Our Gospel today is from the first ten verses of Chapter Ten of John’s Gospel. In the next verse, verse eleven, we read how Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd”; but we must realize that those words begin a new parable about Jesus as the Good Shepherd.
What our Gospel gives us today with verses one to ten, is a different parable in which Jesus compared himself, not to the shepherd, but to the gate of the sheepfold. To grasp the valuable lesson Jesus was teaching us with these first ten verses, we must have a clear mental image of the sheepfold.
In a town like Nazareth where Jesus grew up, there might have been twenty families that kept ten or twelve sheep each. Each family too, would have its own shepherd boy who grew up with the family’s sheep. Each day he would lead his sheep out into the hills to graze on grass.
At sundown he would lead his sheep back to town where he would leave them in the town sheepfold for the night. The sheepfold was a stonewall enclosure with briars along its rim, and with just one gate. Each of the town’s little flocks would settle for sleep in the sheepfold. It was the gatekeeper’s job to see that no strangers got through the gate or over the wall. He would open the gate only to one of the town’s
little shepherd boys.
Jesus, in today’s Gospel, by likening himself to the gate was saying that any would-be shepherd who does not enter the sheepfold through him is a thief. So, who are the true shepherds? Let me explain.
This is one of those cases where the English translation of Our Lord’s words is not accurate. Writing in Greek, St. John quoted Jesus as saying he was the kalos shepherd. What we translate as good shepherd was actually meant to be the Model Shepherd. He is the model for every parent, teacher, and everyone exercising authority over others. We all must model our leadership on that of Jesus.
In saying he is the gate of the sheepfold through which leaders must pass, Jesus meant that what we teach must be in accord with what he taught.