“I am the gate”

In John 10, Jesus is explaining his shepherd care for Israel. They don’t understand, so he changes metaphor:

Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:7-10, NIV, ©2011)

Listening to an Erwin McManus sermon, he reminded me that we often think about the gate being for coming in to safety, protection, salvation or some other name for a “holy huddle”. Jesus says that the sheep “will come in and go out, and find pasture.” Not go out and find other sheep to bring in, not just stay in because there are wolves, bears and thieves out there. Come in, go out, find pasture. A sheep is happiest when she’s surrounded by grass, safe with her shepherd. Being locked in a pen with all the other sheep is a temporary thing to keep her through the night. Going out to pasture, to feed, run free, enjoy – that’s where the life is.

John describes the Holy City from God in Revelation 21 – it has twelve beautiful gates, and “On no day will its gates ever be shut”. Even at its ultimate end, the story is not about shutting ourselves away from everything to be with God alone, but living in a city with wide open doors, welcoming in the world around it.