not just eternal life in the future—but eternal life here and now.
I AM is the gateway to salvation, security, provision, freedom, and abundance for eternity.
Jesus offers abundant life (a life where we can flourish, find contentment, green pastures of peace and joy), because He sacrificed His life for the sheep—for us. That was His mission—he came to rescue us from sin and give us life eternal. That’s how much God loves you and me. Jesus is the gate to the new Eden. The Bible tells us Jesus makes all things new (Then the one seated on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new.” Revelation 21:5). The Bible says there will be a new heaven and new earth, andHe is the gate to the new Eden that we will enter thru to enjoy eternal fellowship, peace and the presence of our King.
Will you enter the gate? If you haven’t already, and you’re hearing the shepherd’s voice, you need to respond. Jesus is the only Gate that leads to safety, freedom, purpose, and peace with God.
Who can you help hear the voice of the Good Shepherd, so they know how to enter the Gate?
How will you do it? Invite a friend to Easter Sunday, bring a colleague to your missional community, start a missional community, set aside time to read the Bible together as a family?