************ Sermon on John 10:7-10 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on March 23, 2003
"I Am The Gate"
On the farm you learn at a very early age that gates are important. Disaster usually comes if you don't learn and remember this lesson, as one of my childhood friends found out.
His family had a dairy farm at the top of a hill on a very busy highway. One night after chores my friend pulled the manure spreader out of the barnyard. He drove the tractor to the field without thinking about the open gate. It didn't take the cows and steers long to wander through the barnyard and on to the highway. A car crested the top of their hill at 60 miles-per-hour and plowed right into the cattle before the driver had a chance to react. Not only did my friend's family lose 3 prized cows and a couple of heifers, they also faced a sizable law-suit without having adequate insurance.
At the time of Jesus gates were as important to the middle-east shepherd as they are to today's dairyman. A shepherd without good gates was flirting with danger and asking for trouble; he was endangering the life of his sheep; he was tampering with the very livelihood of his family and village.
In our text Jesus says, "I am the gate." Now this, as John tells us, is a "figure of speech," (vs 6) which means it is a symbolic saying requiring interpretation. Here is another reminder that the words of Jesus are mysterious; that is to say, they cannot be understood unless the meaning has been revealed by God; they cannot be understood by those who do not possess divine wisdom or do not have faith in Jesus.
Don't forget, this is one of the seven "I AM" statements of Jesus. In these statements Jesus claims divinity, He claims to be God's equal, He claims to be part of the eternal Godhead.
"I am the gate." What are we told about the great "I Am" this time? What does this mean? In this season of Lent what does the Spirit of God reveal to us about Jesus in this figure of speech?
We will discover two things: first, that Jesus is the gate to the sheep; second, that Jesus is the gate for the sheep.
I Gate to the Sheep
A "I am the gate." First of all, this means that Jesus is the gate to the sheep. He is the door by which a shepherd must enter in order to get at the sheep.
Subtopic: As Door/Gate
Title: I Am the Door
The Bible scholar Sir George Adam Smith was one day traveling in Palestine with a guide, and came across a shepherd and his sheep. He fell into conversation with him. The man showed him the fold into which the sheep were led at night. It consisted of four walls, with a way in. Sir George said to him, "That is where they go at night?" "Yes," said the shepherd, "and when they are in there they are perfectly safe." "But there is no door," said Sir George. "I am the door," said the shepherd. He was not a Christian so he was not speaking the language of the New Testament. Rather, he was speaking from a Mid-Eastern shepherd's point-of-view. Sir George looked at him and said, "What do you mean you are the door?" Said the shepherd, "When the light has gone, and all the sheep are inside, I lie in that open place, and no sheep ever goes out but across my body, and no wolf comes in unless he crosses my body; I am the door."
"I am the gate" says Jesus. "I am the gate to the sheep." Do you realize what this says about the absolute security of the sheep? This means that it is Jesus Who defends us and keeps us safe. It means that to get at us, Satan and the other enemies of the church have to cross over Jesus. And, they can't possibly be successful. Jesus Himself promises:
(Jn 10:28-29) I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. (29) My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand.We are secure, eternally secure, because Christ is the gate or door to the sheep.
I have never met a Christian, a true believer, who has lost his or her salvation. However, I have met plenty of Christians who have lost their assurance of salvation. To these trembling, fearful Christians Christ says, "I am the gate ... no one can snatch the sheep out of my hand." So don't fear! Don't be afraid! Take courage! Take heart! For Jesus is the gate to the sheep. And against Him the forces of darkness can never prevail.
B "I am the gate." "I am the gate to the sheep." Verse 2 reminds us that there is a proper way to approach the sheep, namely through the gate. To go any other way makes you a thief and a robber. Jesus is the gate. This means that the proper way to approach His sheep, the church, is through Him. To go any other way makes you a thief and a robber.
Jesus says, "All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers" (vs 8). Jesus is talking about the Sadducees, Pharisees, and scribes. Like thieves, they did not enter through the gate. They came to the people with and through the law and all its oppressive rules. But they did not come to the people with Jesus.
Jesus is the gate. The proper way, the only way, to the sheep is through Him. This means that anyone who does not come in the name of Jesus is false.
Along this line, Jesus also reminds us that sheep listen for the voice of the shepherd; the sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger's voice (vs 4,5,8).
The church has to be like sheep. She has to listen for the Shepherd's voice. She must listen to the voice of the Shepherd and the Shepherd alone. This requires discernment on the part of the church. She has to listen for those who come in the name of Jesus. She has to test the spirits (1 Jn 4:1).
I remember a problem experienced by the first church I served in Ontario. They couldn't find a guest pastor to preach when I was on vacation. Someone from Grand Rapids, Michigan called the clerk out of the blue one day and said he had heard the church was looking for a guest pastor and was willing to preach. The clerk accepted the offer without question, thinking that headquarters was somehow helping.
The first Sunday went well. The second Sunday people thought the sermon was a little shaky. By the third Sunday everyone knew something was not right. Before the fourth Sunday the Vice President asked to see either a preaching license or a license to exhort. The guest pastor had neither. Turns out he wasn't a pastor, he wasn't even a seminary student; instead, he was unemployed and was looking for a way to earn some money.
My brothers and sisters, test the spirits. Be discerning like sheep. Listen for the voice of the Shepherd. Then you won't be tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and every fad of worship (Eph 4:14). Remember, Jesus and Jesus alone is the gate; He alone is the gate to the sheep.
II Gate for the Sheep
A Jesus says, "I am the gate." This means not only that He is the gate to the sheep but that He is also the gate for the sheep. Jesus is the gate of salvation, the door to heaven. Jesus says, "I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved" (vs 9). Jesus is the ladder connecting heaven and earth (Jn 1:51). Looking forward to Jesus, the psalmist could speak of this gate of salvation:
(Ps 118:20-21) This is the gate of the LORD through which the righteous may enter. (21) I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation.
Earlier in the Gospel we are told that Jesus supplies the living water and the bread of life; as the gate He offers the pasture of life to His sheep. Through Jesus the sheep will come in and go out, and find pasture. What Jesus offers is not only life, but life "to the full." Because Jesus is the gate the sheep lack nothing: green pastures, quiet waters, abundant life all come to them through Jesus (Ps 23).
What a contrast there is between Jesus and the Jewish religious leaders. Jesus says, "All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers" (vs 8). Jesus is talking about the Sadducees, Pharisees, and scribes. Like thieves, they were interested more in personal gain than in the well-being of the sheep under their spiritual care. We know that the Sadducees made a lot of money out of temple religion; and both the Pharisees and the scribes were denounced by Jesus for their covetousness (Lk 16:14; Mk 12:40). Instead of caring for the sheep, they were fleecing the sheep.
We've seen plenty of examples lately of pastors and churches that I call the church of the open palm – they are always holding out their hand for money, more and more money. "Send me 10 million dollars," said Oral Roberts a number of years ago, "or God will take me home." Jimmy Bakker was arrested and ended up in jail because he practiced outright fraud. What a sad and horrible commentary about the church!
As the gate, Jesus came for the benefit of the sheep. He came out of love and not for personal gain.
B Jesus is the gate to heaven. In fact, He is the only gate. Anyone who wants to be saved, must be saved by or through Him. I think here of what Jesus said to His disciples,
(Jn 14:6) "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."You either enter heaven by Jesus or you stay outside. You cannot demand another door and it is no use looking for another gate.
People, today, do not like to hear this. They want to subscribe to popular thought – that all paths, all faiths, all religions, lead to God and heaven and eternal life.
Some of you have heard of the Rev. Richard Rhem of Classis Muskegon of the Reformed Church of America. Rev. Rhem had been asked to recant his views on Scripture and salvation apart from Christ. In response, Rev. Rhem said, "I am not prepared to say there is no salvation apart from that mediated by Jesus Christ." In other words, you can be saved apart from Christ. "Even the Polish Pope agrees with me on that issue, and so do many, many others, so I'm not really that far off in that area," said Rev. Rhem.Do you realize what was at stake here? At stake here is the work of Christ as Mediator. Is Jesus the only Gate, or is He one of many gates into heaven and the presence of God? We all know the answer. Jesus is the only gate of salvation. Only Jesus can save the guilty sinner. There is no other way. There is no other gate. There is no other salvation.
C Jesus is the gate to heaven. And, it is up to Him to open or shut that door. I think here of what Jesus commanded the Apostle John to write:
(Rev 3:7) To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.
This reminds us again that salvation is totally by the grace of God and never because of anything in us. Christ is the door, not us. Christ opens or closes the door, not us.
The night before a camping trip one boy was staying at the home of another when suddenly he realized he forgot his fishing gear. "Let's run to my house and get it," he said.Many people are this way with heaven. They think they can sneak in by doing good, attending church, or by making professing of faith. But salvation is never up to us. It is only in and through and by Christ for He is the gate.
"Isn't it too late?" asked his friend. "Everybody will be sleeping."
"We'll sneak in," said the first boy. "Come on."
When they got to his house all the doors were locked. He decided to pry the screen off his bedroom window and enter that way. He tried to be quiet, but the noise woke his parents. His dad grabbed a baseball bat and went to investigate. The boy had one leg in the window when his dad yelled, "Stop, or I'll hit you!"
The boy froze. "Don't! It's me, Dad!" he said.
His father flicked on a light. "Why didn't you ring the doorbell?" he said. "You didn't have to try and sneak in."
D Jesus is the gate. He is the gate of salvation for the sheep. He puts out a welcome mat and says, "Everyone who call on the name of the LORD will be saved" (Rom 10:13). Seen this way, Jesus is an open door (cf Rev 4:1).
Again we are to see a contrast – this time between Jesus as the open door and others who functioned as a closed door. At the time of the early church the closed door was represented by the Jews who made a decision to exclude not only Gentiles but also Christian Jews from the synagogue. Theirs was a closed community with a closed door.
But Christ is an open door to all those who believe. We see this as we page through the Gospels: Jesus received Samaritans, Pharisees, the woman of Samaria, the Roman centurion, Nicodemus, the man born blind, the palsied man, Peter, Thomas, Zacchaeus, the woman caught in adultery, lepers, and even Judas. Christ is an open door to all those who believe. We also see this as we page through Acts: Jesus received the Ethiopian Eunuch, Saul, Aeneas, Tabitha, Cornelius, Lydia, the Philippian jailor, Jason, Priscilla, Aquila, and Apollos.
Christ is an open door to all who by grace repent and believe. In Christ there is both East and West, in Him both South and North. In Christ there is Dutch and Russian, black and white, capitalist and communist, Christian Reformed and Roman Catholic. In Christ there is every nation, tribe, people, and language (Rev 7:9). In Christ there are murderers and rapists, prisoners and prison guards – as long as they, by grace, repent and believe.
The church must be careful that she doesn't become like the synagogue – a closed door. The church must strive to be like Christ – an open door to all who by grace believe.
Jesus is the gate. He is an open gate to all those who repent and believe. It grieves Him if His church closes its doors to anyone He died for.
In this season of Lent, Jesus says, "I am the gate." As part of the godhead, He is the gate to the sheep. As part of the godhead, He is the gate for the sheep.
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