Summary: This is part 3 of a series I did on the 7 "I Am" statements of Jesus in John.
June 1, 2003
No beating around the bush this morning; let me give it to you straight. If by some chance today were your last day on earth (and we must admit that possibility, however remote it might seem), and you were called to stand before God, and He asked you, “why should I let you into my Heaven?”, what would you answer? “It is appointed to man once to die, and after this, the judgment”; if that is true, then we will one day stand before God, as individuals, to give an account. I don’t believe necessarily that that is the question God will ask, nor will He necessarily phrase it that way; still, the question is valid, and one which, if you believe the Bible to be true, we need to have the right answer to. So I ask you again—personally, not so that you can give me some textbook definition, but personally—if you were called to stand before God and answer Him, as to why He ought to let you into Heaven, what would your response be? I’m going to actually pause for a few moments, while some quiet music plays, for you to get firm in your mind what your answer would be. I’ll even go so far as to encourage you to consider writing down that response somewhere on a piece of paper, or else finding some other way to burn it into your memory. (Quiet music in background; wait; then, PRAY)
John 10 begins with three different “shepherd stories”, if you will; this is our focus of the morning, as we find, in the latter two of these “shepherd stories”, a pair of metaphors which Jesus uses to describe Himself. Our main focus for this morning is verses 7-10. Prior to getting there, let me set the stage just a bit. Jesus has been debating with the Pharisees and religious leaders of the day, and in 10:1, He likens them to thieves and robbers, those who would mistreat the sheep for their own selfish gain. He likens Himself, on the other hand, in a theme we will study together next week, to the true Shepherd. The shepherd in this figure likely referred to one who would have charge over the combined flocks belonging to several families in a village. This shepherd would come to the gate of a home each day for the purpose of taking the sheep out to pasture along with other sheep. On hearing the familiar call of this shepherd, the one inside the home who would tend the gate would open the gate. Each such shepherd would either have a distinctive call that would signal to the sheep his arrival, or he would have a distinctive tune he would play on his flute. The sheep would not congregate to go with someone playing a different tune, but, trained to recognize that particular tune played by their shepherd, the sheep would eagerly assemble—much like my little dog, the incredible Swee’Pea, comes when I call out, “want to go car, Swee’Pea?” So the gatekeeper—and the sheep—would only respond to the voice or the call of the true shepherd. Which is exactly the point that Jesus is making in the first six verses: those who are His sheep respond to Him, and not to the call of the thieves and robbers.
That understood, let’s move on to the text of the morning; would you stand with me as we read together John 10:7-10?
In Jesus’ second story, He pictures the open pasture lands where sheep are taken to graze and, in the warm summer months, are sometimes left to sleep overnight. Left, but not without security, of course, because constructed out in the countryside would be circular walled enclosures with one opening. Thick clusters of thorns would line the tops of these enclosures so as to guard against predators who would seek to steal sheep away in the night. Once the sheep were safely inside this pen, the shepherd would serve himself as the door, if you will, positioning his body to sleep at this lone entrance to the sheep pen. At one time, this same man could be said to be both the shepherd and the door—solving for us the puzzle of what might seem like a mixed metaphor Jesus employs here, for He says, in succeeding sentences, “I am the Door” and “I am the Great Shepherd”. Jesus, the Door, is man’s entrance into security and abundant living! Notice first that
I. The exclusive Door
Jesus’ picture would again be familiar to the people of His day, since they understood such customs as we do not. The sheep pen had but one door; there was one way for the sheep to get in and out, and it was through this exclusive opening, this exclusive door. Jesus, the Master Teacher, chooses His metaphors on purpose, and uses an economy of words to pack a potent spiritual punch, and when He says, “I am the Door”, we are given to understand that He is the only door by which the sheep may make their way into the fold. If the sheep don’t enter through that door, they stay outside for the evening!