We have seen that each of the Gates of Old Jerusalem rebuilt by Nehemiah following the return of the Babylonian exiles, carries particular spiritual truths that Scriptures reveal to us. Jesus once firmly reminded the two despondent disciples on the road to Emmaus following Jesus’ crucifixion with these words: “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory? And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures that things concerning himself” (Luke 24:26-27).
Wouldn’t it be amazing to have the precise detail of what Jesus shared with these two characters? Maybe He did, or maybe He did not share the significance of the Jerusalem gates rebuilt by Nehemiah 500 years earlier. It is not beyond incredulity.
In John 10, Jesus is talking to the Pharisees in the first instance, and all other claims to be the Messiah in the second. Those religious leaders of the day who should be the shepherds of Israel. But Jesus points out that the reason why the Pharisees are so often feared and/or despised by the ordinary person, is because they rob and steal and force and coerce the people into obedience. In other words, the people don’t hear their voice in the way God intends. Jesus said, “The sheep hear the shepherd’s voice and they follow and he leads them out….they don’t follow a stranger for they do not know his voice” (Jn 10:3-5).
This passage recalls so many Old Testament references to God and His people as His beloved sheep. Psalm 23 is of course the classic. But John 10 certainly has Ezekiel 34 in mind. In the Old Testament, the term for shepherd also signified Israel’s kings and her spiritual leaders. It was these leaders who were the gatekeepers to the ways of God, and in the misery and violence of the greed and sin, they failed, leading many thousands into a terrible and terrifying exile, first to Assyria for Israel (722 BC), then to Babylon for Judah (586 BC).
These kings and shepherds were supposed to protect, lead, guide and teach. Instead they were selfish, exploitative, tyrannical and totally ignorant of God and the Law he gave to Moses. Thus Ezekiel goes on to say [with God speaking], “Behold, I myself will search for my sheep and seek them out… and rescue them….I myself will be the Shepherd of my sheep… I will seek the lost and strengthen the weak and bind up the injured” (Ez. 34:11-16).
So by the time Jesus adds His own divine thoughts as recorded by John, he says of Himself with repetition to reinforce the claim He is making, “I am the Gate (v.7); I am the Gate (v9); I am the Good Shepherd (v11); I am the Good Shepherd (v14). And it is this Good Shepherd that “lays down his life for the sheep” (Jn. 10:11), but more than merely lay it down, which is the duty of all ‘good’ shepherds, Jesus then says, with glorious confidence in His own resurrection, “For this reason the father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again” (Jn 10:17).
This Easter, we are reminded of this great and mighty truth from Jesus. There are sheep elsewhere that Jesus will also bring in (Jn. 10:16), and this is where you and I come in: Don’t ever worry about sharing this Good News. Just share it! And see what God will do.
Christ is Risen!