Jesus is worth beholding He is like no other man. He is utterly unique. He’s fascinating. He causes us to wonder and be amazed. He said things that were both endearing and disturbing. He made audacious claims. Jesus isn’t like a presidential candidate that you can pick and choose what you like or don’t like about him. No other man made the claims he did and lived up to them. If I made his same claims you would laugh and say that I am a liar and lunatic.
In John’s Gospel Jesus makes many I AM statements. He said, “I am the Living Water,” “I am the Bread of Life,” “I am the Light of the World,” “I am the way, the truth and the life,” and “I am the resurrection.” Today we will look at Jesus’ claim in John 10, “I am the Door.”
What did Jesus mean when he said he was the Door? Why was that so important to the crowd he was speaking to? Why is that an important for you and me today?
To get the thrust of what Jesus is saying you need to start in John 8. There Jesus is talking with two groups of Jews. On one side there are Jews who believe and follow Jesus Christ, and on the other side are Jews who don’t believe and don’t follow Jesus Christ. Jesus says to the Jews who do follow him in John 8:31, “If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
This didn’t settle well with the other Jews who didn’t follow Jesus. They look at Jesus and say, “What do you mean the truth will set us free? We’re not held captive to anyone. We’re not in bondage to anyone. We’re Jews. We’re God’s chosen. Our Father is Abraham.” What Jesus says next is more even unsettling in John 8:42, “If God were your Father, you would love me… You are of your father the devil…” Jesus didn’t go the route of making friends, but he did influence people.
In John 9, there is a man born blind who had become a beggar. Jesus gives him sight. And the beggar who once followed the Pharisees, now becomes a believer in Jesus. The Pharisees are ticked. Jesus took one of theirs. They reacted by throwing the beggar out—culturally skinned him alive (ouch!)—and showed their hatred for Jesus by intending to kill him. So in John 10, Jesus continues to talk to the same crowd—his disciples, the Pharisees, the blind beggar, and the two groups of Jews. He tells them (and us) to behold something truly life-altering that gives insight into who he really is and who they really are.
Jesus is the doorkeeper and he offers you his protection (vs.1-2).
“Truly, truly (new, fresh word. “listen up” “behold this), I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.”
Jesus tells a story, a figure of speech. He paints a backdrop. In the story there is a sheepfold and a door. Also, there are characters. There are thieves and robbers. There is a gatekeeper. There are sheep. You could say the door is a character too. Let’s look more intently at the scene, which may be unfamiliar to us, but was quite familiar to Jesus’ audience.
What is the fold? Ancient Near East villages had an animal corral or pen in or near the village. The sheep would be out grazing in the fields during the day, then at night the shepherd would lead them into a walled fold where they would be watched and safe and protected together.
In Jesus’ story, the sheepfold is his audience—Israel. They knew this. God often called Israel his sheep. It wasn’t derogatory like you think. Sure sheep are stupid, but being called a sheep was endearing because God cared for them, he chose them for himself, and he valued them above all other nations.
The sheepfold wasn’t just Israel, but later in John 10:16, Jesus says, “I have other sheep, which are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd.” Here Jesus identifies himself as the one Shepherd. But another fold? Who’s that? It’s the Gentiles, it’s other nations of the world, it’s Jew and Gentile (cf. Ezek. 34:11ff). The fold is whatever holds temporarily the sheep that belong to God: Jew or Gentile.
What is the door? It is where things go in or out. The door allows sheep in or out. As verse 2 says the shepherd enters, “by the door.” The shepherd is allowed to come in the door. He alone has the privilege, right, authority, and ownership to open the door and let the sheep in or out. Often the door wasn’t a door or gate, but the shepherd would lay down there. So the shepherd was both shepherd and also door. He is a character and a backdrop in the scene. His duty is to care for the sheep during the day when they are out in fields and protect the sheep at night in the fold from thieves and robbers.
Who are the thieves and robbers who climb in by another way? You get the idea they are enemies of the sheep. They have no authority, no rights, and no ownership. Their aim is to fleece the sheep for their wool or fillet the sheep for their meat taking the valuable stuff and leave the sheep for dead.
There Jesus stands, looking into the eyes of the Pharisees. The blind beggar is there, the disciples are there, other Jews are there. We are there. And we get the idea who the thieves and robbers are. It’s the Pharisees. They are the one who climbing in the fold by another way. Their way was religion. Pharisees prided themselves as the gatekeepers of Judaism and gatekeepers of righteousness. Yet they were fleecing their own and filleting their souls, robbing them of knowing the true God. Jesus nails them. He calls them what they are. But remember later these Pharisees are the ones who falsely nail Jesus.
False shepherds are everywhere. They disguise themselves as friends, helpers, even pastors or spiritual leaders. Yet their goal isn’t to help you, it is to use you, then dispose of you. In our day, their message may be different, but the effect is the same. Today, false shepherds tell you, “Sin is no big deal—what is a “sin,” anyway? There’s no judgment coming, and it really doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you believe it sincerely.” The message is easier to accept and less demanding, perhaps, but still just as deadly to those who follow it.
False shepherds entice you–like the serpent in the Garden–to climb in by another way. They entice you to want whats behind the door rather than the door itself. Like Monty Hall, the longtime host of Let’s Make a Deal, “PICK A DOOR ANY DOOR.” Life’s a Choose Your Own Adventure novel because our culture values choice. It is about what you do and what you choose. As in Jesus’ story the choice is religion. Religion is a common door. Religion says, “Do this good, but don’t do that bad and your in.” Another door is success, achievement, pleasure, knowledge, what makes sense, or what helps you sleep at night. For others the door is finishing school, getting that degree, establishing a career, enjoying retirement, or having a girlfriend, boyfriend, wife, husband, 2.7 children, house with a two car garage. While most of these doors are good and start well, they are not THE Door—the life-giving door.
Jesus helps us see that are only two types doors. 1) Door leading to life or 2) door leading to death. The door leading to death offers many promises: good life, hope, pleasure, knowledge, understanding, it speaks to a want. There is the expectation that if you walk through that door you will have it all, yet in the end it is a faux-door. It’s a door that leads to another door, which leads to another door, that leads to a trapdoor, which leads to a backdoor, that leads to destruction. As sheep we are prone to wander, keeping our head to the ground, wolf bait.
Jesus is very clear about who he is and what he offers. Jesus is the door and he offers you his protection. Jesus is no Pedro Sanchez. In the movie Napoleon Dynamite, Napoleon promises that if you “Vote for Pedro. He offers you his protection.” Jesus isn’t just protection from a bully trying to steal your lunch money. He is your protection from thieves and robber who intend to fleece and fillet your soul. Follow Jesus and you go in the unpopular door (not enticing, limits choice, a doorstopper). Jesus said, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Mt. 7:13-14) Jesus is the only life-giving, forever protecting door, and few think they need it.
Just as their are two types of doors there are also two types of sheep: 1) There are sheep cared for by Christ or 2) There are sheep wandering in sin and unprotected darkness. You are one or the other. Sheep need help. Jesus is your help. He is the Door. He is the only way to protection and salvation. God—the gatekeeper—has given Jesus all authority in heaven and on earth. In His frame are grace, truth, mercy, forgiveness, hope, protection, provision, righteousness, and so much more. His frame is solid and sturdy and sure. What is your door: life or death? What kind of sheep are you?
Jesus is the door and his sheep know his voice (vs.3-6).
“To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
This is a beautiful picture. Sheep know their shepherd’s voice. Sheep know their shepherd’s voice because they hear it all the time. It’s familiar. Also, the shepherd knows each of his sheep. They are familiar to him. He knows each by name. And that’s not hard to understand. We name animals. You don’t have a dog without a name. You probably don’t even have a goldfish without a name. Sheep have names too. It might be “Gimpy,” “Lamb Chops,” “Shawn,” or “Blacky.” The shepherd always knew his own sheep because he examined them every day and he spent the whole waking day with them. He knew every mark on every one of them. He knew them from top to bottom, back to front.
If a common Jewish shepherd knew his sheep, how much more does the Good Shepherd also knows His sheep? He knows their name. Their names have been written in the Lamb’s Book of Life since before the foundation of the world. He knows who they are. Isn’t that a beautiful and comforting thought? The true Shepherd came to call his people out of Judaism, to call Gentiles out of the folds of false religion from every corner of the world. He knows who they are. He calls them by name. They know His voice, and He leads them out. He goes before them.
The story that Jesus tells here is so profound. It starts as a simple story about sheep, but the more dig in and the deeper you go, the more profoundly theological the story becomes. It’s pretty serious theology—Divine sovereignty, irresistible grace, effectual calling, eternal security—this is all theological. The good Shepherd has already chosen His sheep. He knows who they are. He alone possesses the authority to come into Judaism and into the nations of the world to find His sheep. He knows them. He calls them by name. They recognize His voice. He leads them out. They follow Him. They will not follow a stranger. Without him we are left to wander in darkness. Without him they struggle to believe. Without him they resist repentance. Only Jesus can gives the sheep faith to believe, ears to hear, and will to follow.
Jesus is the door and his sheep know his voice. Sheep have selective hearing. Do you know his voice? Do you listen for it and recognize it among the thieves in our noisy culture? Jesus is the only way out. He is THE door. Through the door you have freedom and protection while you graze in the field of this world or culture. He promises to be with you. Guide you. Protect you. Comfort you. Even when you are among thieves and wolves and faux-sheep. You will know his voice. How? By being with Him. By becoming familiar with his words.
Interesting, the crowd did not understand what Jesus was saying, so he explains it again. The second time he makes it especially clear what the story is about.
Jesus is the door to life and invites you to good pasture (vs.7-10).
So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly”
The pasture is the place of rest. A place of plenty. A place of abundance. The pasture is the Word. And Jesus is the Word in the flesh (John 1:14). Jesus is the good pasture. In him, we are satisfied and full and safe and most alive. As Jeremiah 15:16 says, “Your Word was found and that’s what became my food.” As the Spirit gives life to the Word, we follow the Word. We delight in the Word and love to graze in the pasture. Jesus is the the door to life and invites us to good pasture.
So Jesus is the Shepherd and the Shepherd is the door. He feeds us and sustains us with green pastures through our whole spiritual life. Jesus said, “I come that they may have life, and have it abundantly (over the top).” That’s why David in Psalm 23 tells us that “He makes [us] to lie down in green pastures, he leads [us] beside the still waters…though [we] walk through the valley…[we] will fear no evil. For You [the Shepherd] are with [us].” Wherever in the world you or, whatever marketplace you mingle, He is with you (Mt.28:19-20).
So to sum it up, the Messiah comes, the Savior comes, the Shepherd comes, He comes to the fold of Judaism and the fold of the Gentile world. He comes to your turf. His sheep know Him. He knows them. He knows their name. He enters the door because He has full authority and right to do so. Only he opens the door. He brings out his sheep. They follow. They know His voice. They go through Him, He alone being the door. They roam the world and enjoy his provision and protection. He leads them to the good pasture. This is salvation. This is your story. Or this can be your story. It’s God’s story.
Drawing from the Past: In the 10th plague of Egypt, God said he would execute all the male firstborns except for those with doorposts marked with Lambs blood (Ex. 12:21-28). After the Passover, Israel was able to journey to the good pasture of the Promised Land.
Applying to the Present: Jesus is our Passover Lamb. As John the Baptist pronounced, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” He sacrificed himself for the other sheep. So that by his blood so you and I could be free from the power of sin and the wrath of God.
Looking towards the Future: Jesus says, “Behold I stand at the door.” (Rev. 3:20) One day you will stand at the glorious gates, but Jesus will be the most glorious gate (Rev.21:22-27). The Lamb who was slain. He alone invites you to good pasture of Paradise.
Beholding the I AM is all about the Person of Jesus. There are two Doors: Life or Death. Which door do you enter by? Do you want what is behind the door or do you want the Door? There are two Sheep: Cared for or Consumed by. Which characterizes you? There are two Shepherds: True or False. Which shepherd’s voice do you hear? Which are you most like? May our words and deeds look like our Shepherd. May we invite others to know the Door too. Are you going into the fields among the other flocks telling others about the Door and unashamedly warning them that they is no other way?
Prayer: Thank You, Father for calling us your sheep. Thank you for sending us the Good Shepherd, the true shepherd. Thank you for calling us and inviting us to enter by the Door and find good pasture in him. Thank you that you offer us protection from sin. Give us ears to hear Your voice. To listen well. To follow whole heartedly, even when it is hard and noisy. Even when other voices and doors call for my attention. Oh, to delight in the Word and You alone. In Jesus name, Amen.