Gates are essential. They are the opening in a fence that allows people and animals to come and go. Failure to fasten a gate securely can lead to tragic outcomes. Gates can be fastened by heavy chains and locks, formal latches, or a simple as a loop of wire. Urban gates keep people out of dangerous areas or plush communities. Almost always, gates serve to protect whatever or whoever is inside them.
When Jesus called himself, "the gate for the sheep" he gave us a surprisingly intimate glimpse of his care for us. In biblical times, shepherds drove their sheep through wilderness areas to market or to greener environs. When it grew dark, they sought a way to secure the sheep from predators and from their own tendency to run headlong into danger. Since there were no wire pens out there, they would look for rock formations that formed appropriate sized box canyons. The shepherd would stand at the opening to the canyon and call the sheep to safety. (Remember, "My sheep know my voice.")The sheep would pass between the shepherd's legs as he touched each one, calling them by name. Literally the gate, the one way in to safety, the shepherd showed intimate care for the sheep, expressing his special fondness for each one.
As you travel through the wilderness of this life, your shepherd is there to guide and protect you. When darkness gathers, he calls your name. Other voices compete and lie about the danger, the purpose of your life, and your identity. Spiritual maturity is about tuning out the lies and heeding the call of the Shepherd, our gate. He is trustworthy, laying down his life for us. He loves the flock and, very importantly for you and me, he loves each one with a special fondness.