While we are used to seeing Jesus as the Good Shepherd, here we must adjust to seeing him as the gate of the sheepfold. Let’s look at sheepfolds and at their gates.
Five or more families in a village might each keep a small flock of sheep, with each small flock tended by a boy a girl of the family who was there with each lamb from its birth, and who was known by each lamb from its birth.
Those five families would jointly construct a walled enclosure called a sheepfold, weaving thorns around the top of its wall to keep out intruders. During the night those five families would keep their five small flocks in their sheepfold, designating one of their shepherd boys to sit in the gateway as their “Gate.” for the night. He would open up only for one of his shepherd boy companions.
At dawn, when each shepherd boy in his turn would come for his sheep, he would make himself known to the gatekeeper, and he would call out his own sheep. Since he had been with them at their lambing, his sheep would recognize his voice, and no other.
As he stood there, making his distinctive clicking sound, his own sheep would recognize it, and get up; while the other little flocks would sleep on. That true shepherd boy would then lead out his sheep, and they would follow wherever he went.
Jesus, by calling himself the gate through whom any authentic shepherd must pass, was saying that any parent, teacher, or priest who is leading his or her subjects, must do it in the right and loving way of Jesus, the sheepfolds gate.