Dear Church family,
I have shared this in an e-votional before but wanted to share it again since this Sunday we will be focusing on the parable of the lost sheep. Whenever I now think of a shepherd, I cannot help but think about our Australian Shepherd dog Murray. He spends most of his time on alert. He roams the house, looking from window to window. He is ever-vigilant and on the look out.
One of the most noticeable things he does is, when the children have gone upstairs to bed in the evening, he camps out at the bottom of the stairs. He lays his body across the opening. I don’t know if he spends the entire night there—I have some evidence that he sometimes finds a couch to sleep on!—but, each morning, there he is again, lying across the open stairwell. It is simply in his sheep-herding blood.
The dog’s actions make me think of the words Jesus offers in John 10: “So Jesus spoke again, ‘I assure you that I am the gate of the sheep. All who came before me were thieves and outlaws, but the sheep didn’t listen to them. I am the gate….The thief enters only to steal, kill, and destroy. I came so that they could have life—indeed, so that they could live life to the fullest.”
There has been much discussion about what it means that Jesus is the gate but, looking at my dog guarding the children sleeping upstairs, I have to believe this image is, in part, about protection. In ancient sheep herding, the shepherd would gather the sheep into a pen at night to protect them from wolves and robbers. But what was he supposed to do about the opening where there was no fencing? That opening was called the gate and the shepherd himself became the gate. He would sleep all night, lying across the opening. The shepherd was the wall of protection between the sleeping sheep and all that might want to harm or destroy them.
Protection must be an important part of this gate image because Jesus’ very next words in John are these: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” Whatever danger you face today, whatever wolf is at the door, please hold this image and promise in your mind and heart: Jesus is the gate. He has placed himself between you and trouble. He is ever-vigilant. Not only will he protect you but he will give his life for you. In fact, he already has. My prayer is that you would live in the confidence of his care, knowing he is stronger than any threat.
May Christ the Gate protect you this day,
The Australian Shepherd at his post at the bottom of the stairs.