Jesus had confronted the Pharisees and religious leaders over and over again for more than two and a half years. It was becoming ever more clear that their hearts were not growing softer and more ready to accept their Savior. In fact, their hearts were only growing harder, becoming more and more confirmed in their rebellion and sin.
It is a very dangerous thing for any human to hear God’s Truth and reject it. Every heart was made to live for the God of Creation, and when someone keeps turning against the Lord, their heart will become harder and harder…and less and less able to respond to God. In His wonderful mercy, God will continue to pursue, but there comes a point when He lets the person have their way. He lets them seal up their hearts in stony rebellion against Him, and it becomes a permanent condition for all eternity. Many of the religious leaders in Israel already had hearts of pure stone, and many others were getting there fast. They could only see Jesus with eyes of hatred and malice, and their only thoughts about Him were about how they could destroy Him.
In the story just before this one, Jesus had healed a man who was born blind. When the man boldly defended Jesus for giving Him this amazing miracle, the religious leaders were filled with rage. They kicked him out of the synagogue for his loyalty to Christ. And so the tensions continue to build. It was clear that those who followed Jesus were going to face increasing persecution. So Jesus told a parable to help explain what was happening:
“‘I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by their 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 the stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize the stranger’s voice.’”
One way to understand this story even better is to put ourselves in it. Imagine if you were a part of this parable. You are a sheep, and you have a very good Shepherd who loves you. You love Him, too. When He calls your name, you feel safe and protected, and you are absolutely sure of His care for you. The voice of anyone else sounds strange and dangerous, and that it good, because it is! They are thieves and robbers who do not love the flock! They are only there to steal something for themselves!
Jesus was saying that those who truly love God the Father will love the message Jesus brought. They would love and follow Him the way sheep follow their shepherd. The people of Israel that did not follow Jesus were showing that they never belonged to God in the first place!
Jesus went on to explain more:
“‘I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep.’”
Wow. Now, this may seem like a simple, quick thing to say, but it is huge. Jesus was not only claiming to be the Shepherd that came to watch over the flock of God’s children 2,000 years ago. He was claiming to be the very Gate of Truth for the people of God for all time! Since before the creation of the world, throughout the history of human time, in the making of the nation of Israel and the writing of the Word of God, Jesus was the Gate through which all Truth came into the world.