Summary: Jesus is the door to everlasting life.
How do you enter your home--down the chimney or through a window? Not hardly; and there’s no complicated way to enter fullness of life; we simply come to Jesus. And when we do, it is like opening a door to a new world; we leave our sins and regrets behind and enter.
There are many voices clamoring for attention; some are malicious, as Jesus points out in verse 1. We see this especially in the rise of cults, focused on leaders who demand unquestioning allegiance; often they claim divinity, or profess to be closer to God than their followers, with exclusive authority and anointing. They denounce all other teachers as wrong and manipulate their followers. Error is deadly; truth is life-giving. Jesus is warning us against such false teachers. They are “thieves” by robbing people of truth, and often of money. They indoctrinate and intimidate people into following them…and in so doing they lead people away from God.
The prophet Ezekiel condemned false shepherds and predicted that the true Shepherd, the Messiah, will provide genuine care and leadership (34). Just as there are false shepherds, there are false doors. In Matthew 7:13-14, Jesus warns His listeners: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” It matters which door we choose.
The watchmen or gatekeepers of verses 2-4 are the shepherds. Who are they? The Pharisees would have gladly claimed this position, but Jesus assigns them another title. Prophets in the Old Testament and Pastors in the New are identified in Scripture as shepherds of their congregations. They are called to feed, guide, protect, correct, and love their flocks. They occasionally go after lost sheep to bring them back to the fold. They keep the flock from dangers on the outside and discord from within.
To be a shepherd involves relationship. Pastors are not mere “religious service providers.” We’re not remote, detached, or impersonal; we’re involved. The role of “pastor” has been defined as one “who is passionate for God and compassionate with people” (Peterson). With every encounter we hope to bring people before the presence of God.
Sheep recognize the shepherd’s voice, verse 5. They “hear his voice and follow.” Sheep won’t sheep follow a stranger because there is no personal connection. They know the familiar “voice” of truth and concern. Believers who are well-grounded in Scripture recognize the sound of false teaching.
In Bible times it was common for several flocks to be kept in a common, stone enclosure with an entrance on one side, the kind of fold we read about in the Nativity story. There was no other way for the sheep to enter the fold. The top of the wall would be lined with thorns to discourage predators and thieves. After gathering the flock in the fold, the shepherd would stand, and at night lie down in the narrow opening, becoming the gate--a living door. No sheep could leave, and no predators or intruders would enter; the shepherd became the door.