Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own 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. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again.18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”John 10:7-18
The low-slung tents of the bedouins are still scattered throughout Israel’s countryside today. I watched as one of their shepherds led his small flock of two dozen sheep and goats to a nearby pasture to graze.
He never touched them with his staff – he mostly scrolled through social media on his cellphone – leading them instead with just the sound of his voice. He didn’t speak in words but in whistles, each one a different length and pitch carrying a unique meaning.
A long low whistle steered them away from the danger of passing cars and back to the middle of the pasture. A cluster of short high chirps brought them close to him, presumably so that he could proudly pose in the photos I was taking of his flock.
“The good condition of the sheep is to the shepherd’s glory,” my teacher explained.
“He has to be heading back with them soon,” she said. “If he grazes too far from home and can’t get back before dark, or if he’s caught in a storm, he’ll take them to a pen.” She motioned toward a shallow cave, nothing more than a rocky overhang with a few stones out front.
We’d seen so many “pens” like this as we’d crisscrossed the country over past few days without ever realizing their biblical significance. Unlike other holy sites throughout the region, no one had erected a large gaudy sign or opened a gift shop at any of the pens yet.
“The shepherd,” she explained, “will guide his flock into the pen as the sun goes down and predators head out looking for something to eat. He’ll stack these rocks to make a short wall with an opening in it.”
“Then he’ll sit in that opening and sleep there all night. The shepherd is the gate.“
When the southern Kingdom of Judah was carried off into exile by the Babylonians in 586BC, the prophet Ezekiel was taken too. One afternoon, on the edge of a refugee camp, the LORD appeared to Ezekiel and told him the demise of Judah was – in part – the fault of her leaders.
The nation’s shepherds – her kings and priests – had looked after themselves and not the people.
The LORD promised Ezekiel to one day personally gather his people from the nations and be their good shepherd.
The word of the Lord came to me: 2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? …I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. 12 As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. 13 I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. …Then they will know that I, the Lord their God, am with them and that they, the Israelites, are my people, declares the Sovereign Lord. 31 You are my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Sovereign Lord.’”Ezekiel 34:1-2, 11-13, 30-31
Jesus revealed to the lost sheep of Israel that he was the good shepherd promised through Ezekiel.
The shepherd is the gate…who keeps us out of the storm, stays with us through the night, and is willing to lay down his life to save ours.
• What is calling me away from the protection and provision of God today?
Good Shepherd, we are hungry and lost in the dark and trembling in the storm.
Speak to us today; we are listening.
Guide us to safety; we will trust.
Lead us to green pastures; we will be satisfied.
Protect us from evil; we will rest.