The Door of the Sheep
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
John 10: 6-9 (Holman) Jesus gave them this illustration, but they did not understand what He was telling them. So Jesus said again, AI assure you: I am the door of the sheep. All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep didn=t listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved and will come in and go out and find pasture.@
In Palestine several flocks were often herded together at night into a walled, roofless enclosure (sheepfold) to provide protection from predators, and to keep the sheep from roaming away. These folds had a door which was locked and guarded by a doorkeeper (the porter).
In the early morning, a shepherd would come for his sheep. The porter, recognizing the shepherd as one having authority because he was the rightful owner, let him call his sheep.
If any did not come to the door, but tried to climb over the wall or cut a hole through it, it was clear they were there for no good purpose. These intruders, considered thieves, were punished severely.
Since there was little grass in the rough, stony ground of Israel, sheep often had to wander far afield to find adequate pasture. Due to the distance covered, it was not feasible to return every night to the main fold. To help the flocks and shepherds, small folds were erected at intervals throughout the pasture lands.
These smaller folds had no door. They simply had an opening for entrance, where the shepherd slept. He was considered the door. This pictures the setting for Jesus= claim, AI am the door of the sheep.@
The fold, a place of separation, supervision, and safety, became a metaphor to describe God=s church in this world. The door of entrance into God=s family is Jesus.
By comparing Himself to a door, Jesus chose a homely metaphor. A door is a lowly object, seldom a thing of beauty, and usually merely an instrument of convenience, but teaches timeless, precious truths about Jesus.
First, Jesus is the only entrance to God=s family. AThe@ in verses seven and nine marks Jesus as exclusive.
The Pharisees, considering themselves the ultimate authority in Israel, decreed who should be admitted to or thrown out of the fold of Israel. After these self-appointed Adoors@ failed disastrously in the case of the healed blind man, Jesus discussed His exclusive role.
These Jewish religious leaders were thieves and robbers. They wanted to steal into the fold, and dominate the flock.
The hierarchy of Jesus= day was corrupt. Refusing to come to God through Christ, they proved they were imposters.
The same applies today. All who claim to be tending God=s flock, but offer a door other than Jesus, are thieves and robbers. Anyone who promises people a higher and better life apart from the necessity of redemption through Jesus= blood is a deceiver, a spiritual charlatan.
Jesus is the only door to Heaven. Entrance to spiritual safety is opened only in Jesus. He shares this honor with no one, and will endure no rival. Jesus is exclusive. Mingle nothing or no one with Him.
There is only one door. There is no other way to get in. Don=t weary yourself trying to find another. AThere is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under Heaven given to people by which we must be saved@ (Acts 4:12).
Second, Jesus is the Door we go through to find refuge. Sheep who enter the fold through Jesus find safety (v. 9).
No sound is sweeter than the closing of a door in a household where love reigns. All day long we struggle in the world of work and school. After a day filled with care, worries, and wranglings, mind and body wane, but they revive when we step in the door at home, close it behind us, and hear the family. Troubles that happened in the day roll up to the door and, like a wave on the beach, break and pass away.
When we live in Christ, the Devil wants to destroy us, but can=t. In Christ we are safe, though all the demons of Hell come at the same time to drag us out of the fold.
This does not mean we will be exempt from storms. Whether we build on the rock or sand, storms still come. Everyday life yields troubles aplenty, plus we still have our old sin nature.
The Devil has a foothold in us from which he tries to devour us. Therefore, we must not be content merely to be in the fold. We must try to stay as close to Jesus as possible. He is the Rock of Ages who protects us. A wild sea swirls around us. Hide in Jesus.
Everything we do in the world can easily be twisted into vice. We must earn money, hence the love of money is ever a nearby temptation. We have to sustain ourselves, thus selfishness is never far away.
We must have recreation, hence the lust for pleasure easily spawns within us. We have to interact with others, hence pride and fear alternately threaten us. Be careful. Spend your whole life fleeing to Jesus.
Third, Jesus is a Door that wants to be entered. Doors are built to provide admittance. Otherwise, the builder of the house would build only solid walls. The fact Jesus chose the metaphor of a door implies He wants to admit sheep to the fold.
Jesus wants to make it easy for the sheep. Notice the progression in verse nine. Jesus said AI@ B He Himself comes to greet us. Don=t be afraid to draw near. The door is Jesus, who loves us as a shepherd loves his sheep.
Jesus said, AI am@ B The verb denotes perpetuity. He is always accessible, the Door for all times, all ages, every moment. We can enter the fold right now through Jesus.
Jesus said, AAnyone@ B He opens the invitation to all. The plea is universal, not only for those who have special qualifications in rank, education, office, or wealth.
And what must we do to be saved? Jesus said, AEnter@ B A door is provided to make access easy, to keep us from having to climb over a tall wall or go through difficulty. The way to salvation has been made plain and simple. It would have to be simple for it to be enterable by everyone.
Don=t make salvation harder than Jesus made it. Stern, a German statesman, rejoiced, AThank heaven, Dr. Luther has made the entrance into Heaven somewhat shorter, by dismissing a crowd of door-keepers, chamberlains, and masters of ceremony.@
Jesus the Door is always open. In the Middle Ages, Durham Cathedral was a place of refuge for the oppressed. Doorkeepers kept watch alternately to admit anyone who at any time, either by day or by night knocked at the gate, seeking protection.
The Romans, to protect the common people, instituted the office of Tribune of the Plebians. The doors of the Tribune always stayed open so any oppressed plebeian could flee there by day or by night.
There is never a need for any to follow another shepherd, for under our Shepherd we find total satisfaction. Jesus said in Him we Acome in and go out, and find pasture.@ This pictures a flock leaving the fold to find exercise and food, and then returning to the fold for peaceful rest.
AComing in and going out@ bespeaks leading our daily life in the sight of others. The phrase presents two phases of everyday Christian life. We must have a contemplative life of rest, of peaceful communion with God, in the fold and an active life of practical obedience in the field.
We must seek to please God in our inner spiritual life and in our daily outer walk. He is a Shepherd worthy of the sheep=s devotion.