“I am.” That’s what Jesus said. “I am.”
Over the next few weeks we will be looking at the various times that Jesus used the phrase “I am” to metaphorically describe himself.
“I am the Way”, “I am the truth”, “I am the resurrection”, “I am the life”, “I am the bread of life”, “I am the light of the world”, “I am the Good Shepherd.” And on one occasion Jesus simply stated “I AM’, a statement of existence that goes clear back to the Old Testament when God declared to Moses in Exodus 3:14 God replied to Moses, “I Am Who I Am. Say this to the people of Israel: I Am has sent me to you.”
It is interesting that only John records these words of Jesus. It’s not that Jesus doesn’t use the words “I am” anywhere else in the Gospels, he does. As a friend of mine from Australia used to say “He’s not backwards about coming forward” at least not in sense of defining who he was and what he was like, for example Matthew 11:29 “Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
When the high priests demanded that Jesus answer their question in Mark 14:61 Then the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” He answered and said Mark 14:62 Jesus said, “I AM.”
And on different occasions Jesus said very clearly “I am the Messiah”. But it is only in the book of John that Jesus’ uses these metaphors to describe himself.
Now Jesus didn’t use similes because as you are all aware a simile uses the word “like” to make that comparison. Jesus didn’t say “I am like a gate” he said “I am the gate” he didn’t say, “I am like a shepherd” he said “I am the shepherd.”
A metaphor is much more forceful than a simile. But you knew that already.
But maybe you are wondering why John mentions these words but Matthew, Mark and Luke don’t? After giving it much thought my answer would be: “just because they didn’t”.
If four of you chose to follow me around for the next three years, from now until February 2024 and then each of you wrote an account of what I did and what I said each of you would attribute importance to different parts of the story.
In the gospels we have concise accounts of Jesus’ ministry. If we had every word and every action that he did written down it would literally take up volumes of space. Which John echoes in John 21:25 Jesus also did many other things. If they were all written down, I suppose the whole world could not contain the books that would be written.
And so the fact that only John recorded the times that Jesus used these metaphors probably isn’t all that surprising. Perhaps they struck a chord with John; maybe he was the only one who noticed the pattern.
When we moved back from Australia we noticed how many people were using the word “Paradigm”. Or for those of you who are hooked on Phoneics “Par-a-dig-m” I’m sure the word was used in Oz but just not in the circles that we ran in. And so we moved back and here was this new word being bandied around willy nilly and I had no idea what it meant. All I knew was that if I was going to accomplish anything in this new church it would only happen after I strategically analysed and shifted my paradigm while maximizing and leveraging our synergy.
If you aren’t sure what a Paradigm is, don’t feel bad I’m not sure that the dictionary does either. I went to dictionary.com and this is what I found.
par·a·digm [par-uh-dahym, -dim] noun
1. a set of forms all of which contain a particular element, especially the set of all inflected forms based on a single stem or theme.
It wasn’t long after we were back that Angela and I were at a conference and one of the key-note speakers seemed to have fallen in love with word. But when I mentioned it to another pastor he said he hadn’t noticed. In a half an hour the speaker used the word “Paradigm” almost a dozen times, I know because every time he used the word we made a tic in our notes, until he caught us.
So perhaps it was only John who attached particular importance to these words that Jesus spoke. Maybe he was the one who saw the pattern.
Last week I looked at what Jesus meant when he said, “I am the light of the world, this morning we are looking at “I am the Gate.”
I’ve commented before about how often Jesus used the everyday to illustrate the eternal. The everyday activities of farmers, fishermen and house wives because opportunities for Jesus to illustrate the Kingdom of God. .
In this case it was the village sheepfold that caught the attention of Jesus. Historically while the sheep would be led into the hills surrounding the villages to graze during the day at night they would be brought back to the village and would be housed in a sheepfold. These were just pens, or corrals to contain and protect the sheep at night. Sometimes they were more permanent structures made out of stone and sometimes they were just temporary ones made out of brush. But the concept was the same, they were a sheep high enclosure with an opening for the sheep to go in and go out through.
So maybe Jesus and the apostles had come across a sheepfold and Jesus says John 10:1 “I tell you the truth, anyone who sneaks over the wall of a sheepfold, rather than going through the gate, must surely be a thief and a robber!
And then he says John 10:7 so Jesus explained it to them: “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep.” And then he reiterates that thought in John 10:9 Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures.
And there might be some of you who might be thinking, “I thought Jesus was the shepherd. How can he be the shepherd and the gate both?”
A couple of thoughts here. Some scholars tell us that some sheepfolds, in particular the temporary ones didn’t actually have a gate that closed the opening in the fold. And so once the sheep were inside the shepherd would lay across the opening to keep the sheep in place. Anyone who has ever chaperoned a youth lock in or sleep over understand the concept, at least in separating the rams and the ewes.
And so those scholars would tell us that Jesus was trying to convey that he was both the gate and the shepherd. Sometimes I think we over analysis things. I don’t think this was a mixed metaphor as much as it was two separate metaphors. You know what a mixed metaphor is right? When you jumble up different concepts in one thought.
Here are some examples, not the sharpest cookie in the jar, you can take that to the bank and smoke it, a watched clock never boils, march to your own trumpet, it never hurts to try anything once and of course, more fun than a barrel of laughs.
I have a friend who does that all the time, “I won’t tell you who it is, but before he was DS he was preaching here and challenged the Cornerstone family to “Grab life by the teeth”.
Let’s not try and twist our head around how Jesus can be both the shepherd and the gate, instead let’s just assume that they were two different thoughts.
We don’t wonder how Jesus could be the vine and the bread, or the Shepherd and the light. Jesus was simply using different metaphors to illustrate his different characteristics so let’s not mix them up.
Last week we looked at Jesus’ words “I am the light of the world, but that was last week. New thought for this week John 10:9 Jesus said “Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures.”
So there are three thoughts here. 1) There is One Gate We don’t see a lot of gates around the HRM, but 2000 years ago in the middle east gates were everywhere. You protected your sheep with gates, you protected your towns with gates, you protected your family with gates. The people who heard Jesus that day knew exactly what he meant when he talked about Gates. In Jesus’ day there were ten different gates placed in the walls of Jerusalem. There were big gates and little gates, fancy gates and plain gates. And there were all opened during the day and they were all closed at night.
During the day the elders gathered at the gates and it was there they held court. The city and village gates acted as meeting spots and gathering places. Actually, in the original language the word translated gate can also be translated “Tim Hortons”
Gates are much more prevalent outside of Canada. In my travels in West Africa, and Egypt and South America, I marveled at the number of gates there were.
Our hotel had a wall and a gate. All the homes we visited had walls and gates. To get to some of the restaurants we ate at you had to go through gates and even the church properties were gated. Some neighbourhoods were gated and often on main roads there would be gates set up with armed troops checking people’s IDs.
I commented to folks who were hosting us in one county about the gates, and asked if crime was really that serious of a problem and they said no but what if you left your property open and someone came and stole your clothes while they were hanging out to dry?
There seemed to be a culture of fear, which considering that they had just come out of a horrific civil war was understandable, but doesn’t really explain all the gated communities you see in places like Florida.
But the main purpose of a gate was that it provided an entrance and exit. And those who had legitimate business there entered via the gate, which is why Jesus said John 10:1 “I tell you the truth, anyone who sneaks over the wall of a sheepfold, rather than going through the gate, must surely be a thief and a robber!”
And there are times that we want to think that there are several different gates that people can go through on their way to God. But that isn’t the reality of what Jesus taught.
Jesus said John 14:6 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” He did not say, “I am one way and I am one truth”. And in the same way, Jesus said John 10:9 Jesus said “Yes, I am the gate.” He did not say “I am one gate” but “I am the gate”. And he is the gate not because he was a good teacher and not because he was a great prophet and not because he was a righteous man. He is the gate to God because He is God.
And while that might seem a little narrow and a little limiting that is the reality of the Kingdom. Jesus himself said in the book of Matthew 7:13 “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way.”
So what is on the other side of the Gate? John 10:9 Jesus said “Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures.”
2. He is a Gate to the There and Then Those who come in through me will be saved. When I was in Bible College we had a drama group called “Redemption Road” and they travelled to churches to represent the college. And in one of the sketches they had a young man trying to talk to his friend about Jesus but he kept using Christian phrases and Christian clichés that his friend wasn’t familiar with. One of those was “Are you saved?” To which his friend replied “What?” And so his friend asked again “Have you ever been saved?” “Once I was in a canoe in the middle of the river that flipped over, so yeah I guess I was.”
And we need to be careful that when we use words and concepts like “being saved” with people who aren’t familiar with “Christianise” but that doesn’t negate the value or the truth of those particular words.
It seems that most people are familiar with the phrase “Born again”, some people even identify themselves as Born Again Christians. But that’s kind of redundant.
But only once do we find that phrase in Bible. And it is an important reference in John 3:3 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
But it is only one statement. The New Testament is rife with the word and the concept of being saved.
Jesus uses the word, Paul uses the word, Peter uses the word, James uses the word. Even angels used the word.
Listen to how the story of Jesus begins, Mary has broken the news to Joseph that she is pregnant, and he knows he’s not the father. He decides he must break of the engagement but that night as he struggles to find peace in sleep, we read Matthew 1:20-21 As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
When Jesus was explaining why he had come he tells his Apostles in Luke 19:10 “For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.”
And after Jesus had died on the cross and had rose from the dead, in one of his last conversation with his followers he told them Mark 16:16 Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned.
The bible is very clear that we are all sinners, as much as we try to not sin, we do sin. Romans 3:23 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.
And the bible is equally clear that the consequences of that sin is spiritual death. That is what the Bible calls Hell, or Hades or Sheol. And through the years it has been described with flames and fire and torment.
And while we don’t know what hell will look like or what hell will feel like, but we do know this, it will be a separation from God and a separation from all that is good.
It will be a separation from love and from peace and from joy.
It won’t be a party to get reacquainted with old friends, it will be hell. Hebrews 10:39 But we are not like those who turn away from God to their own destruction. We are the faithful ones, whose souls will be saved.
And the Bible is clear, that is why Jesus came and offered himself as a sacrifice, to do what we could not do on our own. To save us from the consequences of our sins. Paul writes and tells us in Titus 3:5 He saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit.
But there has to be more than being saved from tomorrow.
John 10:9 Jesus said “Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures.”
3. He is a Gate to the Here and Now Jesus wasn’t promising his followers good grazing. The phrase “They will come and go freely and will find good pastures.” is a Hebraic Euphemism, you know what a Hebraic Euphemism is right? Yes, that’s right a euphemism in Hebrew. William Barclay tells us “To describe something of what that entrance to God means, Jesus uses a well-known Hebrew phrase. He says that through him we can go in and come out. To be able to come and go unmolested was the Jewish way of describing a life that is absolutely secure and safe.”
Do you remember the opening lines of the 23rd Psalm? Psalm 23:1-2 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.
In the 23rd Psalm David was saying that God would provide all he needed. Let’s be careful to understand that all we need and all we want may be two very different things. For the sheep they needed food for today, they didn’t need to own the pasture.
I remember hearing a news feature where they were talking about the need to have emergency savings, equal to 3 months of what we needed to survive. And they talked about our mortgage payments, and car payments and groceries and . . .internet access.
The pastures that Jesus brings us to are the fulfilment of our physical needs, and our emotional needs and our spiritual needs. And it’s not simply him waving a magical wand. It is when we follow his teaching and his example. His death and resurrection saves us from our sin and his teaching and his example lead us into our new life.
Not very much further along in John 10 we read John 10:10 . . . My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. In some of the older versions we read John 10:10 . . . I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.
Sometimes Christians live like they don’t deserve much in life. Almost like they are required to live on the fringe but that wasn’t the promise of Jesus. He promised us a life that would be rich and satisfying, an abundant life, a full life and a new life.
2 Corinthians 5:17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
And what that means for you and how that works out in your life is up to you and God.
What is a full and satisfying life for you might not do anything for me at all.
If you are going to enter into the life that God has for you and wants for you. A Life in the here and now and in the there and then, there is only one entrance, there is only one gate.
And the only person who can decide whether or not you will go through that gate is you.
God won’t force you through the gate, but he will hold it open for you.