Week Three: “The Door”
We’ve been reading the I AM statements in the Gospel of John, of which there are seven. These self-revelations of Jesus help us to understand through metaphor the character and nature of the God-Man, Jesus the Christ. I AM the BREAD of Heaven sent by the Father to give everlasting sustenance through eternal life…I AM the LIGHT of the world sent by the Father to give the light of life so that people can see where they once were spiritually blind to me.
Today we are actually going to look at one passage that contains two I AM statements. We’ll break down one of those statements this morning, and the other one next week.
Read John 10:1-21
Chapter 9àJesus heals a man born blind
Healing caused a commotion among neighbors: “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” (Implication is, after being healed, the man could gain employment and take care of himself)
Community folks took the healed man to the Pharisees. BTW, the healing took place (again) on the Sabbath.
Pharisees grilled the man about the healing. They objected to the healing AND the “Healer” because it was on the Sabbathà “this man is not from God.”
The healed man called Jesus a prophet. Pharisees refused the believe the healed man’s testimony…called in the parents.
Parents didn’t want to get involved for fear of being kicked out of the synagogue. (FEAR of personal LOSS keeps us from standing up for Jesus.)
Pharisees grilled healed man again. He shows sarcasm and guts when addressing the religious leaders. “I’ve already told you what happened and you did not listen. Do you want to become his disciples, too?”
Pharisees kick the healed man out of the synagogue. (It’s interesting that, being blind before, he would have been considered a sinner and unclean. Now that he is healed, he’s a sinner in the Pharisees’ eyes because he got healed on the Sabbath by Jesus.)
Jesus finds the healed man and asks him a life-changing question: “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
Don’t rush by that question! The implications are monumental! IF you believe, then you are willing to risk everything for the cause of Christ. My fear is that many of us believe in the IDEA of Jesus, but not in the Son of Man!
The man asks who the Son of Man is SO THAT he can believe. Jesus replies, “You have now seen him (interesting, since before that time he could not see at all!); in fact, he is the one speaking with you.”
At this, the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshipped him. (Implication: Belief leads to response! Faith leads to worship. I wonder, are we true worshippers of Jesus? I mean, do we leave it all on the field for Him? If not, could it be because we don’t REALLY believe Jesus is who He says he is?
Then there is this profound statement by Jesus that leads into the dialogue in chapter 10à “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”
Pharisees asked, “What, are we blind too?” Jesus’s response basically convicted them of their sin of spiritual blindness. They claim they have the Law and Moses…that they are legitimate children of Abraham. They claim they can see, which shows they are, in fact, guilty of blindness.
All of this sets up the exchange that happens in chapter 10, the text today. Who is present? The healed man, the Pharisees, the disciples, and Jesus. They ALL will hear Jesus’s declaration that he is the gate, or more accurately translated, the door.
The shepherd is one of the most common occupations in that day and time; but it is also considered one of the most demeaning ones. Shepherds kept long hours. Typically, they took their flock out early in the morning to graze, then to water around 10 am. Mid-day, they tried to take them to shady places if possible. Then back to water around 3 pm and to graze until dark. Depending on the time of year and location, the sheep were either gathered in a temporary pen away from the community, or in a more suitable structure located near the shepherd’s house.
Several folds were kept in the same pen over night; then the shepherd would call their own flock out to graze the next morning. Not a glamorous job, to say the least. It was also dangerous. Sheep were wanted by predators for meat and by thieves for economic gain. It’s in this context that Jesus opens with this parabolic statement:
“Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber.” He goes on to describe the relationship between the shepherd and the sheep. He speaks of the sheep hearing his voice and following him; in contrast to a stranger’s voice, a sound from which a true sheep will run away. Those strangers are the thieves and robbers and Jesus even identifies them: “I tell you Pharisees.”
A thief is one who tries to enter a dwelling by covert means, while a robber is one who typically uses violence to get what they want.
Remember Jesus’s words in Matthew 6:19? “Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.”
In contrast, it was a band of robbers who took advantage of the traveler from Jerusalem to Jericho in the parable of the Good Samaritan. Jesus is probably using them somewhat interchangeably. Shepherds continually had to guard against either kind of enemy…wolves that would attack or thieves that would steal.
Later, Jesus warns his disciples that the thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy.
Throughout John’s Gospel we see this dialogue—argument really—between Jesus, the Son of God, the Word made flesh, sent from the Father to usher in the reign and rule of God…to be the Bread of Heaven and the Light of the World, and the Pharisees—the Jewish religious establishment who cannot accept Jesus as the Son of God because He keeps messing with their theological construct…their worldview…their religious bias. He keeps healing on the Sabbath and challenging their interpretation of the Law by looking to the deeper things found in the Law.
The Pharisees believed that right behavior by the Jews would usher in the kingdom of heaven. They believed that being a “good Jew” was enough.
The Sadducees, while believing fervently in the Law, were equally concerned with maintaining their position and status with the Roman authorities. “Do nothing to rock the political boat.” [In case you didn’t notice, Jesus was sort of a boat-rocker!]
The early Christian church had the same two problems.
They required new non-Jewish converts to be circumcised and follow all the Jewish dietary laws. We see that in Act 15, known as the Jerusalem Council, they put a stop to most of those practices.
Still others, afraid of being controversial with both the Jewish-Christian establishment and the Roman culture, pressed for a “go-along-to-get-along” mentality. Don’t rock the boat!
In the same way, today there are pastors who are leading their congregations astray.
In the name of unity, they avoid the issue of sin in people’s lives and the need for repentance which leads to forgiveness and salvation.
In the interest of being hip, relevant, and accepted by the culture, some leaders will focus on the felt-needs of “church shoppers” who come to have their itching ears tickled with half-truths and lovely platitudes. Little do they know that they are still under the burden of guilt for their sinful behaviors because they’ve been following an imposter rather than the true Shepherd.
The goal of a Christian community is NOT to draw large crowds and to be hip and relevant. The mission of the church is to produce reproducing followers of Jesus Christ! The strategy to do that is: (1) become a fully-devoted follower of Jesus Christ through faith and practice; (2) find ways to invite others into a relationship with Jesus Christ; and (3) to continue to follow the voice of the true Shepherd of the sheep.
In verses 7-10, we read the third of seven I AM statements: “I AM the door/gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I AM the door/gate, whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
It was common that sheep pens did NOT have a door, but an opening in the wall through which sheep would pass. At night, either a hired hand or the shepherd himself would lie across the opening to keep the sheep together at night and the predators out.
It is in THIS context that Jesus claims to be the door or gate through which sheep could enter and against which imposters could not do harm to the flock.
Doors are good things. They keep unwanted people and things out. They protect us from the elements. They allow us access to places of need or entrance.
Aren’t you glad that ER doors are open 24/7?
Isn’t it convenient that Walmart is open 24/7, just in case you need OTC meds in the middle of the night?
Don’t you like coming home to a house with your belongings because there was a door with a lock on it?
Aren’t you glad the doors to this church were open for you today? It reminds me of the great statement of the psalmist: Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked. (Ps. 84:10)
Later, in John 14, we are going to hear Jesus say, “I AM the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by me.” In essence, Jesus is saying that HE is the gateway to the Father…HE is the Door through which we ALL must pass in order to be with Almighty God.
What an exclusive truth-claim! What an inflammatory and life-changing statement! And yet, an alarming number of Christians don’t believe Jesus! It’s an old study, but according to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, 56% of all Evangelical Christians believe that there are many paths, other than faith in Christ, to God and eternal life.
I wonder why that is? Are we fearful of hurting people’s feelings? Are we fearful of being labeled narrow-minded, bigoted, hateful, judgmental, etc.? But John 14:6 are not OUR words, they are Jesus’s words!
When speaking to the church in Laodicea, Jesus says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” He seems to be turning the tables a bit. Whereas Jesus is the Door, the path to everlasting life, we can still shut him out. We can create barriers to God.
For some of us, there seems to be barriers—either real or imagined—to belief in Jesus as the Door/Gate. What are some barriers to coming to Jesus?
Guilt over sin. Maybe we can’t seem to reconcile in our minds that God would love us enough to die on a cross and pay the penalty for our sins.
Performance barriers. No matter how many times some people hear that they don’t have to be good enough to earn God’s love and salvation, they can’t let go of the idea that—if they are just better people, better citizens—then they will deserve salvation in Christ.
Religious barriers. It is true that many who are on the outside of the Christian community do not feel welcomed because they don’t know the Christian lingo…they don’t fit in with the Christian culture. They are made to feel like second-class citizens because of their past, or because of their political affiliations, or some other difference.
Question: Could WE be the barrier that may cause some to try to get into God’s sheep pen by another way? Are we inviting? Loving? Accepting of where people are in their spiritual journey?
(NOTICE…I didn’t say accepting of any sinful behavior. But we can’t expect a seeker or unbeliever to know and live out the Gospel as found in God’s Word BEFORE they fall in love with Jesus!)
Next time we will talk more about the relationship between the sheep and the Good Shepherd, the fourth metaphor Jesus uses in his famous “I AM” statements. For today, let’s remember a few things:
There area competing voices that try to lure folks to their form of religion. They are all counterfeit.
The true sheep—the real believers and followers of Jesus Christ—ultimately will not follow those counterfeit voices. Jesus once said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Mat 7:21). A true sheep of God’s flock will listen for and follow the Great Shepherd.
Those counterfeit voices will not even know they are counterfeit. They will assume they are doing the right thing by God. Crazy people have done crazy things in the name of religion or their false god. A true follower of Jesus will do things the world may consider “foolish,” because to the world the wisdom of God seems foolish.
Spiritual sight comes through following Christ, not through following a bunch of religious rules.
Jesus is definitely talking to and about Pharisaical folk who are like thieves and robbers, trying to take away God’s sheep from his fold. He’s warning them that HE is the true gatekeeper, door, gate…whereby true sheep will find a place in God’s kingdom.
But Jesus is also talking to the sheep…reminding them to avoid counterfeit voices and focus on the Door to Heaven, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. May we have ears to hear and eyes to see. And when we SEE Jesus for who He is, the Great I AM, may we be like that man who gained his sight from Jesus…may we worship Jesus with everything in us. Let’s pray.