Mar 22, 2017 –I am the Gate
In the opening of today’s reading the shepherd is; greeted at the gate by the watchman; listened to by His sheep; knows His sheep by name and calls them; leads His sheep out of the sheepfold; and goes ahead of them and they follow BECAUSE they know His voice!! Jesus says, “A stranger they will not follow, but will run away from that voice they do not recognize.”
Jesus then makes clear the meaning of this image – this figure of speech – from life with which they would all have some understanding. With the emphatic and attention getting device of saying, I tell you the truth, Jesus then says those words again that just grate on their ears, ego emi, I am.
I am the gate for the sheep. You might be thinking, ‘wait, the gate? I thought I could sit back and not pay attention because I knew that you were going to say shepherd, what do you mean Jesus says ‘I am the gate?’
Now it’s true that Jesus later in this passage uses that metaphor of shepherd to describe Himself and His role in our life, but not here. And we’ll talk about that particular role on Good Friday as it has such deep meaning for us at that time. But this role, as the gate to the sheepfold, is vital to understand before then as Jesus continues His talks with His followers, the crowds, and religious leaders who come to hear Him between now and when Jesus is put on the cross.
So, this image, as the gate, is there very clearly in tonight’s reading. Jesus says it twice, just so we don’t miss the point, I am the gate.
‘What does this wandering rabbi think He’s playing at’, those who heard Him might be thinking. Jesus is saying clearly, along with that divine identifier; I Am, ego emi, Yahweh; Jesus is saying with this phrase, that He and He alone controls access to God because He alone is the gate into the sheepfold of God. This is in contrast to what He said in earlier verses about the thief and the robber.
Jesus is making clear that He is the only legitimate way into a relationship with, and therefore the protection of, God. In fact, the thief and the robber come only to steal and kill. Jesus as the gateway is the one and only way into the care and protection of the Owner. The thieves and robbers are not concerned with the sheep, other than to make a meal of them. Their lives are as nothing to them.
And when Jesus speaks of ‘going out and coming in’, that’s a Hebrew phrase that speaks to the whole life of a person. It carries with it the idea of the complete person and their needs for all of life. So, when Jesus says this, His hearers understand that Jesus is not talking about coming ‘in and out’ of salvation at will; but rather that the whole life of a person, their entire needs, especially for the saving relationship that God wants for them comes only through the gateway of Jesus Christ.
This would not have been misunderstood in His day. That’s why in verse 6 where it’s clear they are not getting the message; Jesus goes on to say what He’s saying about being the gateway. And they, especially the religious leaders, would have resented the clear message of Jesus as being the only legitimate entry into a relationship with God.
Jesus says He is the one way into the sheepfold just as there was only one way into the tabernacle of God that the Jews followed for 40 years in the wilderness. And also, just as there was only one way into the temple of God at the time of Jesus as well. This would have been a powerful and familiar image for these religious leaders.
Jesus has already insulted them and put all the people listening on notice that those leaders are in fact imposters and usurpers. When Jesus stated ‘all who came before me are thieves and robbers’ everyone knew this was aimed at the religious leaders and their hypocrisy and insincerity.
Then He goes and says, ego emi, not once but twice, I am the door. Jesus simply scandalizes those in His hearing with this statement. Jesus is not pussy-footing around here. This is not about ‘playing nice’. Jesus wants them and all people to understand that God’s only legitimate provision for a restored relationship with Him comes through one source and one source only, Jesus Christ. And Him crucified and risen again!
This role as the door to the sheepfold helps us all to understand Jesus is specifically claiming to be the redeemer of the world. And that for His hearers, including us, is a scandal. We’d like to think that we merit some brownie points with God by what we do and how religiously we act.
After all here we are on a Wednesday night going to church, doesn’t that count toward how good God thinks I am. And there it is again; I am.
Jesus is the ‘I am’ not me, and not you. Jesus is Yahweh, Jesus is ego emi. He is the only source of righteousness and justification with God. And so the scandal of believing that is what we and all who hear the message of Christ must come to terms with. Jesus is the I am gateway. To believe that is to have peace with God, otherwise, we’re no more than robbers and thieves. Amen.
Sermon #878 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO
Holy Gospel John 14:1-10
1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.
3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.”
5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
6 Jesus answered,
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
7 If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well.
From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.