Jesus said to the Pharisees, ‘Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.’ Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
So again Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.’
Have you ever travelled with someone who has uttered those doom-laden words: I know a shortcut? Acting in all good faith, you followed your companion’s ‘shortcut’ only to find that you were either lost, or that you had travelled far farther than had been necessary. In today’s reading we are being urged to follow the path laid for us and enter by the right gate, rather than presume that we know better.
Preceding the earthly ministry of Jesus, and in the two thousand years since he walked this earth, there have been those who would have us believe that their ‘way’ through this life is the one we should be following. Sometimes they convince millions through their eloquence, at other times we find ourselves wondering how anyone could be so easily deceived. No matter how plausible such ‘false prophets’ may be, the truth is that there is only one gate through which we can journey into the presence of our God, and that gate is Jesus himself.
In the gospel narrative Jesus warned his disciples that others would appear claiming to hold the secret to eternal life. He also warned that such deceivers, such thieves and bandits, should be ignored. There is only one way we should be following … the way that leads us through the one true gate. We are called to follow Jesus alone, no matter how challenging that path may seem at times.
As we journey through life we will find ourselves trusting some sort of road map. That map may claim to be the best and the most accurate that can be obtained but, unless that map is rooted in the teaching and love of Jesus Christ it can only lead us down dark paths that will place and ever-growing distance between us and God.
Shortcuts are tempting. No matter what challenges may confront us, we will be tempted to take the easiest path. But, that path, unless it is the one laid for us by God, will be a path to disaster and destruction. There are no shortcuts along the path of faith, and the narrow gate is the only one that will lead to eternal life in God’s nearer presence. So … let us turn off our earthly satnavs, and let us follow the only true guide: our Lord and Risen Saviour, Jesus Christ.