The Gate of the Sheep

As Pastor Dhati preached the fourth installment of the I Am sermon series, I noticed something interesting: the Bible often compares people to sheep. I couldn’t help but ponder this choice of animal; sheep aren’t exactly the most ferocious creatures in the world. In fact, they are weak and in constant need of protection. No sports team has ever chosen the “Mighty Sheep” as their mascot. That got me thinking: Jesus’ decision to refer to people as sheep was not just to be culturally relevant for the audience to which he preached. It was an intentional description of the true state of humanity. Although we would more readily compare ourselves to bears or lions, we are all weak, defenseless sheep.

Jesus is the door to the sheepfold – the one and only gate through which we can enter into a vibrant, eternal relationship with God – because he recognizes that humans truly are like sheep. All other religions, being manmade, imagine men to be as bears or lions, able to will themselves into eternal salvation through their good works. They say that if you just pray five times a day facing east, or align your chakras, or become one with the stars, or deny yourself pleasure to reach a state of nothingness, or feed more homeless people, volunteer at more animal shelters, and just BE better – you can achieve paradise.

But if we really think about it, earning salvation is much less spiritual than it sounds. Have you ever made a sincere promise, and broken it? Have you ever done something wrong, apologized, and done it again the very next moment? Have you ever been in a toxic relationship, knowing that the best decision for yourself and the other person would be to break up, but you just couldn’t do it?

We are like sheep: defenseless, unable to help ourselves.

This sermon series has taught me to be grateful to be a sheep in Jesus’ flock. I don’t have to bear the weight of my sins, attempting to escape them through my own work. I am weary from trying to do the right thing, failing, feeling guilty, trying again and failing again. When I accept my identity as a sheep, I am free to worship Christ, knowing that the Good Shepherd will keep me safe, guarding the only exit from the fold with his very own body.