Salvation as a word circulated into our culture has been ranging from catch-phrase to something like a legal fiction. The word for it in Greek, sozo, was intended to mean impact any of the whole person. Such a view of the New Testament can indicate how holistic Jesus wants to be as a shepherd. The Old Testament supports the covenant of God for his people with shepherd language. “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack.” (Psalms 23:1).
In this time that Jesus was there for the Feast of Tabernacles, he had done shepherding tasks from a spiritual perspective. In John 7 he spoke of being the water of life and in John 8 he showed mercy to the woman caught in adultery. In John 9 Jesus expressed mercy for the blind man who was presumed to be a sinner and used his spit to esteem his dignity and health to the point that this man stood up to religious wolves. One could say in a way that he anointed that man with something akin to oil so his cup overflowed with grace. We can see below an emphasis to the depth to Jesus’ love and affection; even to the hard hearted he is addresses here.
So Jesus said again, “Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came [before me] are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them. This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd. This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again. This command I have received from my Father.” (John 10:7-18).
I am the gate for the sheep– This refers to Jesus being the center of conversion. Christians remember this in by Christ’s sacrifice. In the shepherding context of Jesus there is mercy and confidence when one is baptized as the theological normative.
This confidence in Jesus resonated in the Church of the 1st century and beyond.
Therefore, brothers, since through the blood of Jesus we have confidence of entrance into the sanctuary by the new and living way he opened for us through the veil, that is, his flesh, and since we have “a great priest over the house of God,” let us approach with a sincere heart and in absolute trust, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water (Hebrews 10:19-22).
Salvation through Jesus in baptism is the typical form and matter in the power of the resurrection. “This [Noah’s flood] prefigured baptism, which saves you now. It is not a removal of dirt from the body but an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:21). Jesus is the gate and that reverberates through Sacred Scripture and Tradition in fullness.
Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture- True conversion is for ones eternal life but should also be community. Church is meant to be a called out community like a town vote. Sheep are meant to be in community under the shepherd.
I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly- True love is wishing the best for the other. Where evil wants to take, Jesus comes to give but the cynical mind does not see such grace in all its wonders.
I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep- We know that God the Father love the world (John 3:16) and Christian belief is that Jesus lived such love every day of his life.
A hired man…. sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away…This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep- There is an implication to what Jesus is saying for the Pharisees to hear: relax, it gets worse. In less than a year there would be fully consecrated apostles that would model how a shepherd goes about the Father’s business of sacrificial love and would include keeping the error of wolves out.
I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father- Jesus takes the listener into a heavenly and communal perspective which is integral to the intended Christian life. Later in John, Jesus prays accordingly in a way that speaks to God’s people being one and holy (John 17).
I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd- Jesus is expansive here with large scale vision. Whether one wants to be a Christian that sees an authoritative Catholic Church or lower case “c” for the same word being just universal, Jesus’ desire for sheep to join the flock is progressive in God’s plan of salvation.
This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again- Jesus said in John 8 that he was God. God is love. Sacrifice without love is unendurable, love without sacrifice is meaningless and Jesus fulfills all under the will of the Father.
This command I have received from my Father- Jesus came to die to save. A theme pointed out here is a proposition for a living relationship with Jesus apparent as a command. We can roll with turning points. God’s commands are not burdensome and those who are humbled always can see the love of God in commands.
God has overlooked the times of ignorance, but now he demands that all people everywhere repent because he has established a day on which he will ‘judge the world with justice’ through a man he has appointed, and he has provided confirmation for all by raising him from the dead.” (Acts 17:30-31).