Jesus identifies himself as both the gate and the good shepherd.
A pointed “parable”
While confronting the Pharisees over their spiritual “blindness,” Jesus told them about a sheep pen. He explained that the shepherd enters by way of the door and that the doorkeeper lets him in. Anyone who enters the sheep pen another way is a thief or a robber. The sheep will not follow anyone but the shepherd, because they don’t know them. Instead, they will run away. However, when the shepherd calls them, his sheep follow because they know him.
“I am the gate”
Since the Pharisees did not catch the fact that Jesus was speaking about them, he continued. Jesus told his hearers that he is the gate for the sheep. Near the pasture the shepherds would have enclosures to keep the sheep at night. These would have been stone walls that enclosed a small area. The only entrance would have been a narrow opening. After bringing in his sheep for the night, the shepherd would sit and sleep in the opening becoming the gate. Jesus used this analogy to demonstrate that he alone is the way to eternal life. The religious leaders were the thieves and robbers. These only came to steal, kill and destroy. Jesus, however, came to give life – full, abundant life.
“I am the Good Shepherd”
Continuing his analogy, Jesus identified himself as the good shepherd. In contrast to the hired hand, a good shepherd cares for the sheep, even laying down his own life for the sheep. Jesus prophesied that he would lay down his life for his sheep. He also told the people that he had other sheep from a different sheep pen (meaning from the Gentiles). Jesus would bring these into the fold and they all would be one flock with one shepherd.
The people’s response
Just as before, the people were divided in their response. Some thought he was insane or demon-possessed. Others commented that his words were not the words of an insane person, and no demon could open the eyes of a blind man.
Jesus identifies himself and his “sheep”
At the Festival of Dedication, some approached Jesus and asked him plainly, “Who are you?” He replied that he had already told them, but they did not believe because they were not his sheep. He went on to say that his sheep “hear his voice” and have a relationship with him. Furthermore, Jesus provides blessings for those who come to him. “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.” As if that weren’t enough, Jesus said that his Father, who is greater than all, was holding them, and no one could snatch them out of the Father’s hand. His sheep are safe. Then Jesus identified himself with the Father by saying, “I and the Father are one.” This caused the Jews to want to stone him for blasphemy – claiming to be God.