John 10:9-11    “I AM the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.  He will come in and go out, and find pasture.  The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.  I AM the good shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

Throughout his Gospel, John highlights Jesus’ use of the phrase ‘I am …” to emphasise the purpose for his coming to earth.  Two things stand out.

Firstly, he always uses the particular idiomatic way of saying ‘I AM’ that the Septuagint (LXX) translators of the Hebrew Scriptures used to translate Exodus 3:14 into Greek – “God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: “I AM has sent me to you.”’”  This LXX was translated nearly 200 years before Jesus came, and so the Jews of Jesus’ day would have had to be very careful in their use of this idiom for fear of breaking the 3rd Commandment by ‘taking God’s name in vain’.  It would therefore not have been lost on them that every time Jesus said, “I am …”, he would have been claiming to be God!  Just their reaction to him in John 10 bears this out (cf verse 33).

Secondly, it is important that we reflect on everything Jesus is implying by each of his ‘I AM …’ statements.   When he says, “I AM the gate”, he is implying that there is no other way for sinful Man to be restored to a right relationship to the Creator than through him.  In case we missed this, he said to his disciples just before going to die on the cross, “I AM the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).  Such a claim not only upset the Jews of his own day, but it has remained something that has made Christianity so unpopular ever since, especially in our ‘multicultural’, ‘all-roads-lead-to-Rome’ culture today!

When he says, ‘I AM the Good Shepherd’, he is drawing attention to everything Psalm 23 is saying.  It is no wonder that he claims in this context, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”!  That is what ‘not being in want’, ‘lying down in green pastures’, ‘being led leads beside quiet waters’, ‘having my soul restored’, ‘being guided in paths of righteousness’,  ‘fearing no evil’, ‘being constantly comforted’, ‘having a table prepared before me in the presence of my enemies’, ‘having my head anointed with oil and my cup overflowing’, ‘being confident that goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever’, is all about – living life to the full!  Why would anyone not want to enter through such a ‘gate’ to be cared for by such a ‘Shepherd’?  Especially a Shepherd who has ‘laid down his lfe for his sheep’.

– Bruce Christian