Watch The Gate

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Most of us are familiar with the word pictures that Jesus used to describe Himself. As the Shepherd, as Living Water, as the Resurrection and the Life, we know Him. But here, at the beginning of John 10, is a picture that we don't often hear much about even though its truth is understood by probably all believers.

Therefore Jesus said again, ‘I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep...I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture” (John 10:7, 9).

Before making this magnificent statement, the Lord describes those who come into the sheepfold by any other way as thieves and robbers (10:1), making it clear that it is only through Christ that we can enter the Kingdom, and reminding us that it is possible for pseudo-sheep to sneak in among the real flock of God.

Jesus also gave a brief mention to the “watchman,” the one who minds the gate (10:3). This gives a nod to those who bring the good news of Jesus to those outside the fold.

The emphasis is on being watchful—what a watchman does—and opening the gate —Jesus—when a sheep from the outside comes near, or when the shepherd comes in or goes out.

The watchman would have been a familiar figure to the Jews of Jesus’ day. The Old Testament is full of references to the important task that this person had. His biggest roles in the Old Testament were to be on the lookout for messengers and enemies (i.e. 2 Kings 9:17; Isaiah 21:6), and to give warning (i.e. Ezekiel 3:17, 33:6, 7). There were dire consequences if he didn’t do his job.

In our role as watchmen, our responsibility is much the same as it would have been for the Old Testament watchmen. The messenger with the good news has already arrived and we need to faithfully deliver that message. We are to issue warnings about the enemy of every man's soul, so that those on the outside can find their way to the shelter and protection of the fold. We are to stand by the gate, the entrance, to the fold and make it available for all who are ready to enter. Christ is the Gate, just as He is the Shepherd. It is of Him the watchman speaks. It is for Him the watchman looks. It is under Him the watchman works.

The emphasis is not as much on the fold as it is on the gate—at least as far as the watchman in concerned. I find this interesting. The fold is the Shepherd’s business, occupying himself with the gate is the watchman’s business. This fits nicely with this statement from the psalms: “Unless the Lord build the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain” (127:1).

It’s not my job, your job, or anyone else’s job to “count coup” on the sheep. It our job to mind the gate and, by careful attention to the Shepherd and faithful ministry of the warning, make it possible for those outside the fold to find it, to find Jesus, the only entrance to that fold, and the only Shepherd of those sheep.

He will build His church. Our job is to pay attention to the gate.

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