"Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture." Jesus uses the image of a gate today to help us understand how we are to relate to him. He is our path to "pasture," in other words, to the peace and prosperity that we long for. He shows us the way to find all that we need right there before us.
Some people, however, may think it's better to avoid the trouble of finding the gate and thus choose to enter another way instead. But Jesus says, "Whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber." Although this is all cast in the gentle terms of an analogy about sheep, the message is actually rather stern. Jesus is telling us that if we don't follow him, we are taking the wrong course of action. He is not suggesting a kind of relativistic principle that says, "Following me is one of many good options." No. He is telling us that in order to "have life and have it more abundantly," we must follow the path that goes by way of Christ.
This isn't always the easiest path to follow. It might mean taking the long way around a situation instead of a shortcut. It might mean waiting a little while to get to that pasture instead of hopping the fence and finding it on our own terms. Insisting on using the gate may also make us look like fools to those around us. But to be truly faithful followers of Jesus, we need to trust that his way is the best way. We need to trust that, by letting him lead, we will ultimately end up in the best possible pasture. In our culture, it is becoming less and less popular to believe in one true religion, but as Christians we know that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.
Do you wonder why so many images of a shepherd show Jesus with a sheep around his neck? When sheep wander, they need to learn who to follow. A good shepherd realizes that in order for the animal to do this, there must be a bond so tight that they then "smell" like each other and the sheep can recognize the scent. Jesus has us around his neck. He wants us to follow him; not just his teachings, but in the relationship with his Father. Jesus shows us, by his life, suffering, death, and resurrection what we ought to do to be fully human and live as children of God. By bonding with those most poor and vulnerable, Jesus calls us to do the same and desires to be our Good Shepherd. As you worship here today, keep in mind an image of Jesus carrying you around his neck. He wants you to recognize him so you can follow, especially when we find ourselves wandering away.