Sunday, March 24, 2024

“I Am The Gate” [Matt's Messages]

“I Am The Gate”
Life in Jesus’ Name - The Gospel of John
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
March 24, 2024 :: John 10:1-13  

“Therefore Jesus said again, ‘I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep.’”

That’s verse 7. And it’s where we get our title for this morning, and it’s the third big “I Am” statement in the Gospel of John where Jesus tells us Who He truly is.

In chapter 6, Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” (Jn. 6:35 NIVO)

In chapter 8, Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (Jn. 8:12 NIVO) Bread of life. Light of life.

Here in verse 7, Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep.”

It’s been a while since I talked about our sabbatical last summer. 

You might remember this picture from my report. That’s not Israel. That’s Scotland. I haven’t been to Israel.

Last summer in the UK, I become much more familiar with the ways of sheep and with gates.

There are sheep just everywhere in Great Britain. It seemed to me like we were never more than 10 miles from sheep no matter where were in the United Kingdom except for maybe London, and I wouldn’t be surprised to find sheep there, too!

There was just always sheep nearby. And because of that, there were gates just about everywhere, too.

This one is on the south shore of England. You can barely see the English Channel through the opening.

Sheep have to be fenced in because sheep are dumb. They are wonderful animals, cute, and great for wool (the wonder-fiber that my wife adores), but they are dumb. They are helpless. They have to be cared for.

My favorite thing I ever learned about sheep, and the thing I almost always share when teaching about shepherds is that some sheep are so helpless they can get lost in an open garage. They wander in through that big opening, and then they can’t figure out how to get out.

But that also means that sheep can’t be trusted to NOT go where they are NOT supposed to go. They will wander out of just about any opening.

So unless you want sheep drowning in the English channel, you put this gate there to keep them on that side of the fence.

Here’s a picture of that gate from the other way.

There are gates all over Great Britain. You can walk and walk and walk on what they call “permissive paths” across fields and coastlines and all kinds of places, but every so often you reach a gate, and you have to open it and go through and make sure it latches behind you.

Or the sheep get out.

Or predators get in to attack the sheep.

There is life and safety on the right side of the fence. And that’s why gates are so important. They are gates for life. Gates to life.

And Jesus says, “I am the gate for the sheep.”

Now, in that illustration, you and I are the sheep. And that is not especially flattering for us. When Jesus calls us sheep, He’s not saying that we are cute and cuddly and good for wool. 

He’s saying that we are helpless and needy and kind of dumb on our own.

We need help. We need care. We need a shepherd.

And the Lord has promised to send a Shepherd. If we had time this morning, I would read to you the whole of Ezekiel 34 where God promises to send a Shepherd for His people from the line of David. In that passage, the LORD pronounces “woe” on the leaders who had shepherded Israel so horribly up to that time.

Do you remember when He said something like that Jeremiah chapter 23?  We studied it back in 2022. “Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!” (Jer. 23:1 NIVO). 
And then in Ezekiel 34 and Jeremiah 23, God promises to send a good shepherd, a great Shepherd, “a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land” (Jer. 23:5 NIVO).

“I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd” (Ezek. 34:23 NIVO).

We are sheep. We need a Shepherd. God has promised to supply a Shepherd from the line of David.

And God has kept His promise!

That’s what we are going to see this week and next in John chapter 10, verses 1 through 21. This week, were only going to get up through verse 13.

Chapter 10 flows right out of chapter 9. There is no break. It is apparently the same day, the same time, the same event as chapter 9.

Do you remember what happened in chapter 9? Jesus has been fighting with the Pharisees (verbally) in public for several chapters now. And He has claimed to be the Light of the World. And He makes good on that claim by healing the eyes of a man who had been born blind.

But now He sees.

Jesus put a mud-pack on his eyes and sent him to wash in the pool of Siloam, and he was healed! Remember that from last time?

And the Pharisees were so happy for that man! They were just overjoyed and began to worship and follow Jesus. No that’s not what happened. Jesus did this miracle on a Sabbath, and they were rip-roaring mad about it. They tossed the guy out on his ear. And they called Jesus “a sinner.”

And Jesus called them “blind.” These leaders claimed to really see but they were really blind.

Jesus’ last words to the Pharisees in chapter 9 were, “Your guilt remains.”

And then He just starts speaking again in what we call chapter 10. Remember John didn’t put these chapter numbers here. They’re just addresses, points on the map, so that we can find things in the Bible.

Jesus is apparently still talking to and about these very same people when He says (V.1), “I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep.”

Now, in this section (vv.1-6), Jesus is drawing a sharp contrast between the so-called shepherds of Israel and the shepherd that God’s people truly needed. Verse 6 calls it a “figure of speech.” It’s an extended illustration.

The sheep are God’s people, and they need led and cared for.

And there are genuine shepherds out there and fake shepherds. Shepherds who may look the part. But they are illegitimate and bad for the sheep.

In verse 1, they get into the sheep pen in the wrong way. They skip the gate. The climb over the wall. They sneak in.

Jesus is talking about the Pharisees! Can you see how they would be getting all red in the face as he says this?! They are “thieves and robbers.” They come by stealth and do violence. They are out for themselves and don’t really care about the flock.

But the true shepherd is genuine. He comes the right way. He has the right credentials. Verse 3. He shows His ID at the gate. 

“The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.”

Now there were two main kinds of sheep pens in the Middle East at that time. One is the smaller one out in the fields. We’ll talk more about that in a minute. The other is the large one in a courtyard enclosure in a more populated area. They could be big enough that several flocks could share the space together for a time. I think that’s the one that we see here.

The gatekeeper opens up for the real shepherd, and He steps in and calls His own sheep by their own names. And He leads them out. He doesn’t drive them out. He leads them out. Verse 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.”

I have three points to share this morning all about being Jesus’ sheep. And here’s the first one.


He hasn’t said it yet in so many words, but the real shepherd here is Jesus. 

His sheep know it. They listen to His voice. They know His voice. In fact, verse 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.”

True sheep ultimately don’t get duped by false shepherds. 

So Jesus was putting the Pharisees on notice. They were not going to get to keep Jesus’ people. His true sheep would hear His voice and follow Him alone.

Just the like the (formerly) blind man. 

He could now see through the Pharisees and their pretensions. Remember how almost snarky he got with them?

"Now that is remarkable! You don't know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes.” (Jn. 9:30 NIVO)

“Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?" (Jn. 9:27 NIVO)

Jesus says, “Expect more of that snark, guys. My sheep will never follow a stranger. In fact, they will run away from you.”

And here’s what we are supposed to do–run to Jesus and follow Him.

Are you doing that? Are you a living as a follower of Jesus Christ? Are you living as a disciple?

Jesus says that His sheep follow Him (v.4). That means that they do what He says. Are you doing what Jesus says? Are you being obedient to His commands? Are you living in line with His teaching?

Are you following your own Shepherd? Or are you trying to go on your own?  Or are you listening to another voice? There are a lot of voices out there trying to be your shepherd. Listen to Jesus voice and follow Him alone.

And you will be known.

That’s my favorite part of these first six verses. It’s what it says in verse 3. It’s not just that we know Him and His voice, but He knows us. V.3

“He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out."

By name! There is such a close relationship between the genuine shepherd and His own sheep that He doesn’t shove the ones that are his out the door. He just speaks to them, and they cock their ear. He just calls their name, and they come follow Him.

You are known. 

But if you think about, He doesn’t just know their names. He probably named them Himself. He gave them their names. That’s the level of intimacy they have. They answer to the name that He has given them. You are known. And you are loved. And you are cared for.

Next week, we’ll see how deeply known we are. Just glance at verses 14 and 15! Do you know how known you are? Do you know how beloved you are to the Shepherd Jesus? He knows everything about you, including the worst things about you, and He still loves you.

In fact, He calls your name and calls you to follow Him alone.

Verse 6 says, “Jesus used this figure of speech, but they did not understand what he was telling them.”

We’re pretty used to that by now in the gospel of John. At some point later it started to make sense to them. So, in verse 7, Jesus switches the metaphor a little bit, and here we come to our title for today’s message once again. Verse 7.

“Therefore Jesus said again, ‘I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture.”


Now, which is it? Is Jesus a shepherd or a gate? (Some of your versions have “door”. The “door” of sheep pen is often called a “gate.”)

Is Jesus a shepherd or a gate? Well, it’s both, right?

In the first six verses, He was the genuine shepherd. And the gate was opened for Him. But now in this part of his illustration, He says that He is the gate for the sheep Himself. He Himself is the access point to the safety and security of the sheep pen.

Jesus has a way of making everything about Himself, doesn’t He? That’s probably because everything IS about Him when you get down to it, isn’t it?

Interestingly, there was a way in that culture where a person could be both a shepherd and a gate.

And that is a situation like this.

When the wall of the sheep pen was broken down. 

[This was a wall in the Lake District in England. Near to Beatrix Potter’s house where she wrote the “Peter Rabbit” stories for children.]

Or when it was designed that way. In Israel in that day, some of the sheep pens out in the countryside were small circles or squares with a five or six foot opening at one end. And the shepherd, after he had gotten his wooly charges into the circle would then lay down over the opening himself.

And nobody was getting out without Him and nobody was getting into those sheep without going through Him.

He was the door.
He was the doorway.
He was the gate. 

And if you had gone through Him and were inside, then you were safe. 

V.9 again. “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture.”

Jesus saying that there is only one access point to salvation, and that He is it.

He’s going to say something very similar in chapter 14. With another “I am” statement. “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn. 14:6 NIVO).

In other words, “I am the gate.”

And that might sound narrow, and it is, but it is also free to everyone. And it is the way to salvation. He is the way to salvation. 

Have you entered through Jesus? In the four chair illustration from Pastor Joel last week, have you gone from chair one to chair two? Don’t stay on chair number one! And there is only way to get to chair number two. And it’s by trusting in Jesus and what He did for you on Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. At the Cross and the Empty Tomb.

Enter through Jesus alone and be truly saved.

On that first Palm Sunday, as they waved their branches the crowds were shouting, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD!” which is a quote from Psalm 118, verse 26.

Just a few verses before that Psalm 118 says this (vv.19-21):

“Open for me the gates of righteousness; I will enter and give thanks to the LORD. This is the gate of the LORD through which the righteous may enter. I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation” (Ps. 118:19-21 NIVO).

Enter through Jesus alone and be truly saved. 

And have true life. I love that word “saved” in verse 9, but I’m maybe even more excited about that word “pasture.” That means, grass, right? It means that sheep will have what the sheep needs for life. 

Pasture is food. It’s provision. It’s sustenance. It’s satisfaction. It’s life. It’s the good life. Right? Look at verse 10. Jesus contrasts once again.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

That’s a good verse to memorize. There are so many good verses in John to memorize!

Jesus says that the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. Who is the thief? 

It doesn’t say. I always think of it as Satan because that sounds like his mission. I think that’s right. But in the context, the thieves are these false shepherds, the ones who came before Jesus who made such a mess of it for God’s people. They were actually on Satan’s mission.  So the “thief” is anyone who would try to attack and destroy God’s people. Steal. Kill. Destroy.

But Jesus’ mission was the exact opposite.

“I have come that [my sheep] may have life, and have it to the full.”

In abundance.


These sheep have it good. They have all of the pasture that they can ask for. They have every blessing. They have grace upon grace. They have life. True life.

And we have learned that that life comes from believing in Jesus

John 20:31, These things “...are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

Jesus is the bread of life.
Jesus gives us the light of life.
Jesus is the gate that leads to life.

Abundant life. The best life.  Eternal life. Eternal joy. Eternal blessedness. All because of Jesus.

We could not find this life on our own. We are sheep. Helpless and dumb. But Jesus has come to give us this life so that we can begin to enjoy it now and then enjoy it forever, to the full.

Isn’t that wonderful? Aren’t you so thankful for the abundant life that Jesus has given you? We only have it in part now. We still live surrounded by death and carry around a little death inside of us.

But death does not have the final word for us. 

Everything we said earlier when we quoted Psalm 23 has come true for us in ways that maybe King David couldn’t have even imagined!

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. [That’s pasture! That’s abundant life!] Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever” (Ps. 23:5-6 NIVO).

The Prayer Meeting looked at Psalm 23 on Wednesday, and we talked about those words “follow me” in Psalm 23. 

They mean “pursuit.” Like when you’re driving too fast and you start to see those red and blue lights flashing behind you. But it’s not the cops pursuing you. It’s “goodness” and covenant “love” chasing after you all of the days of your life and then forevermore!

Jesus “the Gate” has come that you may have life and have it to the full! Believe in Jesus alone and be truly alive. 

Because this is what it took for us to have this abundant life:

Jesus had to lay down His.

Verse 11. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns 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. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd...” (vv.11-14a).

Again, Jesus contrasts Himself with the Pharisees and the other Jewish Religious Leaders.

Here he doesn’t call them thieves and robbers, but He says that they are like “hired hands” who are just self-interested. They aren’t really invested in the sheep. When the wolf comes (who also wants to steal, kill, and destroy), they hit the road. They don’t care about sheep.

But Jesus does.

Oh my, does Jesus care about His sheep!

Now He comes out and says it loud and clear and two times, “I am the good shepherd.”

That’s the fourth of the great “I Am” declarations in the Gospel of John. This chapter has two of them! “I am the gate,” and “I am the good shepherd.”

Which is so good, we’re going to come back and finish this section on Resurrection Sunday.

He’s “good” not just in contrast to “bad” but good in the sense of “perfect” or “best.” He’s everything that a Shepherd should be and could be. He is the fulfillment of Psalm 23 and Isaiah 40 and Jeremiah 23 and Ezekiel 34. He is great David’s greatest son. And He is God’s Son.

He is the Good Shepherd. The Shepherd like no other. The Shepherd par excellence!

We are sheep. We helpless. We are needy. We are dumb. We needed a Shepherd, and praise God, He sent us the best one!

And we know that because He said so and because He acted on it, too. 

“The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

What?! What kind of a shepherd does that?!

That’s not like any kind of normal shepherd. A normal shepherd might take some risks. They work really hard for their flock.

But if it’s a choice between a sheep and a shepherd? Goodbye, "Sheepie." 

But not with us. Not this kind of sheep. Not you and me.

Not only does this Shepherd know us, including all of our failings and sin.

But this Shepherd loved us enough to lay down His life for us.

“[H]e was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him [our Good Shepherd, the Gate] the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:5-6 NIVO).

Be Jesus’ Sheep.


Messages in this Series

01. "That You May Believe" - John 20:30-31
02. "In The Beginning Was the Word" - John 1:1-18
03. "John's Testimony" - John 1:19-34
04. "Come and See" - John 1:35-51
05. "The First of His Miraculous Signs" - John 2:1-11
06. "This Temple" - John 2:12-25
07. "You Must Be Born Again" - John 3:1-15
08. "God So Loved The World" - John 3:16-21
09. "Above All" - John 3:22-36
10. "Living Water" - John 4:1-26
11. "Ripe for the Harvest" - John 4:27-42
12. "Your Son Will Live" - John 4:43-54
13. "Pick Up Your Mat and Walk" - John 5:1-18
14. "To Your Amazement" - John 5:19-30
15. "Testimony About Me" - John 5:31-47
Christmas Eve Bonus: "The Astonishing Gift" - John 3:16 Again
Christmas Eve Bonus: "We Have Seen His Glory" - John 1:1-18 Again
16. "Enough Bread" - John 6:1-15
17. "You Are Looking for Me" - John 6:16-36
18. "I Am the Bread of Life" - John 6:35-71
Vision Meeting Bonus: "As I Have Loved You" - John 13:34-35
19. "At the Feast" - John 7:1-52
20. "I Am the Light of the World" - John 8:12-30
21. "Your Father" - John 8:31-59
22. "Now I See" - John 9:1-41