John 10:9-10

I Am The Gate

Andy Little | 7.9.23


JOHN 10:9-10

I am a poser. I stand here in front of you today to sadly admit that I am a faker. Even though I grew up near the Mesquite Championship Rodeo, and though I love to wear me cowboy boots and cowboy hats on occasion… A cowboy I am not. I’m a fake. I’m no cowboy. Nor am I a rancher… nor am I a farmer. I just like to sometimes look like one, I guess.

Let me tell you a quick story about when I was exposed as the total fake that I am. When I was a young minister at the Faith Baptist Church in Mesquite, TX, our church had this service ministry where we would volunteer each year at the State Fair of Texas. We would help all the participants in the Fair’s livestock show get their pens and tack and animals all situated in the barn and ready for the shows. We would also help with the steer branding and help manage the barn throughout the week… And this was fun for us. We got to look the part, wear our boots and hats and belt buckles and act like Cowboys for a week. But, really, we were just a bunch of suburban kids in costume that had no clue what we were doing.

One morning, when the pig show was about to begin, one of the State Fair officials came to our group in a panic. He said the PA announcer for the pig show fell violently ill and had to leave abruptly. He asked us if any of us had experience announcing a pig show. After we all shook our heads “no”, he then asked, “well, does anyone feel comfortable talking into a microphone?”. And that’s when Clayton, who I thought was my friend, spoke up and said, “Andy, can do it. He’s a preacher. He talks into a microphone all the time.”

And before I could even formulate my protest, I was whisked away to the announcer’s booth at the State Fair Livestock Pig Show and was sat down in front of a big Public Address microphone — thrown a bunch of papers —- and was told, “Just read what’s on these papers, throw in a little filler for entertainment, and you’ll be just fine.” It’s easy, they told me. You’ll be fine, they said. I was not fine.

I tried to throw in some light farm humor into the show, but they didn’t find me to be very funny. It was a tough crowd. Then, later, they started laughing — at me, not with me — when I announced the 4H club out of Montague County, except I read it aloud as Montague County, a pronunciation, it seemed, everyone knew was wrong, except me. I was really struggling.

But that wasn’t the worst part. The worst part was when a young lady out of Stephenville showed off her pig named Baby. Now look, I don’t know a lot about pig shows, and I don’t know what the judges are looking for when they evaluate these pigs, but even I could tell that Baby the pig had some haunch to it. So… I decided, against my better judgement, to announce this show pig as it made its way around the arena by saying, “Ladies and gentlemen, next we have Baby from the Stephenville 4H club… and I gotta say… Baby got back.” Do you think the small town crowd there that day finally laughed at one of my jokes?? No, of course not. My terribly lame and mildly offensive joke was only met with an awkard silence and a few groans. It was embarrassing.… embarrassing.

So… Like I said… I am a poser, a faker. I don’t know much about farming or ranching or cows or pigs or sheep.  And my ignorance  in this field of agriculture has caused me to misunderstand, or to misapply, or to just totally miss what Jesus was trying to say when he used agricultural metaphors.  This is certainly true when it comes to today’s text. Let’s read today’s text and you’ll see what I mean (I think).

Today we’ll read just two verses, verses 9 & 10, in the tenth chapter of the Gospel of John (John 10:9-10)

9 I am the gate. (This is Jesus talking) I am the gate. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will come in and go out and find pasture. And then Jesus says… 10 A thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.

As you’ll recall, this Summer we are working through the various “I Am” statements that Jesus made. In our text today, Jesus, says, (And I quote) “I am the gate for the sheep”. I am the gate. Other translations say door, as in “I am the door”… which is also fine. The two are virtually synonymous. Either way, with a gate or with a door, we’re talking about something that either slides, rolls, or swings on a hinge. And in both cases, whether you’re talking about a door, or a a gate, you’re talking about something that, when opened, it allows passage… and.. when closed… it blocks passage.

So Jesus says “I am the gate”. I am that thing that either allows passage or blocks passage. At first glance, this seems like a pretty simple statement… and it seems pretty clear in its meaning. And, to be honest, it is simple, and it is clear.

But when I first started studying this text in depth, in preparation for this sermon, I started to make it more complicated than it should be. I think I was a little confused – upon first reading – about the part of the metaphor where Jesus said the sheep were coming in and then going out to find pasture. My Baptist/reformed-ish background made me think “wait, what? I get the coming in… the entering part. But, going out? Coming in and going out? You can’t come and go when it comes to Jesus. Once saved always saved, right? The perseverance of the saints.. right? You’re either in or you’re out. What is all this coming and going?”

So this text confused me for a bit. And I thought “what is Jesus trying to say here”? And then I read a bunch of books, and studied a lot of commentary, and prayed a lot asking God for wisdom and understanding…. I did all that… only to eventually come to the conclusion that I was trying too hard and complicating the matter. It’s actually very simple – I now believe – to make sense of what Jesus is saying. It’s not complicated. He is saying “I am the door”.  Or “I am the gate.” “I am the gateway to life”. “I am the passageway to abundant life”.

After studying this at length, I believe the focus on the text isn’t so much on the coming and the going out to pasture, which will address a little later on, but, rather, on the singularity of it all. The singularity of Jesus’ statement. It’s not just that Jesus is “a” gate… It’s that JESUS IS THE GATE. “I am the gate”, Jesus says.

Jesus is simply saying that there is a pathway to life…. there is a way – a passage – which leads to eternal life and abundant life – and that way is through Him. It is I and I am It, Jesus says. I am the gate.

This is very similar to Jesus’ assertion in John 14:6 where Jesus identifies himself as “The Way”. He says “I am the way”..

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Again, notice the singularity of it all. Jesus is saying that He is the Way. He is the gate. The only one. There is none other. There is no one else. There is no other way.

JESUS IS THE GATE – It is plain and simple, yet so rich and profound

How is that so? Well, consider this. If Jesus is the gate, and He is,  what is he the gateway to? If he is the gate, where does entering through Him lead? What awaits those that pass through this gate?

Jesus provides the answer to this question in two forms… First, in a literary sense… with a metaphor. And, then, he clears up any ambiguity with a direct, straightforward statement. Let’s first look at the metaphoric, descriptive imagery Jesus uses.

I am the gate. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will come in and go out and find…. pasture. In this metaphor, Jesus says that we… we’re the sheep in this metaphor, Jesus says that we will find – if we enter through him – that we will find pasture.

What is pasture? Pasture, for a sheep, is where it would find joy, and substance, and sustenance, and satisfaction… and contentment. A sheep that is in pasture is a sheep that is living its best life. Being in pasture, for a sheep, is about as good as it gets.

So how does this apply to us? If we are the sheep in this metaphor… what does it mean that we, if we enter through Jesus – The Gate – that we will find pasture?  Perhaps Jesus anticipated such a question, because he would go on to explain in direct, more literal, terms what this means for us in the very next verse…

10 A thief {Jesus says} comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.

There’s your answer. Jesus says those that enter through him will find life – like, real life – and that they will have it in abundance. Abundant life… that is what Jesus says is our pasture. Our pasture is abundant life. If we enter through Jesus, The Gate, we will find abundant life.

What is abundant life?

Jesus doesn’t parse out the details here, in today’s text, of what makes a life an abundant life. But we can ascertain from other statements made by Jesus what he must’ve meant when he talks about abundant life…

For starters, abundant life means eternal life.   Or life in eternal fellowship with our Creator God. Abundant life is nothing if its not, at minimum, eternal life. A temporary life, and a temporary perspective and approach to life, will always be devoid of meaning. Abundant life is eternal life. In fact, Jesus says as much in today’s text.

9 I am the gate. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved (i. e. He will have eternal life) and will come in and go out and find pasture.

Jesus says those that enter through him will be saved, ergo, have eternal life.

So, abundant life means eternal life. What else does an abundant life consist of?

Someone on line said this… I don’t know who, but I liked what they said..

“Abundant life” refers to life in its abounding fullness of joy and strength for spirit, soul and body.”

This sounds good, “abounding fullness of joy and strength for spirit, soul, and body.” But what does that mean exactly? It sounds good, but it almost seems to ethereal.

I think Jesus does a better job of moving us from the ethereal concept to a more practical understanding of abundant life in Matthew 11…

In Matthew 11 Jesus says  “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take up my yoke, Jesus says, and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Rest for your souls. No more uneasiness, emptiness, anxiety, worry,… but, rest….. rest for your restless soul. Peace. Like, real peace. Peace that can only come from contentment, and safety, and joy.

Ok, so abundant life is a life of peace, inner peace, a life of soul rest, a life of contentment, a life of joy. That’s abundant life.

Perhaps another way to better understand the meaning of abundant life is to define it by negation… That means to define abundant life by describing it according to what it is not.

Let’s talk about what abundant life isn’t… It isn’t miserable, tired, restless, empty, stressed, devoid of meaning, lacking in purpose.

Nor is it a life of self-gratification, nor a life of opulence, nor luxury, nor a life of chasing highs, chasing paper, or chasing sexual pleasure… all of which only lead to the aforementioned misery, exhaustion, anxiety, and emptiness.

Ok, suffice it to say, for now, that abundant life is an awesome, eternal, fully soul-satisfying life.

And if you’re here this morning and you’re thinking “That doesn’t sound like my life. My life doesn’t sound very abundant.. does such a life really exist?” If that’s you… And if you are, in sincerity, pondering if such an abundant life is really possible… I have some exciting news for you.

Yes! Yes it does exist. And, yes, it is possible for you to have such a life, to experience abundant life. The pasture of abundant life does exist – its a real place – and it can be a reality for you.

But………. But you have to enter through the right “Gate”. In a world of a million gates, 999,999 of them lead to disappointment and destruction. There is but one gate that will lead to life eternal and life abundant. That gate… is Jesus.

“I am the gate”, Jesus says.

Any other person… any other path… any other door or gate that appears to be THE WAY to abundant life is counterfeit. It is fake… It is faker than your boy in a cowboy hat. It ain’t real. It’s counterfeit. It’s a lie.

There is but one gate that opens to eternal, abundant life.  Only one. Again, it’s the singularity of Jesus’s claim. I am the gate, he says. The only way.

Some balk at this and find it to be offensive. Just one option? Just one path, the say? Just one way? Just one gate that opens up to abundant life? That doesn’t sound right, they say. That doesn’t sound very inclusive. It seems very narrow.. very narrow-minded. Just one way?

It seems… exclusive. But is it, though? Is it exclusive? Is Jesus’ claim of being the only gate that leads to abundant life lacking in inclusivity? I’m not so sure that it is.

The Oxford dictionary defines inclusion, or the act of being inclusive, as such…

Inclusion: The practice or policy of providing equal access to opportunities and resources for people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized, such as those who have physical or intellectual disabilities and members of other minority groups.

It would seem to me, according to this definition of inclusion, or inclusivity… that Jesus’ invitation is the most inclusive invitation to ever… to ever… be issued.
May I refer you to the most popular verse in the entire collection of the Holy Scriptures. It was most likely the very first verse you learned growing up. You’ve seen it on banners and at sporting events. It was likely the first verse you ever committed to memory. I’m talking about, of course, John 3:16… If you’re like me, you first learned it in the King James Version… which states…. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him, shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” The Christian Standard Bible puts it this way…

For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

For God loved the world… who did he love? Was it a certain subset of the world’s inhabitants? Was it a particular group? Nah… God loved the world, His creation, in it’s entirety.. excluding no one. And how did He love it? In this way… He gave his one and only Son, so that… who? Who is it that will not perish and will have eternal life? Everyone who believes in him. The invitation is open to everyone.

If you think that that is exclusive… well… bless your heart… you’re wrong.  The invitation to abundant life is an open invitation to all, to anyone, to everyone, regardless of socioeconomic status, regardless of gender, regardless of how melanin rich or melanin deficient you may or may not be, whether you’re wealthy, middle class, or impoverished. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if you are strong or if you’re weak… Doesn’t matter if you’re brave or if you are a coward. Doesn’t matter whether you’re pretty, whether you’re beautiful or handsome, or whether you are altogether unattractive,  it does not matter. Doesn’t matter if you’re a Democrat, a Republican, a Libertarian, or a Progressive. It doesn’t matter if you’re disabled, diseased, depressed, or degenerate. It does not matter who your daddy was. Or who your mama was. It doesn’t matter if you’re single, married, divorced, or widowed. It does not matter what flag you fly. It does not matter who you think you are. It does not matter. You are not excluded from Jesus’ invitation. Jesus is inviting you to eternal life and abundant life… BUT… but you have to go through Him!

Earlier we read Matthew 11:38 where Jesus says…
 “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Come to me, Jesus says, all of you who are tired, beaten down, and hopeless, and anxious… all of you who are looking for pasture… for abundant life. All of you… come… to me. And I will give you rest. I will give you pasture. I will give you abundant life.

Again.. It’s not exclusive at all.. the invitation is open to everyone… you just have to enter through the gate! Through the right gate.

But still… some say.. What gives Jesus the right to be the sole gatekeeper of all the awesome things… of abundant life? Who made Jesus the monopolizer of everything good? What gives Jesus the right to make such a claim? To being the only way, to being the only gate, or door, that leads to abundant life?

Well, as our beloved Pastor Valentine, loves to say… I am glad you asked.

Earlier I told you that I do not know a lot about livestock, about farming and ranching, about agriculture. And I told you how my lack of knowledge and understanding regarding agriculture has kept me from fully understanding the richness and beauty of some of the metaphors used in the Bible, especially as it relates to sheep and shepherds.

Here, our text today is one (of many) examples where my ignorance about agriculture kept me from realizing the depth of it’s meaning. I’ll explain…

Did you know – I didn’t know until I began studying in preparation for this sermon… but… Did you know – that in olden days, that shepherds, those who watched the sheep, that when they slept at night… that they would pillow their heads, through the night, in between the posts that created the opening of the sheep’s pen? They would lie down to sleep – and posture themselves – in such a way that they would act as a human gate… blocking entrance from any outsider that would seek to harm the sheep. They would literally lay down their lives, and make themselves very vulnerable, even unto death, to be a human gate, for the sake of the sheep.

Does that sound familiar? Does that sound like anyone else you know? To avoid ambiguity, I’ll just tell you. It sounds like Jesus. It does seem familiar because it is the exact message of Jesus. In verse 11, the very next verse following today’s text… Jesus says explicitly…

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

Why can Jesus say that he is the gate? The only gate? Why can Jesus lay claim to being the only way, the only gate, that leads to eternal life…. and abundant life? Because… only Jesus – He’s the only one – laid down his life for you and for me. Only Jesus made himself vulnerable, even unto death.. that we might have life, and have it more abundantly. Only Jesus… only Jesus.. voluntarily and sacrificially absorbed the full measure of God’s wrath that was due towards us, only Jesus took on the full penalty of all of our collective sin, and suffered an excruciating, an unfathomably agonizing death. Why? For you.. and for me. For sinners. For all of us… So that we may have abundant life. Only Jesus did that!

Why can Jesus say that he is the gate? The only gate? Because he is the only one that died for you… that died to make abundant life accessible to you. Only Jesus.

Mohammed didn’t die for you. Nor did Buddha. Neither did Vishnu. Nor did anyone at the Watchtower. Nor did Joseph Smith,  Nor did any other so called gods die for you.

Nor did anyone else who claims to know the way to abundant life… Anthony Robbins didn’t die for you. None of the Kardashians died for you. Nor did Elon Musk. Nor did Tom Cruise.  Oprah didn’t die for you. Joel Osteen didn’t die for you. Mike Todd didn’t die for you. Nor did Joe Biden. Nor did Donald Trump. Nor did either of the George Bushes. Nor did Barack Obama. Coco Chanel, Louis Vitton, Christian Loubatin… none of them give a rip about you. That Instagram model didn’t die for you. Nor did that podcaster that says they have hacked into the meaning of life. Your employer didn’t die for. Your plug didn’t die for you. No one. No other person that you would look to for abundant life, no one else that would claim to know the way to life and life in abundance, none of them laid down their life for you. No one. None, but Jesus.

All other ways, all other “gates”, or all others promising abundant life are counterfeit. They’re fake. Their promises are empty. They are no more real than I am a bull riding, bronc busting cowboy. Like I told you in the open. I’m a fake. And so are they. No one else is the gate, is the way, to abundant life. None but Jesus.

There is such a thing as abundant life, and there is but one gate that leads us there… and the gate’s name is Jesus.

Jesus is the gate. Jesus is the way. And he is calling you, today, to come to him… to enter through him… so that you may live… so that you may really live… So that you may have life, and life eternal, and life abundant. He is calling you.