By Rev. Charissa Jaeger-Sanders
Founder and Director of Grace Works Studio, LLC
Neptune Beach, FL
John’s Gospel continues with the series of I AM statements connecting Jesus with the very I AM who beckoned to Moses from the Burning Bush. Again, we find Jesus is not just any man but Emmanuel, God with us.
Perhaps, we are more familiar with Jesus calling himself the shepherd. Yet here in this passage (immediately preceding the shepherd passage), we find Jesus likening himself to The Gate. What does it mean for Jesus to call himself The Gate?
Most of us do not spend our days with sheep and shepherds, so the metaphor is less tangible for us. When we think of a paddock for sheep in the wilderness, in Biblical times, imagine an enclosure where the gate is more of an opening and not so much a hinged device or typical door. In this sense, the shepherd literally acts as the gate to the sheepfold with his or her body, in order to protect the sheep.
Jesus, with his very life, acts as our Gatekeeper. When we enter into a relationship with Jesus and cultivate that relationship, we experience abundant life. Jesus is not only offering protection but also pasture, luscious landscape for abundant living. Jesus loves us, cares for us, and wants what is best for us. It does not mean that life will not be hard. Rather, it means that we are not alone in the journey.
Jesus’ saving and healing work has already begun, just by him showing up in the manger, so long ago.
So what does it mean for us, today, that Jesus acts as the gate to abundant life?
First, it means that our relationship with Jesus is central to our calling. Cultivating that relationship is what brings abundance, here and now. We are the sheep. It is in building the relationship with Jesus that we will know His voice and His guiding.
I am an artist and I use artistic expression to connect with Emmanuel. For me, trying to connect more deeply with Jesus, the Gate, means painting or coloring, playing with Play-Doh or shaping a pipe-cleaner … always making space for my creative times to be contemplative and prayerful.
Second, it means that Jesus wants to protect us from the things in life that come in to steal, kill, and destroy our abundant living. Whether it is people or things that sap our energy, naysayers or harmful temptations that try to lead us astray.
Lent is a time when I evaluate the things that act as thieves to my wellbeing. What takes away from my relationship to Christ? What leaves me feeling more distant? I commit to spending less energy and time on those things, and more time on things that renew my connection with Jesus.
Lent is also a time when we care for others, especially the “least of these.” We can better serve and strengthen others when we first let Jesus tend to us.
Prayer: Let us pray: Jesus, You are our Gateway to Abundant Life. Help us to draw closer to You, who is already drawing closer to us. Let us experience Your presence and guidance. Give us ears to hear Your voice and eyes to see where You lead. Help us to be aware of that in our life that threatens to steal, kill, and destroy. And help us put into practice those things that help us to connect with You more deeply. You have called us, by name. We are Your sheep. We surrender to You, that we would have life and have it abundantly. In the name of the One who is Emmanuel, we pray. Amen.
1. Reflect this Lent on what in your life acts as a thief to abundant living. What hinders your relationship with God? With others? And with yourself?
2. What practices are life giving for you? What disciplines help you to more deeply connect with God? With others? And with yourself?
3. What needs to change in the balance of your life, for there to be more abundance and less things that take away from abundant living?