When I was in kindergarten, we lived in a ranch-style house in a suburb of Wichita, Kansas. As you walked into the front door, you were immediately met by a stairway that went down to the basement. There was a small landing in front of the stairs that was no more than three and a half feet wide by three and a half feet long. Just to the right of the landing was our living room.
One afternoon, my two brothers and I were playing in the living room. My mom was doing some household chores in another part of the house but knew where we were playing. About halfway through our game, we decided that the landing at the top of the stairs was the perfect place for the next part of our game.
We all moved to the landing and reset our game. Right before we were about to get started, my older brother, who had his back to the staircase, stood up to make an announcement about how the game would proceed.
He stood up straight and took a half step backward, lost his balance and fell down the stairs. I still have his end-over-end tumble burned into my memory. I can still picture him laying on the floor at the bottom of the stairs with his shoulders and head resting against the basement wall. We all screamed, and my mom came running.
Fortunately, there was no serious injury. He bounced back rather quickly. But it was one of the scariest moments of my young life. Because of moments like that, if you go into any house where small children live, there is a good chance you will see small gates strategically positioned all throughout the house. You’ll most likely find them in doorways and at the bottoms and tops of staircases. They’re put there to corral and prevent kids from going to certain places in the house. Ask any parent why they put these gates around their house and they will tell you it’s out of care and concern for their children.
In John 10, Jesus uses the analogy of a gate to describe His relationship to His followers. He says,
“Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.” (v7-9)
In this metaphor, Jesus is speaking of the care and concern He has for His followers.
However, there are seasons of life when it’s easy to believe that God doesn’t care. Life sometimes feels as though we’ve been thrown down a flight of stairs where there was no gate. In those places, it’s easy to believe that God watched the whole thing and either was powerless to stop it or chose not to.
But what this passage also speaks to is the tension that we experience living in a world where things haven’t fully been made right. Jesus identifies that there are evil forces in this world working to destroy our lives. Life is a battlefield.
Jesus begins his metaphor saying, "Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber" (v1). He goes on to say, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy" (v10).
Later in John’s gospel, Jesus is straightforward and says, “In this world, you will have trouble” (16:33). He doesn’t deny the reality that life is painful, and at times, unjust and unfair.
The evil one is on the prowl seeking to destroy and is all the more happy to blame our pain on God. When you bump up against the hard realities of life, when it feels like thief and robber are getting the best of you, or if you feel like you’re in an end-over-end tumble down a set of stairs where there was no gate, know that Jesus is there to pick you up.
He’ll bring you back to the fold and tend to your wounds. He’ll provide what you need and give rest for your soul. He’ll remind you that He hasn’t forgotten about you, He loves you, and that everything’s going to be okay.