Shepherd and sheep gate – Fourth Sunday of Easter
John 10:1-10 is the beginning of the presentation of Jesus as the good shepherd (it will continue on the fourth Sunday of Easter of the following two years). The place and time of this teaching will be indicated in John 10: 22-23. They are The Temple and the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah) in December, which recalled the purification and reconstruction of the temple and altar by Judas Maccabee 165-164 B.C. (1 Mac 4.52-59; 2 Mac 10.5).
Jesus uses two metaphors for himself in this passage. He is the shepherd who enters by the gate which the gatekeeper opens for him (v. 2-6), and he is the gate (or door) by which the sheep enter into salvation and go out to find pasture (v. 7-9). Jesus says that thieves and bandits enter the sheepfold by another way (v. 1). The thieves and bandits are “all who came before me” (v. 8), and the thief who “comes to steal, kill, and destroy” (v. 10).
John always has “amen, amen” linking a prior story with Jesus’ teaching. The prior story in this case is that of the man born blind (9:1-41), so the good shepherd teaching grows out of that story where the Pharisees were anything but good shepherds.
What is being pictured here is a large sheepfold capable of accommodating several flocks. The gatekeeper recognizes the shepherd and opens the gate for him. The shepherd would use a distinctive call to call his sheep, and they would recognize his call and gather around him. It is noteworthy that Mary Magdalene recognizes the risen Christ only when he calls her by name (20:16).
While inside the sheepfold, the sheep have the protection of its walls. When the shepherd leads them out of the sheepfold, the shepherd is their only protection—and all the protection that they need if he is a good shepherd.
The Pharisees didn’t understand what he was telling them” (v. 6). Because they thought of themselves as good shepherds. It would have been nearly impossible for them to imagine that Jesus would portray them as bad shepherds—thieves and robbers. Jesus changes the metaphor. He was the shepherd, but is now the gate.
Jesus doesn’t say that he is A door, but that he is THE door. Later, he will say, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me”