Today I was reading in the Gospel of John. One of the things which makes this book so interesting is detail it often gives of the conversations Jesus had with people. For me, it's one of the best books to read when I want to get a better sense of what it was like to physically be with Jesus. That’s also why it’s one of my favorite books to read during the Christmas season, as it reminds me of the truth that one of the things we celebrate at Christmas is that Jesus physically came to earth to be with us.
Today's reading took me to chapter 10, and something that Jesus says in that chapter really stood out to me. Listen to John 10:7, where Jesus says, “I am the gate for the sheep.” This phrase has always been interesting to me because in it, Jesus gives us a new way to think about Him, and our relationship with Him. The reality is that most of us can easily picture Jesus as our “shepherd” - and we can easily see ourselves as the “sheep”. These images are fairly simple for us to imagine and understand because of the role that Jesus plays in our lives as guide, and leader. However, this idea of Him being a “gate”probably isn't one of the first images that jumps into our minds when thinking about our relationship with Jesus. Most of us don’t actually work with sheep - so we don’t understand the significance that the gate has for sheep. However, it fits beautifully when we understand how sheep were managed in Jesus' day.
When Jesus was on this earth, shepherds would tend their sheep during the day - caring for their physical needs and keeping them safe. Then at night, they would set up an enclosure called a “sheepfold”, where the sheep would be kept for the night. But instead of having a traditional gate on hinges to keep the sheep in and predators out, the shepherd himself would sleep at the opening of the sheepfold. This way, any predators that wanted to get to the sheep would have to go through the shepherd first.
For me, this is a wonderful picture of what Jesus does for us - because, just like the shepherd, He acts as our protector, and stands between us and the Enemy. So when we're going through trials and hardships, we need to remember this truth - the Lord is still protecting us. And while He may allow certain temptations and hardships and difficulties in our lives, He will never allow us to be overcome. Psalm 18:2 puts it like this, “My God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety.” God is our shield and place of safety - that is His promise to us, and it's a promise we can count on. And this Good Shepherd is watching over and protecting us while we’re aware of His care, and even when we’re not.
So today, let's rest in the promise of our Good Shepherd. In the midst of all the activity and busyness and emotion of this holiday season, let’s take time to turn our fear and worry and anxiety over to Him, and let Him protect us and lead us through whatever attacks are lurking from the Enemy.