Red Letter Year: 11/12

John 9.39 – 10.10

39 Then Jesus told him, “I entered this world to render judgment—to give sight to the blind and to show those who think they see that they are blind.”

40 Some Pharisees who were standing nearby heard him and asked, “Are you saying we’re blind?”

41 “If you were blind, you wouldn’t be guilty,” Jesus replied. “But you remain guilty because you claim you can see. 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! 2 But the one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice. 5 They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice.” 

Sheep and gate
Photo by Tim Green

6 Those who heard Jesus use this illustration didn’t understand what he meant, 7 so he explained it to them: “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who came before me were thieves and robbers. But the true sheep did not listen to them. 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. 10 The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.”


If you are keeping up with this every day, you probably noticed that I reposted the last few verses of chapter 9 here even though those were part of yesterday’s reading. I did that because chapter 10 does not indicate a shift in scene or audience. Jesus is still talking to the religious leaders, and the healed man, and probably some of his other followers. It’s usually important to keep in mind who is present in a Gospel scene (and remember, the chapter and verse divisions were added in much later; no break in the text is indicated between 9.41 and 10.1) and the full context of what is being discussed. 

The second thing to notice here is that Jesus identifies himself as the gate. Older commentaries identify the gatekeeper of v.3 as the Holy Spirit, who leads us to the gate. Jesus will say more about his role as the shepherd tomorrow. But for now, let’s focus on what we have for sure in this passage: Jesus calls himself the gate. The thing that controls access, governs the flow of traffic, marks the entry point, and protects from those who steal, kill, and destroy. I think the metaphor Jesus uses of himself here reinforces what we saw with the blind man in chapter 9. We tend to think of coming to Jesus something like a vetting process, where a person has to agree to think certain things, to stop doing certain things, and then perform certain acts to gain access to the community of faith (we call this a “bounded set” approach to faith). As we observed last week, Jesus grants the blind man immediate access, skipping or reordering the steps we think are essential.

The very first thing Jesus had the man do was baptize himself and at that same moment he received a miraculous healing he did not ask for or believe was going to happen. From there, we saw the healed man progressively embrace faith in Jesus, but he went through that process after Jesus had granted him entrance and we could argue he came to faith because Jesus gave him such radical access. The idea of Jesus being the gate is the perhaps the ultimate symbol of a centered set approach because entering the gate is the very beginning point, not a destination or even some high point along the way, but the very inception of a journey that is both toward Jesus and happening in Jesus at the same time. (It’s okay, this Christian thing is often existential like that.)

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale HousePublishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.