Summary: Jesus is the Door and the Shepherd; He is the entry-point to life, peace, sustenance, and safety. He loves us, gave His life for us, and guarantees we will live with Him forever.
In our last study we saw that Jesus spoke a parable to the unbelieving Pharisees about a shepherd and his sheep. The shepherd comes to the door to lead his sheep away, and, because he is legitimate, the porter opens the door for him. But there are others who want to steal the sheep and abuse them and kill them. The porter won’t open to them so they have to climb over a wall to get to the sheep. The sheep willingly follow their shepherd because they know his voice and they know he is good, but they won’t follow the thieves and robbers because they don’t trust them. They are afraid of strangers.
Now, all the things in this parable (or allegory) have meanings that the unbelieving Pharisees don’t understand. Now we come to verse seven where Jesus begins to explain it to them:
Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. 8All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them.
The first thing Jesus does is show that He is the door of the sheep. The door is the point of passage to and from the green pasture. We’ll talk more about that in a minute, but for now we should focus on the fact that others have already come and tried to convince the sheep to follow but the sheep wouldn’t listen.
Who could those people be? Remember we’ve already said that there are men who want to lead God’s flock, but they have no legitimate right to do so. These Pharisees are included in this group so they are thieves and robbers. But this was a problem for Israel all throughout its history. In Jeremiah 23 we read: Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the LORD. 2Therefore thus saith the LORD God of Israel against the pastors that feed my people; Ye have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them: behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith the LORD. 3And I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all countries whither I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase. 4And I will set up shepherds over them which shall feed them: and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall they be lacking, saith the LORD. 5Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. 6In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS (Jer. 23:1-6).
The sheep were scattered because they ran from the strangers, but God would bring them back together. He will set up shepherds over them and provide for them. It’s interesting to note that Jeremiah was written during the time of exile and God’s people were literally scattered. There was a point to this because we can see that God was faithful to return them back to the safety of home. And “behold the days come” when Christ is promised and God’s sheep will dwell safely forever! We are His scattered sheep, and He came to seek and save that which was lost, and He promises that He will lead us to a good place where there will never again be hunger or fear or pain or exile.
He says again,
9I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. 10The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
The purpose of the door is to give life. The sheep don’t stay in the pen all the time; they go out and find pasture. They eat. But they don’t stay in the field all the time either or they will be eaten; they go back to the safety of the pen. Jesus gives His sheep both food and safety because He is the door leading to both those things.
But the thief only comes to kill, steal, and destroy. He doesn’t care if he scatters the sheep or not because he doesn’t care about them. He will abuse the sheep and use them to make a profit just as the “pastors” in Jeremiah had done. But the good shepherd comes to give them life and lead them back and forth.
Verse ten is abused as a health and wealth verse, but it can’t be separated from the rest of these verses. Notice in 11, 13, and 17 that the good shepherd lays down his life and our Shepherd lays down His for us. His death is our atonement, but what’s more important is that He has power to take it up again. Our “abundant” life is not in this mortal body but in Christ who is our life. As He was raised so will we be! This is far greater than being blessed with the rubbish of this world, and it explains Christian misery despite this verse. Like most of the rest of John, it should be interpreted spiritually and not from an earthly perspective.