The year was 1918, near the end of World War I, and photographer Eric Enstrom was putting together a portfolio of his work. He wanted to include one that communicated a sense of fullness in a time that felt quite empty to so many people. In his now much-loved photo, a bearded old man sits at a table with his head bowed and his hands clasped in prayer. On the surface before him there is only a book, spectacles, a bowl of gruel, a loaf of bread, and a knife. Nothing more, but also nothing less.
Some might say the photograph reveals scarcity. But Enstrom’s point was quite the opposite: Here is a full life, one lived in gratitude, one you and I can experience as well regardless of our circumstances. Jesus announces the good news in John 10: “life . . . to the full” (v. 10). We do a grave disservice to such good news when we equate full with many things. The fullness Jesus speaks of isn’t measured in worldly categories like riches or real estate, but rather a heart, mind, soul, and strength brimming in gratitude that the Good Shepherd gave “his life for the sheep” (v. 11), and cares for us and our daily needs. This is a full life—enjoying relationship with God—that’s possible for every one of us.
The seven “I am” statements recorded in the gospel of John are Christ’s own descriptions of Himself. They’re metaphors He uses to draw out imagery that describes the implications of His identity. Jesus says, “I am the bread of life” (6:35); “the light of the world” (8:12); “the gate” (10:9); “the good shepherd” (10:11); “the resurrection and the life” (11:25–26); “the way and the truth and the life” (14:6); and “the vine” (15:5).
By describing Himself as the gate (10:7), He declares that the sheep will only find safety and pasture when they enter through Him. Then, in related imagery, Jesus calls Himself the Good Shepherd (v. 11). This is imagery of trust and intimacy. Jesus knows His sheep in a deep and personal way and lays down His life for them in the face of threat.