The Dictionary of Biblical Imagery explains that in Scripture as in life, “Doors and doorways are places of transition.” Being on the right or wrong side of a door or gate can mean the difference between safety or vulnerability, revelation or concealment, and hospitality or exclusion. When Jesus called Himself the “gate for the sheep” (v. 7) in His Good Shepherd discourse, He meant that He is the only entryway for salvation.
In today’s passage, Jesus identified Himself as both the gate and the shepherd. What does it mean for Him to be the shepherd (vv. 11, 14)? The true shepherd enters by the gate (v. 2). By contrast, thieves (false teachers) climb over the fence to steal (v. 1), and hired hands (poor leaders) run away when danger comes, since they have no personal investment in the flock (vv. 12–13). The Good Shepherd knows His sheep by name (v. 3), leads them for their own benefit (v. 4), gives them a full life (v. 10), and even “lays down his life for the sheep” (vv. 11, 15).
What does it mean for Jesus to be the gate (v. 7)? “Whoever enters through me will be saved” (v. 9). There is no other way! The verse continues: “They will come in and go out, and find pasture.” This doesn’t mean you can go in and out of God’s kingdom, or lose your salvation. Instead, “come in and go out” is a merism—a figure of speech using two extremes to refer to a whole. We can paraphrase this line as, “In everything they do, the sheep will find pasture.” The Good Shepherd takes care of us sheep. The blessings of His care include a close relationship, provision of needs, protection, salvation, and an abundant life!
>> Scripture often pictures God as a shepherd, most famously in Psalm 23. “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing” (v. 1). Make time to read this psalm throughout the day today, perhaps at every meal, thanking God for His provision.