I AM: The Door of the Sheep
Jesus starts with a stark announcement: the one who does not enter through the door into the sheep fold (sheep pen for those raised on the farm) is a thief and robber. There is no other entrance, and to try and find one is tantamount to seeking to destroy whatever is inside.
Let’s grab a mental picture here for a second: Such a sheepfold would likely have been either a circular or square enclosure, probably constructed like a high stone fence or wall and perhaps topped with vines. The entrance would have been the only break in the wall, and once the sheep were safely inside at night, the watchman/guard (either a servant or a shepherd, usually an assistant) would lie down across the opening and serve both as the protector for the sheep and as a gate to the sheepfold. Unless an intruder was willing to confront the watchman, the only way into the sheepfold was to climb the wall (cf. 10:1). This is what Jesus is wanting us to see. This is why the intruder is called a thief and a robber, because that one is not entering in the only legitimate entrance.
Then we get a picture of the shepherd. The shepherd:
Enters into the sheepfold;
Calls his own sheep;
Knows his own sheep;
Leads his own sheep;
Goes before his own sheep
And what are the characteristics of these sheep? They:
Know his voice;
Follow his voice;
Flee false voices
If this stranger were to succeed in entering the sheepfold, the sheep would not follow. But these religious leaders missed it. We missed it. Look at the intimate picture here:
The shepherd names his sheep.
The shepherd knows his sheep.
The shepherd loves his sheep.
The shepherd provides for his sheep because he names them, knows them, and loves them deeply. The concept of naming was extremely important to the biblical writers because names were declarations of the nature of living creatures. For the shepherd to name his sheep is to declare their worth and his love for them.
For example, when Adam named the creatures and even Eve, he identified each one’s nature (). There are even shifts in naming, such as Abram to Abraham, which show a changed nature before God.
But like we are prone to do, these religious officials missed it. Notwithstanding the man who in the previous chapter had been abused by the religious officials in the temple system, or these Jewish citizens who have heard stories of pagans ransacking their temple and their shepherds did nothing. Read with me the prayer of Moses found in the book of Numbers. It says:
Moses said to the Lord, “May the Lord, the God who gives breath to all living things, appoint someone over this community to go out and come in before them, one who will lead them out and bring them in, so the Lord’s people will not be like sheep without a shepherd.”
These sheep need a shepherd, one that they know and trust, so that they can be led in safety and security.
Read with me . These religious leaders failed. These sheep, especially the man who suffered in , are without a shepherd. They have no idea where to go, and Jesus, knowing they missed it then states, as he often has in these I Am statements, that he is the door by which sheep must enter into the sheepfold. Enter into the fold through this door because there you will know your shepherd. A thief or robber cannot succeed against this shepherd who is himself the door by which sheep enter into the fold.
Jesus tells us this why? Because religious institutions do not save you. The background of the man who had been abused by the religious system sought salvation in the wrong place. We do that today all the time. Maybe if we even think our living a good, pleasant, loving, do-nothing-wrong life will get us into the sheep fold.
Like sheep, that is some stinky theology! Notice the love of Jesus here and his concern: he has told us the characteristics of the shepherd (which we will hear about next week) that knows and calls his sheep by name. Religious systems don’t do that; the shepherd that cares does!
If we enter into the sheepfold, it will only be through Jesus. Not through our church; not through machinations of religiosity; even your daily disciplines as a Christian do not save you because those did not win your freedom on the cross! Those things might give you joy but they do not give you life eternal!
Listen, the shepherd calls you by name. He names your worth before God the Father, that you are his sheep. Do not entertain the enemy by helping him enter the sheepfold for he will bring nothing but destruction and death. Enter through the Door, the Door of the great I AM, and to you is life eternal and abundant.