John 10:7-10: I Am the Door

The Pharisees seethe in anger.  On a Sabbath, Jesus heals a man, who suffered the misfortune of being born blind.  To them, He is an unstoppable juggernaut, acting like He owns the place, curing illness on the designated day for rest, confronting them on their hypocrisy and failings.  The more they oppose this rabbi who challenges them, the deeper they claw, entombing themselves in their caverns of hate.

Filled with revulsion and animosity, they pursue Jesus while their eyes grow dim, darkened to the truth.  Undeterred, Jesus chooses to confront their lack of true sight through their ears.  By using words, He depicts images of everyday Israelite life, sheep and shepherd, sheep pen and gate.  Through what they understand, Jesus will reveal what they do not grasp, portraying how one becomes part of His Father’s fold.

First, Jesus says He is the noble Shepherd, willing to die for the flock.  Still, they misunderstand what He tries to tell them (John 10:6).  So, Jesus takes a different tack, though He stays with the ways of shepherding, “I am the doorway of the sheep.”

A door lets one go in and out but also reveals and conceals.  Out, its hinges swing, to open up a host of comforts; tight its handle closes, closeting in a world of secrets. 

One door, however, is never locked.  In sunshine or storm, this entrance is open, day or night, in times of ease and also hardship.  The door is Jesus!  Through Him, by faith, we gain access to heaven’s grace.  Now, we can regale in the hope of what lies ahead for us—the glory of God (Romans 5:2).

Here, Jesus slices a contrast between Himself and the Pharisees’ failure to shepherd the people.  A thief breaks in to steal, kill, and destroy.  Not Jesus.  No, He comes to give life, so we live life to the fullest, completed in its fullness on the Last Day (John 10:10).  Well, if these Pharisees don’t realize they are these thieves, they soon will.

The Jews of Jesus’ day didn’t deal with religious pluralism as we do.  No, they only dealt with various denominations within Judaism (if we use this as a way to help us understand).  Suppose in America, everyone claims to be a Christian, but how one perceives and lives out the faith differs.

Within the context of one religion, Jesus demolishes the denominationalism of His day.  Key in on His words, “I am the door,” not “a door.”  So, He is not one of many roads all leading to some equal and indistinguishable destination.  Though these other pathways assert their promises, they are all, in the end, dead ends. 

In Jesus’ time, those different doors are the various groupings inside the confines of Judaism.  In our day, they are any philosophy, religion, or denomination where someone relies on something other than Jesus for his eternal state.

Today, we find many strains of religiosity and spirituality, all full of friendly, likable people.  So, we discover ourselves grappling with an irreconcilable dissonance.  “Hey, they can’t all be wrong!”  To make sense of the insensible, we soon conclude, “What someone believes isn’t worth quibbling over because they all lead to the same place.  Well, except for someone like Hitler or Stalin.”  On this, almost all agree.

Not so, if we are to take Jesus at His word, not if His death contains any meaning!  Only the real doorway matters.  For salvation exists nowhere else, and no other rescue resides under heaven (Acts 4:12).

“Enter through the narrow gate,” our Lord instructs.  Why?  The gateway for destruction is broad, and the way is easy.  Down this road, so many people amble.  Not so for the path of life.  Those who walk on this footpath pass through the slimmest of gates.  So few are the travelers on this trail (Matthew 7:13-14).

Some speak of this gate as being the width of a cross and not a hair more.  On this cross, Jesus offered His life, suffering the death penalty we deserved for our sin, giving His life for His treasured sheep.  On a wood beam of death, he became the door to eternal life, the way into the presence of God.

The right door matters.  Both before and after our Gospel reading, John writes, “division took place… because of Jesus” (John 7:43).  “So they became divided” (John 9:16).  “A division occurred again…  because of his words” (John 10:19).

The Pharisees refused to recognize their ruin, for their destruction damaged more than the imaginings of their minds or the images of their eyes.  Blinded to the reality of this Man as the Messiah, they repudiate Jesus’ authority, who came to give life—to the full.  Oh, they thought they held and safeguarded the truth—all the while they lived a lie.

How can we keep from being so deceived? The Old Testament tells us of a bloodstained door, which rescued the Israelites from death, and released them into freedom.  Sprinkle some lamb’s blood, God commands, on the sides and tops of the doorframes of your houses where you will eat the lambs.  The blood will be a sign, for when the death-bringing angel spots this blood, he will pass over you.  No destructive plague will touch you in Egypt (Exodus 12:7, 13).

Through blood-splattered doors in ancient times, God chose to save the firstborn of Israel.  On the first Passover evening, believers painted their doors with the sacrificed blood of a lamb, which protected them from a descending death.

So, God provided His people with both a preview and a promise achieved by Jesus.  “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).  So is this Jesus, for our transgressions, pierced; for our iniquities, crushed.  The punishment for our peace descended on Him but, from His wounds, we receive healing (Isaiah 53:5). 

The lifeblood drained from His hands, His feet, His side!  Down His face, trickled His blood, as barbed thorns impaled, deep into His forehead!  For all who believe, Jesus is this blood-stained Door of salvation.  All who enter through Him will never die but will dwell in the gift of eternal life.

In Jerusalem’s Temple hung a heavy curtain, separating the Holy of Holies, the place of God’s presence among the people.  Once a year, the High Priest entered through this curtain.  Once Christ died, the curtain ripped, from top to bottom.  Through His death, with Himself as the door, Jesus opened a new way for us to glory in God.

Now, you can enter the Most Holy Place since Jesus fulfilled the purpose of the Temple’s curtain.  Now, you can approach God with a purified heart, in the full assurance of faith.  Why?  Only because God washed you in pure water, baptism, cleansing you from a guilty conscience, as the book of Hebrews tells us.  So, hold on to the hope, which is yours in Christ, for God is faithful (Hebrews 10:19-20, 22-23).

Though this is not so much about you—but about God for you.  Take in His words, “I set before you an open door, which no one can shut” (Revelation 3:8).  Receive our Lord’s promise: “Whoever enters through [Him] will be saved” (John 10:9). 

No one will find an eternal welcome because he admires Jesus.  No, only because of Jesus and what He does.  Your belief is not real because you somehow enabled yourself to believe; no, you trust in Jesus because what He does for you is real.

Those in the sheepfold, Christ’s Church, enter by Him, are saved, and they go in and out to pasture.  The original Greek is plural: “pastures.”  Take in the plurality of this from Psalm 23. 

The Lord is my shepherd, and I lack nothing.  In green pastures, He brings me to lie down; near the quiet waters, he leads me, refreshing my soul.  Along the right paths, He guides me because of who He is. [Psalm 23:1-3]

The Hebrew word for paths means “deep ruts.”  These tracks are hollow and timeworn because others walked in them before us, forming their furrows.  “Ask for the ancient paths,” Prophet Jeremiah’s words sang out for a misguided people.  “Ask for and walk in the way of blessing, and you will find rest for your souls” (Jeremiah 6:16).

To adhere to these paths is to move forward in God’s “tradition.”  Understood well, this is receiving what is passed down from the originating Source.  In these well-worn paths, walked by Jesus, followed by all the saints, we remain linked to this Doorway, Jesus.  In this way, the Shepherd leads us, where He guards our faith for eternity. 

Thus, when we follow Christ, we are also traveling in the steps of the faithful, who journeyed before, who also followed Him as part of His flock.  Whenever we trail our Lord into the pastures of His choosing, we experience the undergirding joy of Jesus, because He is with us.  No matter our short-lived troubles, He is still leading us home, rescuing us for something much grander.

Contrast this with the Pharisees.  In His parable, Jesus portrays them as “all who ever came before me” (John 10:8).  These are those who tried to sneak into the sheep pen as a “thief and a robber,” wandering in a different tradition, one of their making.

Which tradition guides you?  The one from Jesus through His Apostles, or some other one?  Only when joined to the Doorway of eternal life does eternity become yours.  Connected to Christ, He assures us, “His sheep will never perish” (John 10:27-30). 

In the Spirit’s power, Jesus shields you until the coming of salvation on the Last Day (1 Peter 1: 5).  So, He can save those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for us (Hebrews 7:25).

In Jesus, you are secure for time and eternity.  So, do not fear what can kill the body, for your Redeemer defeated the one who can destroy body and soul in hell.  United to the Door of life everlasting, a living hope now stirs inside you (1 Peter 1:3), where a deep joy thrums (John 16:24), and a love beyond all knowledge dwells (Ephesians 3: 19).  For these realities become real for you in Jesus.  Amen.