I AM: The Door of The Sheep
Of the seven I AM statements of Jesus in John’s gospel, this is the least frequently discussed. There are several reasons for this. One, it comes in very close proximity to a more tantalizing metaphor- The Good Shepherd. Both statements appear in the same discourse and Jesus mixes metaphors in painting the same picture. So, as any child whose birthday falls on a holiday knows too well, the famous overshadows the obscure.
Another reason we probably don’t talk about the Door of the Sheep is that it doesn’t have high play count in scripture. In the chapter it appears, John devotes all of five verses to it and the New Testament writers don’t really take up the metaphor. This makes it hard to devote much space to exploring it.
But exploring this metaphor is exactly what we’re going to do in this space. Again, as with the other posts in this series, my prayer is that you and I will have our focus drawn to Jesus, the source and foundation of our faith.
“Truly, truly, 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… 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.” – John 10:1,2,7-9
The image here is of an enclosure which houses sheep. In this picture, the door plays three roles: it legitimizes access, protects the flock, and acts as a gateway to provision.
First, the door grants legitimate access to the sheep. According the image we’re given, there is one door and one shepherd who has the key. Anyone else who wants to get at the sheep is an intruder.
The intruder trespasses with a purpose: He attempts to lead them away from their rightful owner. He is a thief. But instead of using force or carrying off the sheep, the intruder attempts to lead the sheep with his voice. If the sheep follow the intruder, they will walk into the possession of another and away from the protection of the shepherd.
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. – Galatians 1:6-8
If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. – 1 Timothy 6:3-4a
Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ – 1 Corinthians 11:1
The New Testament warns frequently against false teachers who will come up to lead God’s people astray. And the Door of the Sheep makes for us a clear distinction between the Shepherd (with His agents) and the intruder (with his agents). Anyone who intends to be a leader of the church must do so in submission to Christ and in accordance to His teaching. The Door of the Sheep is our protection against being led astray by showing who we should follow (2 Thessalonians 2:9-17, 2 Peter 2:1-2).
The Door to the Sheep also provides salvation for the sheep. They come in through Him to a safe place. This obviously has eternal significance, but also matters in this life.
The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe. – Proverbs 18:10
The Psalmists and authors of proverbs were not looking into eternity when they made statements like this (Psalm 18:2, 61:3, 91:2, 144:2, Proverbs 14:26 among others). What they meant is when I’m scared, overwhelmed, unsure, stricken with doubt, I can run to God and He will protect me. When I have literal enemies looking to take me down, I trust God to look out for me. The Door of the Sheep offers protection from the internal and external pressures of this life and into eternity with God. Salvation belongs to the Lord, and we enter into His salvation only through Christ.
Finally, the Door of the Sheep leads us out to pasture. Going back to the image Jesus paints, you have a number of sheep in an enclosure. The sheep cannot survive solely within the pen. They must be lead beyond the boundary to find food.
Through Jesus, we are not only directed into the enclosure and safe communion with the saints; Jesus leads us out into the world.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. – Acts 1:8
But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one. – 1 Thessalonians 4:10b-12
The Door of the Sheep shows us not only how to find salvation, but how to go out into the world as the flock of God. Our faith is not simply concerned with life within the enclosure, in the Christian bubble, but also promises pasture. He provides pasture out in the world, that our needs may be met.
The Door of the Sheep ensures that we are not lead away, assures us of safety, and provides for us outside the walls of the enclosure. In Christ, we are kept secure as the flock of God. Let us keep our eye on the Door. Let us rejoice when it is shut against intruders and dangers. And when it is open to opportunity and blessing, let us go through it with boldness, trusting that God will keep His flock.