John 10:1-10 (NRSV)
10"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. 2The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers." 6Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. 7So again Jesus said to them, "Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. 9I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
A few years ago while preparing a sermon on the Good Shepherd, I was scrolling through a commentary by a beloved scholar and suddenly came upon a sexist comment that threw me into a rage. I was livid. So I started thinking of ways I would use the image of the “gate” in the gospel reading from John to shut this man out of the fold in my sermon. I would leave this man to the wolves and thieves. But why stop there? There are plenty of other nasty people who also don’t belong in my pasture. I could close the gate on all of them!
Thank God I am not the master of the gate in this story.
Please don’t hear me wrong. When Jesus says, “I am the gate,” he means to protect the sheep from any -ism that seeks to demean life. But if I were the gate, I’d want to swing shut out of sin and hatred. Jesus is surely more creative and loving. Thanks be to God that Jesus even opens the gate for a vindictive preacher like me.
Jesus, you are the gate and I am not. Thank you for letting me in. Amen.