I Am Who I Am: “The Door of the Sheep” [Part Three]

Sermon Preached at Grace Community Church (EPC)

Sun City Grand, Surprise, AZ Sunday, February 18, 2018

by the Reverend Cooper McWhirter

 I Am Who I Am: “The Door of the Sheep” [Part 3] John 10:1-10

Have you ever thought about the similarities between humans and sheep?  No, we’re not wooly lambs that go: “Bah…bah!”  But, as we grow older the hairs on our head begin to resemble their thick white coat!

In fact, the Bible correlates humans to that of sheep.  For example, people, like sheep, are needy.  We can’t always fend for ourselves.  We are vulnerable.  In some respects, we are defenseless; both from outside (evil predators) as well as from within (sin).

Then, too, people, like sheep, have a “herdsmen-like” mentality.  We need to be led but resent being herded like cattle.  People, like sheep, distinguish voices.  We have instincts.  Intuitively, we will either follow, or remain behind.  But perhaps our greatest similarity is our stubbornness.  We wander off from the relative safety of the herd even when danger lurks.  Yes, like sheep, we desperately need to enter by the right door!

In this episode, it becomes evident that: CHRIST IS THE DOOR.  A DOOR WHICH OPENS AND CLOSES (repeat).

In the preceding chapter, Jesus had healed a man born blind.  This miraculous feat happened on the Sabbath.  When the Pharisees were apprised of this miracle, they likened it to a ‘work’; thus, in their minds, this was a violation of the Mosaic Law, which forbids working on this day of rest.

This former beggar had always relied upon the alms of others.  But the one who was blind could now see the ‘light of day’!  Upon hearing this man’s testimony, and what Jesus had done for him, these smug religious hypocrites merely cast the man aside.  As if his words had no relevance.  Rather, their sole interest was to cast dispersions upon the Person responsible for this benevolent act.

Amidst the crowd of curious onlookers, Jesus confronted His adversaries where He said: “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; but he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.”

This was a stunning indictment of these hypocrites who behaved like thieves and robbers!  Perhaps unknowingly, they were robbing their countrymen of the joys as children of God.  Furthermore, their cumbersome laws and edicts were withholding the truths about the Messiah and the kingdom of God.

If the truth be known, the only ones who were blind to the truths of God were these teachers of the Law!  And Jesus said as much!  In the closing verses in chapter nine, we’re told that: Some of the Pharisees near Him heard this, and they said to Him, ‘Are we also blind?’  Jesus said to them, ‘If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.’”  In other words, they were culpable for their trespasses.  These religious bigots, either knowingly, or unknowingly, were leading God’s people down a wayward path towards destruction!

In his commentary, Dr. John MacArthur distinguishes between Jesus, as the “Door of the sheep”, to these false shepherds who were self-appointed, self-righteous, and self-serving [Psalm 23:1; Isaiah 40: 11; Jeremiah 3:15; cf. Isaiah 56: 9-12; Jeremiah 23:1-4; 25: 32-38; Ezekiel 34:1-31; Zechariah 11:16]. [1]

Scribes and Pharisees knew little, or nothing about shepherding.  They regarded shepherds as ‘low-life’s’; the dregs of Jewish society.

Thus, they were uninformed as to the concept of a door, or a gate to the lost sheep of Israel.  Jesus made it abundantly clear that He alone was the doorway for those who wished to be saved.  As for those who were not easily swayed, He, as the ‘Door’, would be closed to them.

In the sheep pen of this life, the true Shepherd of the sheep serves as a doorway; a pathway to the gates of heaven!  He remains open to His own, but the door is closed to those who are not of His flock.  He separates the sheep from the goats.

Christ goes on to explain that as the ‘Door’ to the sheep: HE SPEAKS WITH A DISTINCTIVE VOICE (repeat).

A voice like no other.  Typical of city folks, Pharisees were oblivious to the ways of shepherding.  This was indicative of their attitude and ineptitude.  To put it mildly, they were unresponsive to the voice of the Shepherd standing before them.

Undeterred by their unresponsiveness, the Lord continued by saying: “To him the gatekeeper opens; 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.”

At dusk, sheep were herded into a sheep pen to protect them from inclement weather and predatory animals.  Typically, the sheep were penned up in caves, or shielded in open areas by stone walls, or tree branches.  There was only one entrance and exit.

The shepherd slept in the pens with his sheep to provide both comfort and protection for them.  So, it should come as no surprise that a shepherd smells like the animals he attends to.  A shepherd lives, breathes and eats amongst his flock.  And His voice is soothing to them.  His still, quieted voice calms the most anxious heart!  The same can be said of the Great Shepherd of the sheep.  Jesus dwells among the foulest of sinners.  He has taken on our foul odors.  Even so, He remains untainted.

In verse 27, Jesus exclaimed: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.”  Sheep become accustomed to their shepherd’s voice.  They will not follow, or otherwise obey the voice of a stranger.

Oh, how I wish this could be said of many who profess to be believers.  We are gullible creatures.  Especially when it comes to spiritual matters.  The apostle Paul reminds us of this trait where he says, “our ears are easily tickled to every wind of doctrine” [2 Timothy 4:3,4]!

It would have behooved these keepers of the Law to have been more attentive to the ways of shepherding.  Besides Isaiah, the prophet Ezekiel also predicted that the Messiah would come as a Shepherd [Isaiah 53:7b; Ezekiel 34:22, 23].    Then, too, it can be said that as the Door of the sheep: CHRIST ALONE OFFERS ABUNDANT LIFE (repeat).

Up to this point Jesus spoke of Himself allegorically.  Yet, this imagery of a ‘Door’ or a ‘Gate’ is real; not imaginary.  In verse 6, it says: “This figure Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what He was saying to them.”

Despite their knowledge of the Law, these learned men were either unable or unwilling to learn the ways of God!  So, Jesus repeats Himself by closing with this declarative statement: “I am the door; if any one enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.  The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

Here’s a simple question: “Why did Christ come to earth?”  In response, we’d say: “To save sinners!”  And I would respond by saying, “That’s a given!”  Intuitively, we know we are sinners; prone to error.  But that’s not the only reason.  So, here’s a follow-up question: “What else has Christ done for us?”  Like these Pharisees we can’t see, ‘the forest through the trees!’  Our passage reminds us that Christ came to give us life…life anew!  And not only life, but an abundant life!

If this passage holds any meaning, then you must look beyond just this earthly life.  Jews, today, are being still hoodwinked into believing this is the only life they’ll ever have.

Follow my train of thought.  If this is the only life we will ever have, then why was Jesus raised from the dead?  Why did He ascend into heaven?  He could have stayed here with us as the ‘Door of the sheep’!

One insightful commentary explained it this way: “In Western cultures, shepherds typically drive their sheep, either from the side or from behind; often resorting to the use of sheep dogs.  In Eastern cultures, especially in Palestine, shepherds lead their flocks.  They don’t drive them like cattle.” [2]

The closer you examine our text, the more you’ll discover a natural progression.  In verses 1-5, Jesus characterized Himself as the Shepherd; not merely “a” shepherd; like some hired hand.  In verses 7-10, Jesus poses Himself as the ‘Door’ or the Gateway.  In this capacity, He’s leads us to safety.  Then, in verse 9, Jesus dispels the notion that He, like a thief or robber, seeks only to destroy.  Instead, He affords us life!  Like the Good Shepherd, Jesus points the way.

Previously, in this sermon series, Jesus explicitly tells us where He is from, and where He is going!  Dear ones, there is more to this life, than this life!  If He alone is the Good Shepherd, then He will lead His sheep, and His sheep will surely follow.  So, it stands to reason that we will go where He has gone!

So, where is Jesus now?  Why, He reigns in His heavenly realm from which He came!  His mission completed, He sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty!  Brother and sisters, life here on earth is only a temporary ‘holding pen.’  A staging area.  This is not our true home.  This is not our final destiny.  We’re here on earth simply grazing for a while.

Let us pray…

[1] Dr. John MacArthur,  The MacArthur Study Bible  (Nashville: Word Bibles,  1997)  pg. 1603.

[2]     Kenneth Barker, General Editor,  The NIV Study Bible  (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Bible Publishers,  1985)  pg. 1616.

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