Read John 10:1-10
Sheep have a strong sense of being part of a herd. When out in open country, a shepherd does not have to worry a whole lot about a single sheep getting lost because sheep will stick closely together for protection among other reasons. When it was time to come in, the sheep were led by the shepherd through the “sheep door” or “sheep gate” through which the sheep would enter. A sheep pen usually was a walled structure built out of stone about waist high and had just one door. In New Testament times, shepherding was big business. Sheep were kept outside the city of Jerusalem, and at a time were brought into the city to be sold for sacrifice, so the site of a sheep pen would have been a common site for anyone listening to Jesus.
Jesus likens himself to the door of a sheep pen. The parabolic illustration shows that Jesus was the way that the sheep entered into safety and life. A thief could have easily come up to a sheep pen and snatched a sheep out of the pen. Jesus says likens these people to the ones who will lead others astray. They seek to kill, steel, and destroy, but Jesus came to give life, and give it abundantly. For a sheep, abundant life was good water, plenty to eat, protection from predators, and the sheep can know that so long as he or she is entering in through the sheep door, then he or she would have these things. Entering in another way or being snatched away by some other means out of the sheep pin would only likely result in adversity.
The New Testament has two words that are principally translated, “gate” or “door”. “Θυρα” is generally used to reference a smaller door such as a one to a house and “πυλη” used to reference a larger door such as the gate of city. Jesus says in Matthew 7:13-14 that one should enter the “narrow gate” as opposed to the “wide gate”. The narrow gate is small and leads to life – much like the gate to a sheep pen. Proverbs 4:26-27 notes that there is a narrow path that one should follow and not stray from it. Jesus says in John 14:6 that he is the way, the truth, and the life – and no one comes to the father except through him. The one way to enter into life is through the gate which is Jesus, and it is only there that eternal life can be found.
The life of a Christian today can be filled with abundant life. Abundant life is not lush life. There is no promise of wealth, health, or any worldly goods when one becomes a Christian or lives it out accordingly. Abundant life is found in trusting God and receiving the promise of eternal life, the Holy Spirit, freedom from sin and guilt, unconditional love, among other blessings. Trying to find abundant life by some other means other than Jesus will lead nowhere or leave one feeling empty. Christians should be vigilant to not allow themselves to be swept away by deceptive teachings that promise prosperity or try to point someone to God by some other way. Rather, Christians should enter into life through Jesus and Jesus alone, because there is no other way.
Lord, I want abundant life! Help me to not stray so I may find it!