28 July 2020John 10:1-10
‘I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.’ (v. 9)
Psalm: Psalm 89:19-37
Jesus is the gate. His description of himself here loses out to his (spoiler alert!) title of ‘good shepherd’ in tomorrow’s reading. ‘Gate’ does fit well though with him calling himself ‘the way’ in John 14 (you can read my reflections on this famous text in ‘Dangerous Liturgy’ #4 here https://simonjcross.com/writing/dangerous-liturgy/).
Jesus was not a systematic thinker; his expressions are all about impact. It does not matter that in one verse he is a gate and a few verses later is a shepherd. If we get tripped up on questions of ‘How can he be both?’, ‘Is he being inconsistent/contradictory?’ then we aren’t going to get anywhere. If Jesus is the gate then this opens up the space or others to be shepherds, as he says, not the ones who climb over the wall. Some of Jesus’ followers and predecessors (he is using hyperbole when he says that there were none) are shepherds. Hopefully, they (or we) fit Jesus’ description, there are few things worse than a shepherd who is a bandit. But, back to the gate, depending on your theology you might see all of humanity in the sheepfold, with all of us going through the gate in either direction. It does not matter which.
Personally, I think we should always go with an inclusive reading and the Methodist (Arminian) tradition encourages this. Reading it exclusively shuts down the richness, inexactness and multi-layered possibilities. We should avoid answering the questions that arise – which sheep, whose sheep, who are the other shepherds, who are the bandits. The more questions, the more richness, the more possibilities, the more open we become. From my perspective, we certainly want to avoid having just one way to understand Jesus’ stories.
- What kind of shepherds have you encountered, or what kind of shepherd are you?
- How do you feel about Jesus as the gate?