‘Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.’ Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
So again Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.’
Wouldn’t you know it! Here are two more “I am” passages that continue to add to the identity of Jesus. I am the gate. I am the good shepherd. I wonder how many “I am” passages are in the Gospel of John. That would be a wonderful extra credit assignment. Take a look, count them up, and then send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We can talk!
For Jesus, a lifestyle of faithfulness was literally a life and death matter. We all know that in the end he will lay down his life so others might find life that is everlasting. He previews this reality with his comments about the Good Shepherd who is willing to lay down his life for his sheep. He gives his life willingly because he is invested. He is not like someone who is just hired to oversee the flock. He knows and loves the flock and I am eternally grateful!
Today, I invite you to celebrate the fact that you are a part of the flock. You are loved by God. You are a blessed child of God. And the sacrifice of Jesus the Good Shepherd was directed toward your life.
As we started this journey of Lent, we set a commitment to express our faith through a tithe and to grow in our desire to share our lives. No one is asking us to give up our lives but to live our lives to the fullest by making a difference in the world. How are you doing with that desire?