Several years ago, I helped chaperon an all-night youth lock-in at my church. Most of the activities were in the fellowship hall, but when it came time for everyone to roll out their sleeping bags, we divided the kids up so that the boys slept in the fellowship hall and the girls slept in the sanctuary. We wanted to make sure that the kids all stayed where they were supposed to, so two of us chaperons did something interesting. Gary slept directly inside the fellowship hall’s front door, which opened in—so in order to open the door the kids would have to bump him. He'd literally have to move out of the way for the boys to get out the front door, and that wasn't happening. Then I camped out on the back porch, just in front of the rear door, which opened out. It was the same situation—they'd have to bump me, and I'd have to move out of the way for anybody to get out. Gary and I literally became the gates, to keep the kids where they were supposed to be. Plus, there was an added benefit to our sleeping situation. When you’re watching children all night, security has to be on your mind. Not only were we keeping them in—we were also keeping unwanted visitors out. Nobody was sneaking past us!
In Jesus’ day, sheep pens were corrals where shepherds would keep their sheep at night. These pens had one way in, and one way out. Once the sheep were in the pen, the shepherd would lie down across the entrance. He literally became the gate—nothing was getting in or out without waking the shepherd. Jesus had this in mind in John 10.1-10 (NIV), when He said:
“Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.
Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
In John 14.6 (NIV), Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” He is the only gate for the sheep. There is no way to enter the Kingdom of Heaven but through Jesus. Once a person enters eternal life through Christ, Jesus keeps them in the sheepfold. The believer can rest assured, because Jesus says, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day (John 6.37-39 ESV).” His sheep, who know His voice, can lie down in peace and know that Jesus will never let them be lost.
Just as assuredly as the Lord keeps His own sheep in the fold, He also keeps others out. All are welcome, who come through Him. But there are those who want to sneak in another way—and they are thieves and robbers. Some people claim that salvation can come in many forms, and from many sources. But in Acts 4.12 (NIV), Peter testifies of Jesus, saying: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” To enter the sheep pen, you’ve got to enter by the gate—and that gate is Jesus Himself.
Today I pray that you’ll come into the fold and rest—that you’ll enter through the Gate and find the safety and warmth of the fold. Once you come in, the Shepherd will keep you—from wandering away from His love, and from the thief who would threaten your soul.