Jesus, the Door of the Sheep
October 8, 2023

Jesus, the Door of the Sheep

Passage: John 10:7-10

Who Is Jesus?

Many people have an idea of who Jesus is that’s pieced together from what they’ve heard from friends and family, or what they’ve seen on TV or read on the internet. But who is Jesus really? Why does He matter? For the past couple weeks, we’ve been going back to the original sources – to the Bible itself – to consider who Jesus says he is, and tonight we’ll be doing the same. In the Gospel of John, Jesus makes seven statements about who he is. Seven times, Jesus says, “I AM something,” and he supplies a unique metaphor or word picture to describe his identity. We’ve already seen that Jesus is the bread of life and the light of the world – and tonight we’ll consider what it means for Jesus to be the door. I’ll read John chapter 10, verses 1 through 10, but we’ll be focusing on verses 7-10. Before I read our text, though, please pray with me:

(Prayer and Read Text: John 10:1-10)

Giving Some Context

It’s important, as we work through this text, to keep in mind who Jesus is talking to. In the last two verses of Chapter 9, Jesus is speaking to a group of Jewish religious leaders known as the Pharisees. The Pharisees saw themselves as the gatekeepers of Judaism. They rigorously studied Jewish traditions and what we refer to today as the Old Testament Scriptures. The Pharisees took issue with Jesus, because Jesus was healing people on the Jewish day of worship – on the Sabbath, and that didn’t fit with their idea of what’s okay. And Jesus took issue with the Pharisees because they misunderstood God’s commands (including his commands about the Sabbath) and because they were misleading God’s people for selfish gain. So Jesus’s words here in John Chapter 10 – these words are for a mixed audience, but they’re largely directed toward the Pharisees.

And as Jesus speaks to the Pharisees about doors, shepherds, and sheep, he identifies himself as both the Door of the sheepfold, which we’ll be discussing today, and as the Good Shepherd, which we’ll dig into next week. So as we work through verses 7-10, focusing on Jesus’s statement I am the door, I want to explain three things here. First, I want to explain the Door of the Sheep. Second, I want to explain the Danger of the Sheep, and third, I want to explain the Deliverance of the Sheep. The Door – the Danger – the Deliverance.

The Door of the Sheep

So first – the door of the sheep. Back in Israel, shepherds often would either find or build some sort of enclosure – called a sheepfold – for their sheep to spend the night away from the open field. A doorkeeper would guard the door at night, and then the shepherd would come the next morning to take his sheep back out to pasture.

The sheep here represent ordinary people, particularly those who believe God and follow his truth. The shepherds are those who give spiritual care for the sheep. And the sheepfold is symbolic for the spiritual safety that God wants his sheep to enter into.

Now, in our text, when Jesus says that he’s the door of the sheepfold, he does three things to signal that his words here are really important. First, you’ll see in verse 7, Jesus begins by saying, “Truly, truly, I say to you…” Whenever you see the words, “Truly, truly” in the Bible, that means that the speaker is serious about what he’s about to say. Then, Jesus repeats his key statement two times: verse 7, “I am the door of the sheep,” and again in verse 9, “I am the door.” Jesus doesn’t want us to miss his point, so he says it twice. And third – it’s a little harder to see in our English translations, but in the Greek, Jesus is speaking in a way that expresses emphasis. He’s saying I AM the door – I, I myself and no otherI am the door. He isn’t just a person who helps us find the door. He isn’t just a caretaker of the door. He isn’t just one part of the door. He is the door – the one and only entryway.

See, the sheepfolds in Jesus’s day weren’t like our houses. They didn’t have a front door, a back door, a cellar door, a side door, a pet door, and a garage door. There was just one door, just one way for the sheep to come safely into the sheepfold and to safely go out into pasture. Jesus says, there’s one door, and it’s me.

This is a warning for the Pharisees, and it’s a warning for us: there is no safety and life without Jesus.

See, the Pharisees thought if they were a decently good person, if they kept the right list of commands, they would earn their way into spiritual safety and blessing. And so many world religions teach the same basic idea – if you simply live according to a list of rules and morals, you’ll enter into a better life. But Jesus is teaching a totally different message. Jesus says that the gateway into spiritual safety isn’t dependent on our spiritual performance. It’s dependent on a specific person – on Jesus himself.

“I AM THE DOOR,” Jesus says. Either you will enter through Him, or you will not enter. Many people will have a hard time with Jesus’s words here. His words may seem to come across as rigid, or exclusive – and for some people that might be a turnoff.

But don’t misunderstand Jesus here. Jesus’s goal isn’t to be belligerent. He’s just being honest. And he’s being honest, not because he wants to block people from entering the sheepfold, but because he wants them to enter! Jesus wants us to see that there really is an open door for us to come into the life and safety of the sheepfold. When you and I come to Jesus, we don’t find a dead end. We don’t find an impassable wall. We find an entryway.

If you refuse to come to Jesus, it won’t be because He’s too critical or close-minded toward you. It’ll be because you’re too critical and close-minded toward him. Jesus is the door of the sheep – and he urges you to enter.

The Danger of the Sheep

Sheep need a sheepfold because they need protection from the open field. But what do they need protection from? This brings me to my second point – the danger of the sheep.

In our text, we’re warned about robbers and thieves who would bring harm to the sheep. In verse 8, Jesus says, “All who came before me are thieves and robbers...” And in verse 10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” Who is Jesus talking about? Who are these “thieves and robbers?”

In verse 8, when Jesus says, “All who came before me are thieves and robbers,” he’s not saying literally all, 100% of people who lived earlier than him were thieves and robbers. He’s not talking about Moses, King David, the prophet Isaiah, or other faithful Old Testament figures (and throwing them under the bus). Instead, Jesus is talking about other public figures – perhaps some false Messiahs as well as false teachers among the Pharisees who claimed, “I’m the Door! I can give you access to God, but the only way is to come through me and what I say.” (These are the thieves and robbers.)

And Jesus has two messages here – one message for the sheep, and message one for the Pharisees.

First, Jesus wants the sheep to recognize that there was real danger, especially from the Pharisees. See, the Pharisees had a prominent role in the culture. They controlled the biggest churches. They controlled local politics and the media outlets. They controlled who was accepted in society and who was cancelled. The pressure was enormous for people to go along with whatever the Pharisees said was the “right way.” Yet Jesus encourages the sheep to have discernment, and to recognize that faithful shepherds will lead to Him – through the door, into the sheepfold – but those who lead to other things are the thieves and robbers. These evildoers will ultimately make the sheep hostages and lead them into death and destruction. So the sheep are warned here to make sure that they won’t listen to the wrong voices.

But Jesus also has a message for the unfaithful Pharisees here. And even though it’s a hard message, it’s also a compassionate message. See, Jesus is confronting the Pharisees – he’s telling them that they aren’t the gateways to godliness that they think they are. He’s telling them that their self-reliant, good-works system of religion isn’t just incorrect. It’s deadly. And since the Pharisees promote this system of religion that leads to death, Jesus calls them thieves and robbers, because they’re stealing the sheep away to death and destruction.

But notice – Jesus’s message here isn’t one of final judgment. Instead, he urges the Pharisees to stop leading the sheep astray – to stop trying to control the sheep – to stop using the sheep for personal gain – and instead he invites the Pharisees to be a sheep. In verse 9, Jesus says, “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out, and find pasture.” This isn’t just a message for sheep who know that they’re sheep. This is especially a message for pastors, elders, fathers, mothers – anyone who exercises spiritual leadership over someone else – it’s a message for us. We aren’t the gatekeeper of truth. We aren’t the doorway into life. Jesus is.

The Deliverance of the Sheep

So what is it that Jesus invites us into? This is my third and final point – the Deliverance of the sheep. In verse 9, Jesus promises that “if anyone enters by me he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.”

Jesus promises salvation‘he will be saved,’ Jesus says. But what will we be saved from? Sheep who enter through the door of the sheepfold are safe from several things. Perhaps most obviously, the sheep are saved from the thief – from his stealing, his killing, and his destroying spoken about in verse 10. But we could also say that the sheep are also being saved from being alone, without a shelter, without a shepherd, without protection. The sheep are saved from the hopeless task of trying to save themselves. And as a result, the sheep aren’t just saved from harm brought about by a thief – but from every evil thing – even from death itself.

But the text doesn’t just suggest what the sheep are saved from. It also tells us what the sheep are saved into. Notice, the sheep are saved into life and abundance. “If anyone enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.” And in verse 10, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

But Jesus isn’t talking about a lifetime of abundance on earth in the here and now. He isn’t offering some sort of mystical technique to become a billionaire in 6 months by working from home 20 hours a week. No, Jesus is offering something far more incredible. He’s offering eternal life, with absolute freedom and fullness. The sheepfold Jesus urges us to enter isn’t a prison cell. It’s a place of safety that ensures that we’ll have a future of freedom to explore a new world of green pastures and to drink deeply from still waters.

Without Jesus, there would be no such door – no ability to be saved, no access to God. But Jesus entered into the dangers and trials of this world, so we could enter into the safety of his sheepfold. Jesus carried the burden of our sin on the cross, so we could carry the abundance of his righteousness. Jesus was ruined for our sake – he was put to death – so we could be raised with him to new, unending life.

And Jesus has come, and given himself for us, because He wants you and I to have this life. He wants it for the vilest sinner, he wants it for the most arrogant moralist, for those who are indifferent, for those who are indecisive, for the ignorant, for the intelligent, for the weak, for the strong, for the rich, for the poor, for the old, for the young – whoever you may be, listen to the voice of Jesus, and come, because He is the door, and through him you will find life.


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