Jesus said, 'Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers...... I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.'
(Church in Wales Lectionary, New Revised Standard Version)
I have always been a little puzzled by this, the third 'I am' statement. Jesus says 'I am the gate for the sheep'. In the books I wrote titled "The Sermon Slot" - I remember writing about sheep in the mountains. Villagers would send all their sheep onto the hills in summer to be looked after by a shepherd. At night he would gather the sheep into a fold, perhaps created out of a natural feature amongst rocks, and he would lie across any narrow entrance to stop them from straying and protect them from wild animals in the mountains. So what's this about a 'gate'?
A bit more research uncovers that in towns sheep were gathered together communally at night in permanent sheep-folds, behind a strong door or gate and guarded by a gate-keeper.
A major difference between sheep now and then is that we tend to breed sheep for food, but in Palestine sheep were largely kept for their wool, so would remain with their shepherd for years. Sheep were often named and would respond to the shepherd's personal call.
Now try applying all this to what Jesus is saying about himself as the Good Shepherd, and us as the sheep:
Great Shepherd of the sheep,
teach us to listen for Your voice
in today's world.
Amid al the clamour of
technology and busyness,
may we hear Your voice,
and allow You to keep us safe..
You might like to look at this cartoon explanation of parables: