“The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gate-keeper 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 the stranger. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” (John 10:2-5, 14-16)
John’s gospel cites the phrase “I am” together with seven sets of names to record metaphors for Christ. Jesus says, “I am the bread of life.(6:35, 48), “I am the light of the world” (8:12; 9:5), “I am the gate” (10:7,9), “I am the good shepherd” (10:11, 14), “I am the resurrection and the life” (11:25), “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (14:6), and “I am the vine” (15:1,5). All these pictures are expanded in ways that teach us more thoroughly about the grace that rescues, restores, establishes, nourishes, indwells, enlightens, guides, protects, saves, and raises us. Each of these statements provides ample ground for meditation. Jesus’ description of Himself as the shepherd also brings comfort and assurance to those of us struggling to discern His voice in our contemplative prayer. All those who are His sheep know His voice. He knows us and we know Him. If we trust Him to shepherd our lives, we will not follow a stranger.