What if today, instead of seeing me standing here or Pastor Casmer or Pastor Kolander, there was a complete stranger? Someone you had never seen before. But this stranger was wearing an alb just like this and he had on the stole, and in fact he was taller and much better looking than myself. And so you just figured that today you were going to have a guest preacher and you settle in for the service, most of which remains the same. There is a confession and absolution, there are hymns, there are readings, but then the sermon rolls around; its different. There is something off about this man’s message. He is a good speaker – very eloquent – but, but, something’s not right. You turn to the person sitting next to you and you ask, “Does this guy’s sermon sound right?” “Yeah, it does. I haven’t heard anything about my forgiveness through Christ, I haven’t heard a word about the salvation that is mine through faith in Jesus.” “Okay, well maybe he’s just hitting the law a little harder this time.” Next week the same man is here standing in front of you and again; you listen closely. No gospel. No forgiveness. No Jesus. Something’s not right, all you have to do is listen.
But how do you know what to listen for? How do you know who is right and who is wrong? How do you know that the taller good looking guest preacher isn’t preaching the right message while your previous pastors had it all wrong? This was a problem the people had during Jesus’ time. For years, they had been listening to the Pharisees and had been taught that they were countless laws they had to keep to be right with God. But now there was a new voice in the crowd and he was Jesus. And he didn’t talk about works. And he didn’t like the message of these Pharisees. In fact, in verse one we see what he thinks of them. “The man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber.” Jesus labeled these Pharisees thieves and robbers, why?
Because their message, their voices, taught things contrary to Scripture. Either subtly, like a thief, or by force, like a robber, they were stealing free forgiveness and salvation away from the people by putting false rules and regulations upon them. Don’t we see the same thing happening today?
Today, we have spiritual thieves and robbers all around us. There are thieves who have slipped into churches and teach only what they think people want to hear, “You’re perfect! You’re great! Live however you want, do whatever you want!” and the gospel slowly loses its power as you stop seeing your need for a Savior from sin. There are robbers, who have slipped into our lives and try daily to convince us that Jesus and his teachings are old and archaic. They scream and they shout at us that we need to get with the times and stop looking to some old book for guidance.
And it is, then, as all these voices are screaming at us and enticing us, that we hear a different voice. One that’s different, but familiar. This voice as we hear it undresses us revealing the entirety of our sin. This voice leads us to despair as the shame of our guilt is brought forth, and as if standing in a mirror we see ourselves covered, every inch, in a sinful nature that is hostile to God and seeks only our own pleasure, but then that voice does something else; it calls us by name. “He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” This voice calls you specifically out and scrubs every inch of your body with a cleansing water in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It places a warm robe around you shielding you from all harm and danger, and it lifts your downcast face and shows you your Savior. And “When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.”
Listen! Do you hear your Savior? Do you hear him crying out to you today that your every single sin is no more? That word you said in anger to your children this morning. Forgiven. That dirty thought that flitted into your head last night. Forgiven. Are you afraid? Are you nervous? Are you wrestling with anger or uncertainty? Are you questioning your faith? Listen! Listen to your Savior’s voice. Listen to his words of comfort, “I have laid my life down for you and never will I leave you never will I forsake you, you are mine.” And as you listen, enter. Enter through the one gate, the only gate of salvation.
Let’s talk about this gate. “Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.” Imagine, that you’re having a get together at your home. You invited all kinds of people, and on your invitation, you are very specific. Please use the front door to get in.
On the day of the event you’re standing there greeting people as they enter the front door, when suddenly you hear banging and yelling, “Let me in, open up!” – someone wants to come in through the patio door. Then you hear more yelling and banging, “Let me in!” – someone else is trying to come in through the garage door. You begin yelling back to these people who apparently can’t read, “No, you have to come in the front door!” But that doesn’t deter them. They keep banging. They keep yelling. They never get in.
Brothers and Sisters, there is only one way to enter salvation. There is no garage door of good works that will let you in. There is no patio door of I think I’m good enough or better than others to get in. There is only one door. One gate. And it is that gate written on the invitation that God has given to all people. It’s there, plain for all to see in the book that he has preserved from generation to generation. It is in the words that stand before us, a great I AM statement from the gate himself, Jesus tells us, “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.”
This is the single most unique thing about what we believe. The only door to salvation is through faith in Jesus Christ alone. “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. “I am the resurrection and the life he who believes in me will live even though he dies” “I, Jesus, am the gate.” The Scriptures are so clear on this, and yet so many today, including ourselves at times, think that there must be another way. I must do something. I must be better. I have to believe more. My faith must be stronger. I have to always be happy and cheerful or I’m a bad Christian. And those thoughts only lead us to despair as sin after sin is thrown into our faces and doubt after doubt runs rampant and our minds. We begin to wonder if we’ve been good enough, we begin to wonder if our faith is sincere, but then, like an old friend, Jesus voice pierces the gloom. Listen! Enter! Live!
Listen to my voice, hear me calling you by name, follow my voice and enter the gate of salvation that is open wide just for you. “Come in and go out, and find pasture” for “I have come that you may have life, and have it to the full.” It is these last words from Jesus that truly separate him from all the thieves and robbers in our lives. A thief or robber only comes to “steal and kill and destroy.” Not so our Savior, he comes to restore, to revive and to renew by bringing life.
He comes to restore our broken and beaten nature of sin. He comes to revive us from an eternal death, and to renew us to a living hope. That is what he guarantees to us through his triumphant resurrection. Through his work of buying us back from sin, he gives real life which forgives our sin, frees us from guilt, and removes the fears and worries of everyday life and ultimately lasts for all eternity in heaven.
What a life! A life that is yours. Every day you get to wake up knowing your Savior. Every day you get to live seeing his hand of blessing in everything you do. Every night you get to close your eyes knowing that if you should die before you wake the Lord your soul will take. That is life, real life with Christ. With Jesus life takes on meaning. He gives life that delivers joy, rests content, and blossoms in glory. Cherish it, enjoy it. Live it! Share it!
The greatest thing about this single gate of Christ is that it isn’t a secret. It isn’t something we cover with brush and lock with a key. It’s open, others just need to be invited. Let’s invite them. Let’s share with this world of death the life that is offered to all. There are enough thieves and robbers out there, so why don’t we join our Great Shepherd and be shepherds ourselves.
May our Savior’s voice be our guide as we by the power of the Holy Spirit lead others to the one gate, the true gate of salvation, Jesus Christ. And may we, together with believers everywhere, rejoice as we live each day knowing that every day is a new day of grace in his name. Fellow sheep of our Great Shepherd the Lord Jesus, Listen to your Savior’s voice! Enter through the one true gate and Live! Amen.