Jesus is the door for the sheep, 10:1-10


Following the healing of the blind man and the confrontation with the authorities that developed after the healing, chapter 9, Jesus describes a pastoral scene to the gathered crowd. Jesus notes that sheep follow their shepherd. The shepherd enters the sheepfold by the gate, the sheep recognize him and they follow him. A stranger, on the other hand, someone like a thief or a robber, climbs over the fence and the sheep, who don't recognize his voice, run away from him. Jesus goes on to develop two images found in the illustration and ascribes them both to himself. First, Jesus is "the gate for the sheep", v7-10, and second, he is "the good shepherd", v11-18. "When Jesus brings us to the Father he calls himself a Door, when he takes care of us, a Shepherd", Chrysostom.

The passage

v1-5. In chapter 9 of John's gospel, Jesus heals a man born blind. The miracle provokes the authorities because they are at a loss to explain how Jesus, "a sinner", could give sight to a person who has always been blind. The blind man argues the point with the authorities and ends up excommunicated for his troubles. In the end, the blind man sees and believes, while those who see "become blind." Jesus then gives his little agricultural observation. Sheep follow their shepherd; the shepherd comes to the sheep fold, calls to his sheep and out they come, while a stranger, a thief or a robber, has to sneak into the sheepfold and when the sheep hear his voice, they scatter. This story is really not a parable with a hidden meaning, it's just an illustration, an observation that can be applied to the situation that Jesus has just faced; a man has decided to follow Jesus rather than Israel's religious authorities - sheep follow their shepherd, not a stranger.

v6. We are not told the identify of those who react to Jesus cryptic observations, but probably it's the same Pharisees referred to in 9:40. They don't really get what Jesus is saying, and seeing his point is not earth-shattering, Jesus moves on to say something that is.

v7. Using his agricultural observations, Jesus makes a messianic claim about himself. Jesus is like the entrance-way that sheep use either to enter the security of a sheepfold, or to move out to pasture. For those with ears to hear, Jesus is saying "I am the gateway through whom the scattered flock of Israel may enter the kingdom of heaven and be saved."

v8-9. All the false messiah's and prophets, the corrupted leaders of Israel, right down to the "blind" religious authorities of Jesus' own day, are like those thieves and robbers. The flock is scattered before them, but now, Jesus, like a gateway for sheep, provides for God's scattered flock a gateway to salvation and eternal provision.

v10. So, God's special people have had to put up with leaders who have brought nothing but destruction, but for no longer. Now there is one in their midst who is the way to an abundant life, a life that is eternal.

"I am the Door"

My wife would often make the comment "you clergy will have a lot to answer for." She was right, of course. We get up in the pulpit and tell people how they should live, but often struggle to live honoring lives ourselves. We pontificate on the truth, often our own version of truth, since we are infected by the virus of modernism - I think and therefore, it is true. Worst of all, we manage by manipulation. I well remember a colleague explaining how to guide a committee to an appropriate conclusion - pose the problem and wait for someone to come up with the desired solution, congratulate them and adopt it. Oh dear, "thieves and robbers."

Of course, in the end, clergy are no different to the people they minister to. We are all flawed, our "righteousness is but filthy rags." Still, there is one flaw that every minister fears, and it is that somehow, by something we do or say, we hide the narrow gateway that leads into the presence of God - we scatter rather than gather, we fail to point to Christ. I know in my own life that the flaws are many, and I fear that, at times, my sin has blurred the gateway, has stood between the lost and their view of Jesus. How will I answer my Lord in that terrible day of his coming?

It's easy to identify the failings of others, but in reality, everyone of us is potentially a "blind guide." It's not hard to stand with the Pharisees who denounced the blind man's faith and who failed to understand why a lost sheep of Israel would follow a shepherd like Jesus, a "sinner" even. Israel had a long tradition of leaders who were little more than "thieves and robbers" and that tradition didn't stop with Jesus. Everyone of us has the potential of scattering God's sheep, rather than pointing them to the gateway of heaven.

So then, we must make this truth central in our lives, such that it permeates all that we do and say. Jesus is the gateway to heaven, the way to be saved from eternal death. The whole purpose of his coming was that we "may have life, and have it to the full", that we might have eternal life, a life lived eternally in the presence of God. May we never cloud this truth, either in what we say, or in what we do.


Consider practical ways in a which a church could unwittingly divert attention from Jesus as the (only) way to heaven. For example, say a church shifted its giving from the Bible Society to a local youth refuge; would this action promote, or devalue, Jesus as the way?

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