In other parts of the Gospel of John, Jesus will identify himself with the shepherd. Today after explaining the dynamics of salvation, he identifies with the gate for the sheep. Time ago while studying John I found out an information and interpretations that maybe will help us to understand that part of the Gospel in the context of the Easter Season.
To have a better understanding of the meaning of this sentence, we need to know that in the ancient walls of Jerusalem, there was a gate on the north of the city by which animals were brought in from the surrounding areas for sacrifice. It was called the sheep gate. Once inside the city and within the temple courts, there was only one door where the sheep went in, and no lamb ever came back out after entering the temple precincts. They traveled in only one direction, and there they were sacrificed for the sins of human beings.
When people in the time of Jesus hear the expression “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. … I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture” (John 10:7,9). Their mind was centered in that gate we mentioned before. But with the difference that now Jesus says that through him you will be saved, introducing in this way a new concept: salvation in Him and through Him. In the very temple area filled with sheep on their way to slaughter, Jesus declared there was a way out: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the fullest. I am the Good Shepherd” (John 10:11).
The gospel presents to us Jesus not only as the gate of salvation, but also as the answer to all human desires. When we people are lost and tired, we hear the voice of the shepherd that guides us to the place of rest; when we believe, or feel that there is no solution and that all the options are gone. Jesus presents himself as the gate, the door that opens for us a new world that offers salvation to all.
The nature of the door is open to a new reality to enter, but no one is forced to enter, Jesus doesn’t force us to walk his way to enter through him because the House of God is a shelter, it is not a prison (cf. Pope Francis).
The door is used divide parts, sometimes to protect one or make it safe. We should have the courage to knock on the door, ask Jesus to help us, to be with us, to open the door for us. Sometimes we also need to open our heart to others even when they have not knocked, because some times we or they don’t have the courage to knock.
To arrive to the gate, we need to follow him because he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice. But they will not follow a stranger. Part of our preparation to follow should also be the formation to identify the shepherd and his voice, what we call discernment.
In the same way that Jesus is the Door of Salvation, we also should become instruments of salvation, leading others to Him and open the door of the church and welcome all those who knock or not knock, trying to give to all the opportunity to participate in the Lord’s Resurrection.