1“I tell you the truth, anyone who sneaks over the wall of a sheepfold, rather than going through the gate, must surely be a thief and a robber!2But the one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.3The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.4After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice.5They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice.”
6Those who heard Jesus use this illustration didn’t understand what he meant,7so he explained it to them: “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep.8All who came before me were thieves and robbers. But the true sheep did not listen to them.9Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures.10The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.
There is so much to be learned from sheep and shepherds! Shepherds were the lowest in the social hierarchy of the time, but Jesus used them as examples all the time. Sheep were common and inexpensive livestock, but Jesus’ stories about them are priceless.
Shepherds would bring often bring their sheep together to a safe place or fenced in area at night. Often more than one herd would be put together in the same holding pen. The pen would have a opening for sheep to get in and out of and instead of a “gate” to close it, sometimes the shepherds took turns sleeping in front of the opening so nothing and no one could get in our out without awakening them. Now a thief of course could climb the fence, grab a small animal and carry it off and a wild animal may be able to enter the enclosure another way, but both were obviously up to no good. In the morning the shepherds would come to the pen and separate their flocks by calling out to their sheep. believe it or not, the sheep really did, and do, come out to their shepherds call and then follow the shepherd.
Sheep are great followers of their shepherd. The follow the shepherd anywhere, even to their own slaughter sometimes. On the other hand they are extremely difficult to chase or herd. My child once had a video game based on medieval times and in part of it you had to chase sheep into a barn. It was the hardest part of the game! There were very few sheep in Ohio where I grew up but a few people did have some. I was once told by a friend about neighbor whose sheep had gotten out while the neighbor was away. He and others tried for literally hours to get the sheep back in the barn without success. When the neighbor returned he simple started calling to them, and they all came to him. They were his sheep and would only come to him.
So what does all this teach us? First, Jesus makes it clear he is the only way. There is no other religion, God or action that can keep us safe and bring us life. Don’t think for a minute that all religions worship the same God. They don’t. If you studied them you would learn it is philosophically impossible but all we need to do is trust the Word and we know, Jesus is it, and everything else is a thief and a robber.
Second, Jesus does not push us or chase us, he leads us. It is our job to follow. When he calls, we need to answer. If we aren’t following him to the pasture, where are we? If we stay in the safety of the sheepfold, we will starve. If we aren’t following him, what shepherd are we following? Shepherds of that region to this day teach their lambs not to wonder away by breaking one of the lamb’s legs. The lamb can’t walk (and is in pain) so the shepherd carries the lamb everywhere and feeds the lamb. When the leg is healed the lamb has learned to trust and follow and love the shepherd. If he hasn’t, he will likely stray again and be eaten by a wild animal. If we stray, Jesus will break our leg!
Lord, help me to answer your call and trust you completely. Help me to follow you and only you. Change me Lord, change me. *obbs*