Here’s a question for you. What is the most complex idea that sits at the centre of your life and work? What is the profound truth that drives you?
It might be a skill you have acquired or a subject you have studied, but somewhere, deep in your soul, it will be there.
Henry Ford, for example, believed consumerism was the key to peace. He believed in lowering costs through mass production would create more satisfaction and less strife.
Mother Theresa identified hunger of all types as the enemy and gave her life for the alleviation of poverty.
Whatever lies at the heart of your life it will not have come quickly or easily to you. It takes years to learn, discover, perhaps adapt your thoughts and beliefs until they take some shape. Once they do take shape, however, they can become the powerhouse which enables you to achieve your life’s purpose.
It is not easy to single out one key driver in the mind of the Son of Man but you will not be too unwise if you focus on the times he said “I Am”.
Right at the heart of John’s account the Son of Man introduces images of himself in relation to the work of shepherding.
It is worth noting that to communicate very complex ideas he used imagery of a job title which was very familiar to culture of his day.
It is one particular aspect of shepherding that he chooses to single out as he introduces his thinking. The Son of Man describes himself as the door or the gate. Even then he uses it in a specific way.
If you brought your sheep in off the hills down to the town you would house them in a central sheep-pen which would be shared with other flocks. There was a gate into this pen and a gatekeeper. The Son of Man, however, focuses himself on the image of a different kind of gate.
Out in the hills each shepherd had his own sheep-pen and counted his sheep in each night. By using his own staff as a gate he would open and close the gap in the area to let the sheep in. Then he would lie down across the gap and literally make his own body the gate.
It’s beautiful imagery. It picks up and connects with the ancient idea of the Shepherd God of old. It has become very familiar in Christian thinking, music and tradition.
But at the heart of this “I am the Gate” lies a complex idea which is so profound that it sets the Son of Man apart from all others. If you can see it then you will be capturing his vision, mission and grasping his work.
Remember that he said “Before Abraham was I Am?” This tells you that for all of human history the eternal Son of God had seen thieves and robbers, killers and destroyers bring death not life. Now as the human incarnate Son of Man he has reconnected with that vision and comes to bring authentic life. Please try to get it.
Here is his thinking. He describes himself as the gate. Then gives three additions to the image to show you how that gate works.
First is entrance. Second coming in and out and third finding pasture.
Entrance has to do with coming into his life for the first time and being what he calls “saved”. He shows you that he is the gate to being saved.
Then there is the beautiful imagery of finding pasture. This speaks of the need of nourishment leading to results. In the case of the literal sheep it was grass that led to production of wool.. In your case it will feeding on the spiritual food that leads you to grow and produce fruit of all kinds in your life and work.
Last there is this central phrase. “Coming in and going out”. It’s possible to miss it but that little phrase contains within it the hallmark of the Christian life. It gives you a window right into the central heart of the Son of Man.
Coming in and out is a phrase of secure freedom. There is movement, choice and liberation in these words. They are the words of love which drive the dynamic of authentic life.
Jesus is showing you that, although there is an initial entrance which rescues you through him, there follows a constant going out and coming in again through him.
Now look at the reality of your life. Are there not times when you go out, you produce, you bear fruit and you achieve results? Are there not other times when you come in to rest recuperate and refresh? Isn’t it interesting that the feeding mode and production modes overlap? Sheep eat and produce at the same time.
At the center of all your activities is the Son of Man. You go out through him. You come in through him. He is the gateway to pasture, he is the gateway to work, he is the gateway to rest.
You can do this because you have also gone through the gateway to being saved.
Can you now see it for yourself?
Can I invite you to also realize that the Son of Man is describing to you his understanding of himself? Over his thirty years he had worked out that his life was the gateway for yours, his body was the entrance to rescue. His own person is the gateway to all good things.
So go out to work through him. Come in to home through him. Find strength through him. Produce results through him. Enjoy his freedom. He has set you free to go out and come in. It does not squash your personality or remove your choices, he enriches them and liberates you to make them.
There’s more to this gate than meets the eye.
Work well. Geoff Shattock
“Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by 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 the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” 6 Jesus used this figure of speech,but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.
7 Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.[a] They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”
19 The Jews who heard these words were again divided. 20 Many of them said, “He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?”
21 But others said, “These are not the sayings of a man possessed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”
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