The I Am Saying of Jesus | 3

Text: John 10:1-11

We have seen that the background to the “I Am” sayings of Jesus comes from Moses’ encounter with God at the burning bush in Exodus 3. When Moses asked God for His name he was told in vrs 14, “I AM WHO I AM. When the OT was translated into Greek this was translated by the Greek words ego eimi (I am I am).
When Jesus uses these same two Greek words ego eimi in the seven “I Am” sayings in John’s gospel he was making a clear statement of his divine identity. We have seen that the same Greek words ego eimi are used by Jesus in John 8:58. There is one last place in John’s gospel where Jesus combines these two words. It is in the Garden of Gethsemane when the soldiers came to arrest Jesus. When they told Jesus the identity of the person they had come to apprehend Jesus said in John 18:5 ego eimi. The response of the people was to fall to the ground in the presence of this majestic person. Jesus uses the same words ego eimi again in vrs 6, 8 to emphasise what he had said. In John 10 we come to consider the third and fourth “I Am” sayings of Jesus. Jesus says that he is the gate and the good shepherd. We have to distinguish between the two, but it is impossible to separate them.

In John 10:7 Jesus introduces his third “I Am” saying when he said, I tell you the truth, I am (ego eimi) the gate for the sheep.” To fully appreciate this saying, we need to understand a little about sheep and shepherding in ancient Israel. Sheep would graze outside all day but unlike other domesticated animals, they have no “homing instinct.” They are incapable of finding their way back to a sheepfold at night. They are totally dependent on the shepherd. At night the shepherd would bring them into the sheepfold. If the flock was out in the fields the shepherd could make a makeshift shelter out of rocks and sticks and he himself would lie at the entrance. More often however the sheep would be brought back into a public sheepfold made out of rocks. On top of the rocks would be briars to prevent thieves or animals from having access to the sheep. This sheepfold would be large enough to hold several flocks of sheep. One gatekeeper would be appointed to the guard the sheepfold at night. The next day the shepherds could call their sheep, each of which knew and responded to their shepherd’s voice. In John 10:1-11 Jesus is making two points.

  1. We need to understand the immediate context of this third “I Am” saying. It follows straight on from the ‘I am the light of the world” saying. Jesus had just healed a man born blind. The Pharisees instead of rejoicing in the man’s restored sight became jealous of Jesus and abusive towards the man himself. It is almost as if in John 10 Jesus is asking them the question “what kind of shepherds are you?” When Jesus says in vrs 8, all who came before me were thieves and robbers who does he have in mind. Clearly, Jesus would not refer to Moses or the prophets as thieves. He has false Pharisaic shepherds in mind who maimed the sheep they were called to tend. The background as we shall see next time is Ezekiel 34.
  2. What does Jesus have in mind when he repeatedly says I am the gate for the sheep. He is clearly teaching that God has a sheepfold which is a heavenly sanctuary of peace and protection. His kingdom has one door. It is exclusive. There are not five different gates into heaven but only one. The flock of God has one shepherd and one gate, and that gate is Christ. In our modern generation when we claim that there is only one way to be saved, we are labelled as arrogant. This is what Jesus teaches in our passage. It is also what the apostles taught. In Acts 4:12 Peter says, salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved. In 1 Timothy 2:5 Paul declares, for there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. Jesus is both our Shepherd and the gate to the sheepfold who provides for all our needs. The one who repent of their sin and believes in Christ and enters through the gate will enjoy the eternal bliss of his sheepfold.