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Bible Study

“I am the gate” What did Jesus mean?

This identity statement of Jesus was part of a discourse that He was having with the Pharisees, the religious leaders, and teachers of His day. Jesus was making a particular point, which they did not grasp or understand. And so Jesus tries again, this time speaking more plainly:

“I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

John 10:9-10 NIV

What Does I Am the Gate Mean?

Jesus told the Pharisees this story, a parable, knowing that they would understand the imagery of a sheep pen. In their day there was often a solidly built sheep pen, made of rocks and stones, outside the city. The shepherds could bring their sheep there at night, as a place of safety, where they would be secure and protected from any harm or danger.

In the morning the shepherd would call his sheep, to lead them out again to find food and water for the day. His sheep would follow his voice, as they would recognise him, but they would not follow a stranger.

Jesus was stating in clear terms that He alone is the way to salvation. He is the only way in which we can be ‘saved’. We cannot earn God’s forgiveness, but Jesus died on the cross taking our sins upon Himself, so that we might be reconciled to God. When we acknowledge our need for Jesus, our Saviour, and ask forgiveness for our sins, God is faithful to forgive. This is because Jesus’ sacrifice has paid the penalty for us. We are granted the right to become ‘children of God,’ and are eternally saved, at peace with Him forever – all through Jesus.

View of green fields and forest - with title text and 'exploring the identity of Jesus'
‘I Am the Gate’ What did Jesus mean?

Why Does Jesus Say He is the Gate?

To understand why Jesus emphasised this point here, we need to go back and look at the context. The previous chapter, John 9, details the Pharisees response to miraculous healing. A man who had been born blind had an encounter with Jesus where he was healed and received his sight. But instead of rejoicing and praising God for this gift of healing the Pharisees accused Jesus of breaking the Sabbath.

The Pharisees could not see that the miracles pointed to who Jesus was, as the Messiah, the Son of God. He did not conform to their preconceived ideas; He did not fit with their traditions and views. They had developed petty rules, designed as a hedge around the law to prevent it from being broken. But these rules all focused on practical acts, rather than on the spiritual intent of the law. The weight of their traditions added a heavy burden on the people and smothered the heart of God’s law. So much so, that the general population had given up and did not even try to observe all these rules.

The Pharisees thought that by adding rule upon rule, and publicly observing them, was the way to ‘be saved.’ Jesus’ confrontation with the Pharisees builds throughout His ministry as He challenges their hypocrisy and religious stance:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.”

Matthew 23:13

God’s intention was never to burden and weigh us down with rules and regulations as a means of access to fellowship with Him. The Pharisees as teachers of the law were meant to be good shepherds, opening the door, pointing and directing people to God. But they were doing the opposite and putting so many obstacles and barriers in the way, making it impossible for ordinary people.

Jesus, by declaring ‘I am the gate,’ was exposing the false teaching of the Pharisees, and at the same time introducing Himself as the Truth of God.

What Are the 7 “I Am” Statements of Jesus?

It is in the gospel of John that we find recorded the seven ways in which Jesus describes to us His ministry and purpose. Jesus came to serve, not to be served, His identity is revealed in His service to us. Jesus taught by example, that the one who wants to be first, must be willing to be last and servant of all. He overturned the value structures of the religious Pharisees, and He does the same in our world today!

The Seven ‘I Am’ Statements of Jesus

“Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” John 6:35

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

  • I am the gate

“I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.” John 10:9

  • I am the good shepherd

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” John 10:11

  • I am the resurrection and the life

“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die.” John 11:25

  • I am the way and the truth and the life

“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

  • I am the true vine

“I am the true vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

‘I Am’ the Door, the Gate, and the Gateway?

Bible translators are split on whether to use the term, gate, door, or gateway in this passage of Scripture, John 10:1-10. Some translate the Ancient Greek word ‘?úpa’ as a door, or a gate is equally used, and some prefer gateway.

But they all describe an entrance, an opening, a way through, to gain access from one place to another. To be able to move from spiritual hunger to being fulfilled and satisfied. For us to find our way from being lost, stumbling around in the darkness, into brilliant light, knowing our purpose and direction. We move from being dead in our sin, without hope, into life in abundance.

Jesus is ‘The Gate’ the way through for us to salvation. When we enter through Him, He becomes our guide, the one we follow, to receive, not just life but life to the full. There is freedom and possibilities for each one of us, as we step out into the wide open space of God’s grace – it is there that we can receive all that Jesus has already won for us.

“I am the gateway to enter through me is to experience life, freedom, and satisfaction. A thief has only one thing in mind – he wants to steal, slaughter, and destroy. But I have come to give you everything in abundance, more than you expect – life in its fullness until you overflow!”

John 10:9-10 TPT

Free Printable to download – Seven ‘I Am’ Statements of Jesus

Seven I Am Statements of Jesus - free printable

Dig deeper – for further reading on the Pharisees and Sabbath traditions.

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