1 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. 2 But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6 This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

7 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” – John 10:1-18

Back in Jesus’ day, his audience was well-acquainted with the sheep and shepherd picture that Jesus is painting. Shepherds would often build a sheepfold (aka a sheep pen) with tall, stone walls and back it up on a cliff or canyon. He would make only one, single door for the sheepfold and stand guard himself so that the only way for dangerous, wild animals to access the sheep would be to go through that one and only door – where he was standing, waiting. This way, too, the sheep know that anyone who tries to enter their sheepfold in any other manner is not their loving shepherd, not their fearless protector, not anyone who can be trusted to enter their safe place.

Jesus is this one and only gate. He declares, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.” He is our loving, fearless guardian of our inmost, safe place. He doesn’t try to break into this place, but rather, he protects it. He stands guard of your inmost, secret place and is prepared to die to keep it safe. Anyone who tries to get in to your heart by any other means, Jesus is clear on their intent; they connive to find a way into your heart to “steal and kill and destroy.” Wow, no thanks. The things I consider most dear, the things I most treasure in my heart? These are the things they are trying to get at and tear apart? Yes, that is what Scripture spells out will – eventually but undoubtedly – result when they’re through with you, and this is exactly why Jesus is soldiered up and standing at the ready to stop that from happening.

Sheep also recognize their shepherd’s voice. See for yourself!

These days, everyone’s got something to say so they blast it on your radiowaves, twitterfeed, newsfeed, what have you. You can’t help but listen because it’s everywhere you go, and all your friends are saying it too. It dictates what you wear, what kind of music you listen to, and what defines popular and cool. You either align yourself with what everyone says is hot, or be a lame and watch your like/follower numbers drop. Girls can gossip maliciously, while boys sometimes emasculate one another. The worst for me, however, was probably the things I told myself – lots of self-deprecation and hopelessness.

That’s why, when I heard the gentle voice of Jesus, it was profound. It was the quiet storm that wrecked shop with a kiss. As children, there was wisdom in that we listened to the voice of who loved us the most. If someone hurt our feelings, we ran to our parents and their declaration of unequivocal love for us remedied most life disasters. That’s grace. As we get older, without the voice of Jesus, we are helpless prey for thieves and robbers who will coax us into opening the door to our hearts. But again, they’re in it for their own personal agenda and gain. Jesus looks at our delicate, vulnerable, precious hearts, and he has a burning fire to infuse it with life-giving life! Not the mind-numbing burden of having existence on this miserable planet, but life that makes you eager to get out of bed in the morning, get blessed, and bless others! Life where you’re happy for no reason, benevolent because you want to and can’t nobody stop you, and ever hopeful in the face of all circumstances. This is the heart of our Shepherd.

There is only one Shepherd because he is the only way to salvation. There is no other way. There is no one else who can do what he does. The rescue of all humankind rests on his shoulders, and he does not resist laying down his life for his beloved because the love he is given by and gives to the gatekeeper, his Father, far surpasses all these things.

Photograph above by Themebin.

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Kristine Min is the Childrens’ Pastor at Temecula Valley Korean Presbyterian Church in Temecula, CA. She is currently pursuing her MDiv at Bethel Seminar in San Diego, CA.