Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.
8 All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them.
9 I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.
The third and fourth “I am” statements by Jesus are found in the same discourse in John 10. These two very related statements “I am the door of the sheep” and “I am the good shepherd” are understood only as they relate to the Eastern shepherd. The western mind may think the two statements are duplicitous wondering how both could be accurate. However, the eastern people of the Bible lands knew that the good shepherd was indeed the door of the sheep.
What seems unusual and unrelated to our western minds is common and clear to the Eastern people to whom Jesus spoke. When Jesus spoke of the door of the sheep he was alluding to the entryway into the sheepfold which actually had no door other than the shepherd himself.
The sheepfold was an enclosure composed of stone or brush which formed a sort of corral for the sheep where the shepherd would resort with his sheep in the evening. The entry had no door or gate as do our modern enclosures. Instead the Eastern shepherd would place himself in the opening and sleep there during the night allowing nothing to enter or leave keeping the sheep in the fold protected.
Often, many shepherds in a community would share a pen. but, with only one entry, only one would need to be the gatekeeper for the night. The gatekeeper guarded the door and only let in the rightful shepherds. A thief would have to sneak in another way. When it was time to leave the pen, the sheep actually knew their shepherd’s voice and would follow him whenever and wherever he led them out to pasture.
The impact of the metaphor is explained in the very next verse. Jesus said in John 10:9, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.” Jesus is the door of the sheepfold who provides salvation and pasture for his flock. Comparing himself to “the door of the sheep” and “the good shepherd” was simply another way of saying that he was the Messiah. In declaring that He is “the door of the sheep” in John 10:7, Jesus is making a contrast between Himself and the religious leaders who were thieves and robbers seeking to enter the sheepfold stealthily.
Jesus uses the image of the door of the sheepfold to convey two important things. The first of these is that God has a sanctuary, a safe place to bring His sheep where He will save and keep them safe forever. Secondly, the only way to get into this sanctuary is through its one and only door, Jesus Christ. The only access we have to God is through Christ, and Him alone.
As his name suggests salvation is found through Jesus. He is the door to the Kingdom of God, and no one can enter except through Him (John 3:3; 14:6). Having entered through Him we enjoy the freedom to come and go as we please, abiding in peace in the midst of plenty. As “the door of the sheepfold” Jesus has given us free and unlimited access to his kingdom. The sheep come into the fold for safety and go out to pasture, all under the shepherd’s guidance.
Jesus says, “By me if anyone enters, he will be saved” which is explained as being given life (John 10:10), eternal life (John 10:28). Jesus gives life to his sheep – and ONLY his sheep – so they may have life and have it to the full (John 10:10). When Jesus says, “I am the door,” he is presenting himself as the only way to salvation; salvation is not possible without him for he declared and confirmed that others who offer salvation are “thieves” and “robbers.”
There is great assurance that comes with being in the fold having entered by “the door.” As followers of Christ, Jesus is both our shepherd and the door to the sheepfold who provides for all our needs. Knowing that the world is full of predators whose sole intent is to destroy us (I Peter 5:8), we take comfort knowing we are always under his protection. It establishes our hope so that we are fully confident that “when the Chief Shepherd appears, [we] will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away” (I Peter 5:4).
This statement is a part of Jesus’ teaching after He had healed the man born blind. That miracle verified and established Jesus’ claim to be the door. After being healed, the man had been brought to the Pharisees and interrogated. Because he refused to deny that Jesus had healed him, he was put out of the synagogue. Jesus went and found him and invited him to believe in the “son of man.” After the man declared that he believed, Jesus turned and confronted the Pharisees who were the ones truly blind to whom Jesus really was. The discourse in John 10 was spoken directly from the preceding narrative. The blind man found the door to the sheepfold and entered. The religious leaders were the thieves and robbers who refused to acknowledge Jesus as the door. The point of Jesus’ statement “I am the door” is that the Pharisees were rejecting their only access to God. Jesus provided access and the man previously blind accepted it. The Pharisees did not. The same choice must be made today. Let’s be sure to choose wisely – accept entrance and go in and out to enjoy the abundant life available to us.
By Wayne Clapp