I Am the Door

Rev. Deacon Allen Batchelder

Trinity Church
Waltham, Massachusetts
May 11, 2014, Easter IV

Acts 2:42-47, Psalm 23, 1 Peter 2:19-25, John 10:1-10

From the Acts of the Apostles:
And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

From the First Letter of St. Peter:
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.

And from the Gospel of St. John:
I am the door; if any one enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.

Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer, our Strength and our Salvation.

Any of us who travel by airplane can relate to this story: His plane had just landed, and he had a very tight window of time to catch his connecting flight. He jumped out of his seat to grab his carryon from the overhead bin. He hurriedly tried to squeeze by others to get off the plane as quickly as possible, apologizing to others that if he didn’t hurry, he’d miss his connecting flight. The other passengers parted like the waters of the Red Sea and graciously allowed him to get to the front of the plane. The door popped open and he took off through the jet way, spilling into the airport, where the mad dash was on to catch his flight. He was the guy who scrambles by and everyone turning their heads to watch him knows he’s trying to catch his connecting flight. As he neared his gate, he glanced down at his watch and felt a sense of relief, realizing he had just made it in time.

Or, he would have made it in time, except for one thing: arriving at what he thought was the gate of his connecting flight, he looked up at the board and saw that he was at the wrong gate. Sure enough, just as soon as he realized it, he heard over the loudspeaker that there was a gate change, and that his flight was departing from another gate; in fact, a gate on the other side of the airport from where he had just come. At that moment the reality had settled in that he wouldn’t make his connecting flight. It wasn’t because he hadn’t tried. It wasn’t because he didn’t rush as quickly as he could have to make it to his gate. Rather, it was because he was at the wrong gate, and finally, the thing that matters most in catching a connecting flight is making sure you’re at the right gate.
And it just so happens that having the right gate is the thing that matters most for each of us for eternity as well. The gate or door which we’re focusing this morning though is much more than a matter of airplanes and airports, though I suppose this gate does determine one’s final destination – his “arrival” flight, so to speak. There is only one gate or door that is the difference maker for eternity, and Jesus is it.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who come before me are thieves and robbers; but the sheep did not heed them. I am the door; if any one 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.”

In the 10th chapter of John, John focuses on the image of sheep, sheepfolds, and shepherds. It is a rural and Eastern image, to be sure; but it is an image that can say a great deal to us today, even in our urban industrialize world. Paul used this image when admonishing the spiritual leaders in the church at Ephesus (Acts 20:28ff). The truths that cluster around the image of the shepherd and the sheep are found throughout the Bible, and they are important to us today.

This particular teaching or sermon grew out of our Lord’s confrontation with the Jewish leaders, following the excommunication of the beggar (John 9). As you might recall, this beggar was blind from birth and Jesus healed him. This beggar stood up to the religious leaders and was cast out. Jesus had briefly spoken to the people about light and darkness, but now He changed the image to that of the shepherd and the sheep. Why did He do that? It was because to the Jewish mind, a “shepherd” was any kind of leader, spiritual or political. People looked on the king and prophets as shepherds. Israel was privileged to be “the flock of the Lord” (Ps. 100:3).

Jesus opened His sermon with a familiar illustration (John10:1-6), one that every listener would understand. The sheepfold was usually an enclosure made of rocks, with an opening for the gate or door. The shepherd or a porter would guard the flock, or flocks, at night by lying across the opening. It was not unusual for several flocks to be sheltered together in the same fold. In the morning, the shepherds would come, call their sheep, and assemble their own flocks. Each sheep recognized his own master’s voice.

The true shepherd comes in through the door, and the porter recognizes him. The thieves and robbers could never enter through the door, so they have to climb over the wall and enter the fold through deception. But even if they did get in, they would never get the sheep to follow them, for the sheep follow only the voice of their own shepherd. The false shepherds can never lead the sheep, so they must steal them away.

The question we should be asking is, “How can I know the voice of God?” Knowing the voice of God, results in finding the Will of God. God wants you to know His will:

Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4).

It is clear that the listeners did not understand what Jesus said or why He said it. The occasion for this lesson was the excommunication of the beggar from the synagogue (John 9:34). The false shepherd did not care for this man; instead, they mistreated him and threw him out. But Jesus, the true Shepherd, came to him and took him in (John 9:35-38).

Quite often, this passage of scripture is used to teach that the sheepfold is heaven, and that those who try to get in by any way other than Christ are destined to fail. While the teaching is true (Acts 4:12), it is not based on this passage. Jesus made it clear that the fold is the nation of Israel (John 10:16). The Gentiles are the “other sheep” not of the fold of Israel.

When Jesus came to the nation of Israel, he came the appointed way, just as the Scriptures promised. Every true shepherd must be called of God and sent by God. If he truly speaks God’s Word, the sheep will “hear his voice” and not be afraid to follow him. The true shepherd will love the sheep and care for them.

Since people did not understand His symbolic language, Jesus followed the illustration with an application (John 10:7-10). Twice He said, “I am the Door.” He is the Door of the sheepfold and makes it possible for the sheep to leave the fold, which is the religion of Judaism, and to enter His flock. The Pharisees threw the beggar out of the synagogue, but Jesus led him out of Judaism and into the flock of God!

Jesus doesn’t mince words. He doesn’t say that other religious leaders are merely misguided or misunderstood; he doesn’t sympathize with them; reasoning that they mean well. When eternity of souls hangs in the balance, Jesus does not care about being politically correct and tolerant of those who hold different views on religion; he called them “thieves” and “robbers,” who came “to steal and kill and destroy.” How could Jesus state it any more clearly? Those who deny Jesus as the Saviour and guide others to do the same are hell-bent on the destruction of souls.

But the Shepherd does not stop with leading the sheep out; He also leads them in. They become a part of the “one flock” which is His church. He is the Door of salvation (John 10:9). Those who trust Him enter into the Lord’s flock and fold, and they have the wonderful privilege of going “in and out” and finding pasture. When you keep in mind that the shepherd actually was the “door” of the fold, this image becomes very real.

As the Door, Jesus delivers sinners from bondage and leads them into freedom. They have salvation! When Jesus was talking about “thieves and robbers,” He was talking about the religious leaders of the day. They were not true shepherds nor did they have the approval of God on their ministry. They did not love the sheep, but instead exploited them and abused them. The beggar was a good example of what the “thieves and robbers” could do.

It is clear in the Gospel record that the religious rulers of Israel were interested only in providing for themselves and protecting themselves. The Pharisees were covetous (Luke 16:14) and even took advantage of the poor widows (Mark 12:40).
They turned God’s temple into a den of thieves (Matt. 21:13), and they plotted to kill Jesus so that Rome would not take away their privileges (John 11:49-53).

The true Shepherd came to save the sheep, but the false shepherds take advantage of the sheep and exploit them. Behind the false shepherd is “the thief” (John 10:10), probably a reference to Satan. The thief wants to steal the sheep from the fold, slaughter them, and destroy them.

Peter stated in his Letter, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls” (John 2:24-25).

He died as the sinner’s Substitute. Jesus did not die as a martyr; He died as a Saviour, a sinless Substitute. It is not Jesus the Example or Teacher who saves us, but Jesus the spotless Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29).

In the Old Testament, the sheep died for the shepherd; but at Calvary, the Shepherd died for the sheep (John 10). Every lost sinner is like a sheep gone astray; ignorant, lost, wandering, in danger, away from the place of safety, and unable to help himself. The Shepherd went out to search for the lost sheep (Luke 15:1-7). He died for the sheep!

Now that we have been returned to the fold and are safely in His care, He watches over us lest we stray and get into sin. Just as the elder-bishop oversees the flock of God, the church (1 Peter 5:2), so the Saviour in glory watches over His sheep to protect them and perfect them (Heb. 13:20-21).

Here is the wonderful truth Peter wanted to share: as we live godly lives and submit in times of suffering, we are following Christ’s example and becoming more like Him. We submit and obey, not only for the sake of lost souls and for the Lord’s sake, but also for our own sake that we might grow spiritually and become more like Christ.

When you go through “the Door,” you receive life and you are saved. As you go “in and out,” you enjoy abundant life in the rich pastures of the Lord. His sheep enjoy fullness and freedom. Jesus not only gave His life for us, but He gave His life to us right now!

People who enjoy the abundant life will possess all of these qualities: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, compassion, character, wisdom, honesty, salvation, and a relationship with God. You can get everyone of these things from God, who is the giver of all good things. The Bible says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change…” (James 1:17).

To have life abundantly starts with Jesus’ promise that my eternity is safe because it is in His hands, and has already been bought and paid for with His blood. Then, with the certainty of Jesus, the Door, guarding my heart, my eyes see my life in this world in a different light. Fear and trepidation have been cast aside; they don’t need to follow me or haunt me, for all is well with the Door. Guilt and regret don’t hang around my neck like a noose, for all is well with the Door. Failure and folly don’t disqualify me, for all is well with the Door. Loving and serving are not obligations, but opportunities; for all is well with the Door. I have abundant life, for I have Jesus, the Door.

Let us pray:

O God, whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of your people: Grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who calls us each by name, and follow where he leads; who, with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, now and forever.

Amen. †

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