“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. 2 But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6 This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
7 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
Theme and Parts:
“The Good Shepherd is the Door”
I. Undershepherds Work through Him (11, 1-6)
II. Safety is found in Him (7-11)
Dear fellow redeemed,
The wall mural was the only decoration in the room. Everything else was bare, sterile, and cold. It was, after all, a hospital room, not a bedroom. The mural depicted bright blue skies, clear blue water, green mountains, a pleasant pasture, and sheep. The sheep were calm, happy, and safe. When I first entered that room, I immediately thought of Good Shepherd Sunday. For one thing, it was less than two weeks away. For another, a little child was in the hospital bed, one of God’s littlest lambs. Today we once again celebrate Good Shepherd Sunday and our joy in knowing that we belong to God’s flock as our Lord reminds us that the Good Shepherd is the door.
This text contains one of the most comforting “I am” statements of our Lord. “I am the good shepherd.” The main emphasis in this text is on another “I am” statement of Jesus: “I am the door.” The two pictures go together utilizing very specific imagery. To understand how the Good Shepherd is the door, let’s first see what it means that Jesus is the Good Shepherd.
Jesus is “the” “good” Shepherd. The word “good” here means “excellent, noble, good.” He is in a class all by Himself. He is the one most excellent Shepherd of His spiritual sheep, His Church. Jesus cares for His Church like a loving shepherd cares for his flock. John chapter 10 stresses for us Jesus’ closeness to His sheep and how Jesus cares for His sheep. Indeed, Jesus as Shepherd is a wonderful picture for us. Martin Luther wrote of this, “In this single little word ‘shepherd’ there are gathered together in one almost all the good and comforting things that we praise in God.”
The reason this is so comforting to us that we are very much like sheep. Sheep need a shepherd because they tend to stray and there are many dangers. Like sheep, we face dangers in this world. Not wolves, sheep-stealers, or bad terrain. No, the dangers we face are the devil, the world, and our sinful nature. Like sheep, we tend to stray. Peter mentioned this in our Epistle Lesson today (I Peter 2:21-25). The devil tempts us with our pet sins, those which pull at us the strongest, and we at times we have wandered right into them. The world calls us to us with voices which contradict the Good Shepherd’s and at times we have strayed into contemplating them. Like dumb sheep our sinful nature leads us at times to fail to recognize the dangers of wandering from God and His Word, and even at times prevented us from recognizing we were wandering.
But, the Good Shepherd is here for us His sheep. He is the door and His undershepherds serve His flock through Him. Consider the context in which Jesus is speaking. In the previous chapter, Jesus had healed a man born blind, and He used the miracle as an opportunity to speak of spiritual sight and blindness. He spoke in the presence of the healed man, His disciples, and the Pharisees, and He demonstrated that the Pharisees were spiritually blind leaders; they were not true shepherds. Thus, He said at the start of our text, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber.”
The sheepfold would have high walls to protect the sheep and only one entrance. If someone did not use the entrance but tried to climb over the wall, they clearly were not faithful shepherds. They had rather come to steal or harm the sheep. The door to the sheepfold is Christ. The sheepfold is the Church. The sheep are the members of the Church.
The Pharisees were not shepherds. They were thieves and robbers. They showed themselves to be such because they did not come through Christ. They brought a message that was false. They did not proclaim salvation through the Savior.
In contrast to such thieves and robbers, “But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens.” These shepherds show themselves to be shepherds to the sheep by coming in through the entrance. A true shepherd comes to the sheep through Christ. He is an undershepherd of the one Good Shepherd. To come through Jesus, to have Jesus as the door, is to come in connection with His calling and His Word.
In fact, the Good Shepherd sends such undershepherds to tend to His sheep; they are known to Him. The Triune God is the “gatekeeper” in this picture. We saw the risen Christ commission His Apostles for such work two weeks ago (John 20:19-23). Our word “Pastor” is even the Latin word for “shepherd.” Such ministers are sent by Christ with the message of Christ’s life and death for our forgiveness to tend to the Church, and sheep are brought into this Church only through faith in Christ as produced by the Word of Christ. Such ministers are undershepherds serving in the stead of the Good Shepherd for the benefit of the flock.
Look at the contrast between undershepherds and false shepherds. “The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.” In Jesus’ day, multiple shepherds would use the same sheepfold and in the morning a shepherd would call out his sheep and they would follow his voice.
The hospital room I described earlier is located in Hong Kong. The young child in the bed was my son. The Good Shepherd had sent an undershepherd to call that little lamb by name. And so I baptized my son and he became a lamb in God’s flock. The Good Shepherd called him by name and he now knew the Good Shepherd’s voice.
You have been called by name by the Good Shepherd. In your baptism a pastor baptized you, but it was the Good Shepherd at work in water and the Word to claim you as His own, to call you his own, to call you by name. Christ lived and died and rose again that your sins should be forgiven. Your sins were washed away in those waters and you now belong to Christ. He knows you by name, and you know His voice.
But, “A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers” The Church has always been plagued by such false shepherds, like the Pharisees. The sheep of God will not listen to them. They do not know their voice for their voice does not reflect the voice of the Good Shepherd. False shepherds are a constant plague to the Church, but the Good Shepherd sends faithful pastors to both teach the truth and refute falsehood in order to protect the sheep from such. Such false shepherds remain blind to the truth: “This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.”
The Good Shepherd is the door and safety is found in Him. “So Jesus again said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.’” Let’s unpack this imagery of Christ as the door. Back in Hong Kong, my son was in the pediatrics wing of the hospital, which was not freely accessible. There was a large, locked, glass door leading into that wing of the hospital. This was for the safety of the children. It was the only way in and out. In order to enter, you had to ring an electronic bell and show your face to a camera. Once identifying you as someone who should be there, the door was unlocked remotely and you were allowed in. Those who were supposed to be there would have access through that door. The qualified doctors and staff were allowed to come through that door. The nurses on staff quickly came to know my wife and me and that we were supposed to be there. Therefore, we had access in and out of that hospital wing. That door was the gate to where we needed to go – to our son.
As the door, Jesus keeps His flock safe. Through Jesus is protection from those who would harm us with falsehood. Through Jesus is safe-keeping from Satan and hell. Through Jesus is rescue from our sin. Through Jesus faithful pastors come and go to tend the flock.
Jesus continued, “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.” Undershepherds come through Christ to tend the sheep. The sheep through Christ are kept in safety. The pastor is the instrument to feed the flock. Our food is the Word and Sacraments. Receive the wondrous gifts of the pasture of the Gospel: the mercy and goodness of the Lord. Today, you come into the full pasture of the Gospel and feast on the forgiveness, life, and salvation that your Shepherd provides in His Supper.
Contrarily, those that come with a message that conflicts with God’s Word have a deadly result: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” That’s what false teaching does. Examine closely what you are taught. You can determine between true and false shepherds by comparing what they teach to God’s Word. Falsehood will harm you; flee from it, no matter how small it might seem. None of it is “small”; it is all harmful.
Only Jesus gives the safety of life. “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” The life that Jesus gives is forgiveness of all your sins. The life that Jesus gives is faith. The life that Jesus gives is eternal life. You possess these things right now. You will receive the fullness of them in the life to come. Christ is also the door to heaven; through Him we come to our true home, our true pasture.
The climax for this text is verse 11, the final verse: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” One’s relation to Jesus is absolutely decisive. If one doesn’t come through Jesus, that one brings destruction. If one comes through Jesus, that one brings the life Christ gives. Faithful shepherds comes through Jesus, in connection with His calling and Word, and direct the sheep to Jesus.
Jesus is the Good Shepherd who died for the sheep. This Shepherd is also the sacrifice – the sacrifice for our sins. He gave Himself willingly unto the death of the cross. He was your substitute. He took your sin and was punished for it in your place. He bestows true life upon us. He rose again. A dead shepherd would not be beneficial to the sheep. Jesus lives to hold you close and care for you. In the Good Shepherd, you are safe.
Dear friends, The Good Shepherd is the door. By reference to Him and His work, true shepherds come to serve the sheep. By reference to Him and His work, there is access to God’s Church. The Good Shepherd is close to His sheep and He tends to His sheep. I could only enter one door to get to my son. The shepherd can only come through one door to get to the sheep. There is only one door, one way, to life. Through the risen Good Shepherd, you have everlasting life. Amen.