Monday, January 10, 2011
When Jesus gave this illustration to the Jews they understood the terminology of the sheep’s gate if not its spiritual lesson. When shepherds led their sheep to pasture they would gather enough stones to build a pen for the animals. It would be roughly the shape of a square with an opening at one end that was the “door” for the sheep. The shepherd would stay near the opening watching over his animals as they grazed during the day and at night when all the sheep were in the pen the shepherd would lie across the opening serving as its “gate.” Not only was it to keep his sheep in but also to be their protector ensuring nothing would get past him and hurt his flock. Good shepherds would go to great lengths to fight off attacking animals. David told King Saul he had killed both a lion and a bear that came after his flock (I Samuel 17:34, 35). Being a good shepherd wasn’t for the faint of heart.
Jesus, the ultimate good shepherd, provides for the needs of the flock and is its security against all enemies. False shepherds care not an iota about the safety of the sheep but are only concerned with feeding themselves. In contrast a good shepherd has an intimacy with his sheep with an interest that is personally attentive to those in his charge. The model of this intimacy is that of the personal and loving familiarity of the Father to the Son. What a comfort to know that as our own Good Shepherd lies at the gate we have perfect comfort and rest with His continual presence. With that also is the confidence that when the danger comes to kill, steal and destroy the flock we have a courageous and invincible Shepherd who will run toward the danger with zeal and meet the threat head-on to protect those in His hand. Surely it makes perfect sense that all that enters through the Gate will be saved. That is our reassurance that we always have One who is watching over us, protecting and meeting our need. The sheep are never in situations the Chief Shepherd is not aware of for He never leaves or forsakes His flock.