Food for thought
Grace and Peace to you from God our Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Jesus said, ‘Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. I am the gate.’ (Jn 10:7, 9)
We have entered the season of Advent. In many families it is a tradition to have some kind of calendar to count down the days leading up to Christmas. It could be a numbered candle, or a box with 24 envelopes to open. It could be a box of chocolates, a box of tea, or even a box of beer cans – one for each day. Or it could be a box with little doors behind which little treasures are hidden.
The door is an important image of Advent. And it makes sense to look closer at Jesus’ statement “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. I am the gate.”
I don’t know about you, but usually I don’t notice doors. Only when I am looking for my keys, or when they squeak, are jammed, or don’t close properly.
But then, on a trip to Italy I took a whole series of photos of all kinds of doors. They made me wonder who walked through them, who lived behind them, and what might be going on inside the house…
Doors are important: they keep the house warm and secure.
And doors divide. They divide into inside and outside. Into warmth and cold. Into danger and refuge. Into public and private.
Every day, most people walk into the world and back home. But there are those who don’t use the front or back door daily, for they might be bound to stay inside due to illness, anxiety, depression, or inactivity. Maybe they have to care for a family member. Maybe they are couch potatoes.
Or occasionally there are those who take the window instead of the door to get into the house, like a burglar.
And on the other hand, there are those without a home and a door to walk through.
Now, when Jesus says that he is the gate, he doesn’t mean just any gate. But he is the gate for the sheep shelter. Two times Jesus mentions this.
And reading the whole passage we realize that we are the sheep, and that it is about protection and security for us. Because sheep need a lot of protection from sheep thieves who are after their fleece and their lives. And those thieves don’t enter through the gate, according to Jesus. Rather they climb over the fence, the wall, or try to get in through the window.
And for a second time Jesus says, “I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.” (vs 9)
This time no-one tries to get in, but Jesus talks about the sheep using the door – in both directions.
They go into the shelter and find safety from thieves and predators. And they go outside and find ‘pasture’. They are not only inside, or always in the pasture. They are moving between both. And Jesus is the gate who opens into both directions. Jesus offers home and security, and openness and pasture.
This is not just about the end of life, or the end of time with Jesus being the gate into heaven, but it is about our sheep existence, our lives here and now. The everyday change from inside to outside and back is not happening without Jesus. He is our gate every day.
When we feel stuck in the musty, narrow walls and limitation of life, Jesus is the gate to a bigger life, to vastness and newness of life. And we can dare to set out, one step at a time, or in leaps and bounds. Or when we feel lost, when we lose direction in life because there is too much going on Jesus, the Shelter Gate is home, is community, is support.
We are about to enter Advent. And yet is not about our entering. Advent means arrival… Who or what is arriving? Well, everyone knows this: Christmas, and Baby Jesus… or more precisely Jesus, the Christ! (‘Jesus’ was a very common name in first century Israel. ‘Christ’ on the other hand wasn’t. ‘Christ’ isn‘t Jesus’ last name. It means ‘Anointed one’, or in Hebrew, ‘Messiah’… the promised Saviour. Every time we say ‘Jesus Christ’ we don’t just mention a name, we make a faith statement about who we believe this Jesus who is Christ is.)
In the Gospel of John Jesus tells us who he is. I am the way, the truth, the life. I am the light of the world. I am the Good Shepherd. I am the bread of life. I am the vine. I am the resurrection and the life. I am the gate. I am the door.
The door is opening. Jesus is arriving. Amen, Come, Lord Jesus.