I am the Gate

August 26, 2012

I am.  That’s what
Jesus said. “I am.”  Since June we have
been looking at the various times that Jesus used the phrase “I am” to
metaphorically describe himself.  “I am
the Way”, “I am the truth”, “I am the resurrection”, “I am the life”, “I am the
bread of life”, “I am the light of the world”, “I am the Good Shepherd.”   And on one occasion he simply stated “I AM’,
a statement of existence that goes clear back to the Old Testament when God
declared to Moses Exodus 3:14 God
replied to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. Say this to the people of Israel: I AM has
sent me to you.”
It is interesting that only
John records these words of Jesus.  It’s
not that Jesus doesn’t use the words “I am” anywhere else in the Gospels, he
does.  As a friend of mine from Australia
used to say “He’s not backwards about coming forward” at least not in sense of
defining who he was and what he was like Matthew 11:29 “Take
my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.”
When the high priest demanded
that Jesus answer their question in Mark 14:61 Then
the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”   He answered and said Mark
14:62
Jesus said, “I AM.”
And on different occasions
Jesus said very clearly “I am the Messiah”. 
But it is only in the book of John that Jesus’ uses these metaphors to
describe himself.  Now Jesus didn’t use
similes because as you are all aware a simile uses the word “like” make that
comparison.  Jesus didn’t say “I am like
a gate”  or “I am like a shepherd”  he said “I am the gate” and “I am the
shepherd.”  A metaphor is much more
forceful than a simile. But you knew that already.
But maybe you are wondering why
John mentions these words but Matthew, Mark and Luke don’t?  After giving it much thought my answer would
be:  “just because they didn’t”. 
If four of you chose to follow
me around for the next three years, from now until August 2015 and then each of
you wrote an account of what I did and what I said each of you would attribute
importance to different parts of the story. 
In the gospels we have concise accounts of Jesus’ ministry, if we had
every word and every action that he did written down it would literally take up
volumes of space.  Which John echoes in John
21:25
Jesus also did many other things. If they
were all written down, I suppose the whole world could not contain the books
that would be written.
And so the fact that only John
recorded the times that Jesus used these metaphors probably isn’t all that
surprising. Perhaps they struck a chord with John; maybe he was the only one who
noticed the pattern. 
When we moved back from
Australia we noticed how many people were using the word “Paradigm”.  Or for those of you who are hooked on
Phoneics “Par-a-dig-m” I’m sure the word was used in Oz but just not in the
circles that we ran in. And so we moved back and here was this new word being
bandied around willy nilly and I had no idea what it meant.  All I knew was that if I was going to
accomplish anything in this new church it would only happen after I strategically
analysed and shifted my paradigm while maximizing and leveraging our synergy.  If you aren’t sure what a Paradigm is, don’t
feel bad I’m not sure that the dictionary does either. 

par·a·digm  [par-uh-dahym, -dim] noun

1. a set of forms all of which contain a particular
element, especially the set of all inflected forms based on a single stem or
theme.

It wasn’t long after we were
back that Angela and I were at a conference and one of the key-note speakers seemed
to have fallen in love with word.  But
when I mentioned it to another pastor he said he hadn’t noticed.  In a half an hour the speaker used the word
“Paradigm” almost a dozen times, I know because every time he used the word we
made a tic in our notes, until he caught us.
So perhaps it was only John who
attached particular importance to these words that Jesus spoke, that he was the
one who saw the pattern.  
Last week we looked at the
second part of this chapter and the phrase “I am the Good Shepherd”  this morning we are looking back to the
beginning of his teaching here.  We had
commented at how often Jesus used the everyday to illustrate the eternal.  The everyday activities of farmers, fishermen
and house wives because opportunities for Jesus to illustrate the Kingdom of
God.  .
In this case it was the village
sheepfold that caught the attention of Jesus. 
Historically we while the sheep would be led into the hills surrounding
the villages to graze during the day at night they would be brought back to the
village and would be housed in a sheepfold. 
These were just pens, or corrals to contain and protect the sheep at
night.  Sometimes they were more
permanent structures made out of stone and sometimes they were just temporary
ones made out of brush.  But the concept
was the same, they were a sheep high enclosure with an opening for the sheep to
go in and go out through. 
So maybe Jesus and the apostles
had come across a sheepfold and Jesus says John 10:1 “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!  And then he says John
10:7
so Jesus explained it to them: “I tell
you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep.” And then he reiterates that
thought in John 10:9 Yes,
I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and
go freely and will find good pastures.
Those of you who were here last
week might be thinking, “I thought Jesus was the shepherd.  How can he be the shepherd and the gate
both?” 
A couple of thoughts here, some
scholars tell us that some folds, in particular the temporary ones didn’t
actually have a gate that closed the opening in the fold.  And so once the sheep were inside the
shepherd would lay across the opening to keep the sheep in place.  Anyone who has ever chaperoned a youth lock
in or sleep over understand the concept, at least in separating the rams and
the ewes. 
And so those scholars would
tell us that Jesus was trying to convey that he was both the gate and the
shepherd.  Sometimes I think we over
analysis things.  I don’t think this was
a mixed metaphor as much as it was two separate metaphors.   You know what a mixed metaphor is right?  When you jumble up different concepts in one
thought. 
Once in Futurama
Zapp Brannigan stated “If we can hit that bull’s-eye then the rest of the
dominoes will fall like a house of cards… Checkmate.”   I have a friend who used to do that
all the time, once while he was preaching he challenged the congregation to
“Grab life by the teeth”. 
Let’s not try and twist our head around how Jesus can be
both the shepherd and the gate, instead let’s just assume that they were two
different thoughts.  We don’t wonder how
Jesus could be the vine and the bread, or the Shepherd and the light.  Jesus was using different metaphors to
illustrate his different characteristics so let’s not mix them up. 
Last week we looked at Jesus’ words “I am the Good
Shepherd.”  That was last week.  New thought for this week John
10:9
Jesus said “Yes,
I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be
saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures.”
So there are three thoughts here.  1) There
is One Gate
We don’t see a lot of gates around the HRM, but 2000 years ago
in the middle east gates were everywhere. 
You protected your sheep with gates, you protected your towns with
gates, you protected your family with gates. 
The people who heard Jesus that day knew exactly what he meant when he
talked about Gates. In Jesus’ day there were ten different gates placed in the
walls of Jerusalem.  There were big gates
and little gates, fancy gates and plain gates.  And there were all opened during the day and
they were all closed at night.
During the day the elders gathered at the gates and it was
there they held court.  The city and
village gates acted as meeting spots and gathering places  Actually in the original language the word
translated gate can also be translated “Tim Hortons”
On my first teaching trip to Africa I marveled at the number
of gates there were.  Our hotel had a
wall and a gate.  All the homes we
visited had walls and gates.  To get to
some of the restaurants we ate at you had to go through gates and even the church
properties were gated. Some neighbourhoods were gated and often on main roads
there would be gates set up with armed troops checking people’s IDs.  I commented to the folks who were hosting us
and asked if crime was really that serious of a problem and they said no but
what if you left your property open and someone came and stole your clothes
while they were hanging out to dry? 
There seemed to be a culture of fear. 
Which might explain all the gated communities you see in places like
Florida.  
But the main purpose of a gate
was that it provided an entrance and exit. 
And those who had legitimate business there entered via the gate, which
is why Jesus said John 10:1 “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!”
And there are times that we
want to think that there are several different gates that people can go through
on their way to God.  But that isn’t the
reality of what Jesus taught.  In the
same way that Jesus said John 14:6 Jesus
told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father
except through me.”  And not “I am
one way and I am one truth”  Jesus said John
10:9
Jesus said “Yes,
I am the gate.” Not “I am one gate” but “I am the gate”.  And he is the gate not because he was a good
teacher and not because he was a great prophet and not because he was a
righteous man.  He is the gate to God because
He is God.
And while that might seem a
little narrow and a little limiting that is the reality of the Kingdom.  Jesus himself said in the book of Matthew
7:13
“You can enter God’s Kingdom only through
the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the
many who choose that way.”
So what is on the other side of the Gate?  John 10:9 Jesus said “Yes, I am the gate.
Those who come in through me will be saved. They
will come and go freely and will find good pastures.”
2. It is a Gate to
the There and Then 
Those
who come in through me will be saved.  When
I was in Bible College we had a drama group called “Redemption Road” and they
travelled to churches to represent the college. 
And in one of the sketches they had a young man trying to talk to his
friend about Jesus but he kept using Christian phrases and Christian clichés
that his friend wasn’t familiar with. 
One of those was “Are you saved?” 
To which his friend replied “What?” And so his friend asked again  “Are you saved?”  “Once I was in a canoe in the middle of the
river that flipped over, so yeah I guess I was.” 
And we need to be careful that
when we use words and concepts like “being saved” with people who aren’t
familiar with “Christianise” but that doesn’t negate the value or the truth of
those particular words.  It seems that
most people are familiar with the phrase “Born again” especially during a US
election year.  But only once do we find
that phrase in Bible.  And it is an
important reference in John 3:3 Jesus
replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the
Kingdom of God.” But it is only one statement.  The New Testament is rife with the word and
the concept of being saved. 
Jesus uses the word, Paul uses
the word, Peter uses the word, James uses the word.  Even angels used the word.
Listen to how the story of
Jesus begins, Mary has broken the news to Joseph that she is pregnant, and he
knows he’s not the father.  He decides he
must break of the engagement but that night as he struggles to find peace in
sleep we read Matthew 1:20-21 As
he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph,
son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For
the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son,
and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
When Jesus
was explaining why he had come he tells his Apostles in Luke
19:10 “
For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.”
And after Jesus had died on the cross and had rose from the dead, in one
of his last conversation with his followers he told them Mark
16:16
Anyone who believes and is baptized will
be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned.
The bible is very clear that we
are all sinners, as much as we try to not sin we do sin. Romans 3:23 For
everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.
And the bible is equally clear
that the consequences of that sin is spiritual death.  That is what the Bible calls Hell, or Hades
or Sheol.  And through the years it has
been described with flames and fire and torment.  And we don’t know what hell will look like or
what hell will feel like but we do know this, it will be a separation from God
and from all that is good.  From love,
from peace from joy.  It won’t be a party
to get reacquainted with old friends, it will be hell.  Hebrews 10:39 But
we are not like those who turn away from God to their own destruction. We are
the faithful ones, whose souls will be saved.
And the Bible clear that is why
Jesus came and offered himself as a sacrifice, to do what we could not do on
our own.  To save us from the
consequences of our sins.  Paul writes
and tells us in Titus 3:5 He
saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his
mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the
Holy Spirit.
 But there has to be
more than being saved from tomorrow.
John 10:9 Jesus said “Yes, I am the gate.
Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go
freely and will find good pastures.” 
3. It is a Gate to the Here and Now Jesus wasn’t promising his
followers good grazing.  The phrase “They
will come and go freely and will find good pastures.”  is a Hebraic Euphemism, you know what
a Hebraic Euphemism is right?  Yes that’s
right a Euphemism in Hebrew. William Barclay tells us “To describe something of what that
entrance to God means, Jesus uses a well-known Hebrew phrase. He says that
through him we can go in and come out. To be able to come and go unmolested was
the Jewish way of describing a life that is absolutely secure and safe.”
 Do you remember the opening lines of the 23rd
Psalm?  Psalm 23:1-2 The
LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green
pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.
In the 23rd Psalm
David was saying that God would provide all he needed.  Let’s be careful to understand that all we
need and all we want may be two very different things.  For the sheep they needed food for today,
they didn’t need to own the pasture. 
The other day on the news they
were talking about the need to have emergency savings, equal to 3 months of
what we needed to survive.  And they
talked about our mortgage payments, and car payments and groceries and . .
.internet access. 
The pastures that Jesus brings
us to are the fulfilment of our physical needs, and our emotional needs and our
spiritual needs.  And it’s not simply him
waving a magical wand.  It is when we
follow his teaching and his example.  His
death and resurrection saves us from our sin and his teaching and his example
lead us into our new life. 
Not very much further along in
John 10 we read John 10:10 . . . My
purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. In some of the older
versions we read John 10:10 .
. . I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more
abundantly.  Sometimes Christians
live like they don’t deserve much in life, that they have to live on the fringe
but that wasn’t the promise of Jesus.  He
promised us a life that would be rich and satisfying, an abundant life, a full
life and a new life.
2
Corinthians 5:17
This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person.
The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
 And
what that means for you and how that works out in your life is up to you and
God, what is a full and satisfying life for you might not do anything for me at
all.  If you are going to enter into the
life that God has for you and wants for you, in the here and now and in the
there and then there is only one entrance, only one gate.  And the only person who can decide whether or
not you will go through that gate is you. 
Not even God can force you through the gate, but he will hold it open
for you.