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I AM, Part 5
The Door of the Sheep
Bruce A. Hess
Good morning to all of you. We are so glad that you are here. If you would, please take out the word of God and turn in it, in the New Testament, to the gospel of John, and chapter number 10.
As you have gathered with us today, I want to begin by doing something a little bit different. I do this from time to time. I would like us to start with a word association, where I am going to say a term and I want you to think about what comes to your mind when say that term. So, here is the word, “doors.” What comes to your mind when you think of “doors?”
Some people said, ‘Well, there used to be a rock group by that name a number of years ago.
Maybe if you are older, when you think about doors, you think about a TV game show called, Let’s Make a Deal. Do you remember that show? It is still on I think, where people come in costumes and contestants seek to win prizes by certain choices that they make. And, of course, the epitome of the show are the three doors, door number one, door number two, door number three. Which door do you want? You always know that there is going to be some sort of a Zonk behind one door and maybe an electric mixer for your kitchen behind another door, but behind one of those doors is going to be a new car or a super vacation.
Maybe if you are a movie buff and we talk about doors, you think about the movie The Adjustment Bureau, where a group of mysterious men are directing the fate of the actor Matt Damon and somehow in the movie they are able to magically transport themselves to different parts of New York City just by going through a door. They go through this door and suddenly they are over here and suddenly they are over there.
Maybe you are sitting there thinking, “Hmmm, Bruce, I don’t know what comes to my mind when I think about doors.”
Maybe you are thinking, how many doors are in the facility that Wildwood has? I want you to think about that. How many doors, if you had to guess the number, how many doors do you think there would be? Then, I will tell you how many there are. Because I spent this last week counting the doors. The answer is, 223. That is how many doors we have in our facility. I’m not talking about cabinet doors, I am talking about door, doors.
When we think about doors, many things may come to our minds, but the key question today is, what did Jesus mean when He says in chapter 10, verse 7, “Truly, truly I say to you, I AM the door of the sheep.”
Today, we are really continuing a series of messages we began a number of weeks ago, entitled, “I AM,” Unpacking Who Jesus Is. In total, we are going to look at seven I AM statements of Jesus. All this takes us back to the beginning of that term, “I AM,” in Exodus, chapter 3. You remember when God is enlisting Moses to help lead the nation of Israel out of Egypt and Moses says, “When I go to the people and they ask me what Your name is, what should I say, what should I tell them?” And, God says, “Tell them, “I AM sent you.”
That little phrase, “I AM,” is translated, in the Greek translation of the Old Testament, ‘Ego Eimi’ (e-g-o e-i-m-i). The ego, is “I,” the pronoun, ‘I’ and the Eimi is the verb, “am.” Ego Eimi, I AM.
Now, there are two significances to the I AM statements of Jesus. The first one is this: it is Jesus, when He says, ‘Ego Eimi,’ making a clear claim to be deity, to be the sovereign God, the creator of the universe. If you were just going to say something in the regular language of the New Testament era, like, I am thirsty, and you wanted to use the pronoun, you would write it this way, ‘Eimi Ego.’ The normal word order would be the verb first and then the subject later, so it would be e-i-m-i e-g-o. That would be the normal word order. But that’s not what Jesus uses. He reverses it and He uses the phrase, Ego Eimi. He is making a claim to being Yahweh God of the Old Testament. I AM, which was the name of God from the Old Testament.
Now, we know that is what Jesus was communicating when He said, “Ego Eimi,” because of the reaction of the scribes and the Pharisees. Often, when He would say, “Ego Eimi, I AM,” they would have this irate infuriated reaction. You could just go later and look at the gospel of Mark and chapter number 14 and verse 62 and you will see: they go nuts when He says, “Ego Eimi,” because they knew He was claiming to be Yahweh God from the Old Testament.
So, there are two significances to His I AM statements. The first one is the clear claim of deity, but there is a second one that I think is very important. It comes, in essence, from 2 Peter, chapter 3, verse 18, where Peter exhorts us, as followers of Jesus, notice this, “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.” It is an exhortation to you and to me that we should be deepening and growing in our knowledge of who Jesus is. Jesus helps us with that, with these “I AM” statements, because He does not just say, “I AM, Ego Eimi,” He fills in the blank.
We’ve seen this before in some of the passages we’ve looked at, some of the statements we’ve looked at.
He said, “I AM…the bread of life.”
He said, “I AM…the light of the world.”
He said, “I AM…the Good Shepherd.”
He said, “I AM…the Resurrection and the Life.”
Today, He is saying, He is filling in the blank, giving us more insight into a knowledge of Him, He says, “I AM the Door of the Sheep.”
I find it fascinating that Jesus chooses simple objects. Bread, Light, the door, to explain more in depth who He really is. If you have your Bible open to John, chapter 10, I want to read verses 7-10 and invite you to follow along in your Bible today as I read. Verse 7 says,
“So, Jesus said to them again, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door; if anyone enters through 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.”
As we seek to unpack this statement, “I AM the Door of the sheep,” our approach today is going to involve three questions. We are going to ask the questions and then we are going to answer the questions.
The first question is, what was happening in the context when Jesus made this statement, “I AM the Door?”
The second question we are going to ask and answer is, what was this door He was talking about? We’ve already talked about different images of what doors are, what was the door He was talking about?
Then, the third question we are going to ask and answer is, what is Jesus communicating about Himself when He says, “I AM the door of the sheep.”
So, that is our plan. It is relatively simple. Question number one: what was happening in the context when He said this? If you read chapter 10, you will learn that it mentions sheep; it mentions a shepherd; it mentions what is called a sheepfold. Frequently, in Scripture, we see this going back into the Old Testament: there is a picture of God’s people as the flock.
In Psalm 78, verse 52, it talks about how “He led forth His own people like sheep and guided them in the wilderness like a flock,”
In Psalm 79:13, it speaks of us, “We as Your people and the sheep of Your pasture.”
In Psalm 100, verse 3, it says, “It is He who made us…we are His people and the sheep of His pasture.”
This is pictured, not only in the Old Testament, but the picture is carried over into the New Testament in Hebrews 13 and verse 20, it says, Jesus, He is described there as the Good Shepherd of the sheep. So, the context is talking about sheep and shepherds and sheepfolds.
Look at up verse 1. He says there, “Truly, truly, I say to you.” By the way, whenever Jesus communicates that, He is saying, ‘I am giving you the real bottom line of information here.’ “He who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbs up some other way, he is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep.”
We won’t read through all of this, but I want your eyes to go down to verse 8, Jesus says, “All who came before Me are thieves and robbers.” What is He talking about? Who is He referring to, those who came before Him? Well, all of this is propelling us back into chapter 9, so you might just turn a page over in your Bible and look at chapter 9. What happens in chapter 9 is Jesus heals a man who had been born blind. In other words, he was blind from birth. He went through all of boyhood blind, he is now an adult and he was blind and Jesus heals him from being blind. The Pharisees, as you know, were not a fan of Jesus, so, they have this man, who was claiming that Jesus healed him, brought to them.
In chapter 9, verse 15, they begin to ask him, how did this happen? How did this Jesus guy supposedly heal you? He said, “Well, he applied clay to my eyes and I washed it off and then I could see.” The Pharisees say, ‘Wait a second, one thing we know, this Jesus, He’s not from God. Since He’s not from God, I don’t know how this could have happened.’ In fact, they’re not buying the story at all.
So, in verse 18, they decide that they are going to call on his parents and find out really what was going on in this whole scenario. They go to his parents and up in verse 20 his parents say, “We know that this is our son and we know that he was born blind,” verse 21, “he now sees, we do not know how, or who opened his eyes, we do not know what occurred.” In verse 21, they say to the scribes and Pharisees, “Ask him, he is of age, he is an adult now, he can speak for himself.”
Then, verse 22 adds something very interesting. Notice it says, “His parents said this,” why?…”because they were afraid of the Jews, the scribes and the Pharisees, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone confessed Him to be Christ, the Messiah, that he would be put out of the synagogue.” That was big, to be put out of the synagogue. The perception was if you’re put out of the synagogue, you are put out of the kingdom of God. You have no hope of a future with God if you are tossed from the synagogue. They didn’t want to get tossed from the synagogue, so they said, ‘Hey, go talk to him, he’s an adult, he can tell you what happened.’
So, ultimately, they go back to the man a second time, in verses 24 and on down, they say, ‘Hey, we know this man is a sinner here, this Jesus guy, so you tell us what really happened.’ I love the man’s response in verse 25, “He then answered, “Whether He is a sinner, I do not know, one thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” That I have clear, clear in my mind. Then, they want to know again, ‘How did he do it? Tell us again how He did this?’ And he says in verse 27, “I told you already, you want to hear it again?” Then, they say this sarcastic comment to him in verse 28: ‘You are His disciple, but we—the super spiritual ones—we are disciples of Moses. You are the disciple of the wrong guy here.’
The healed man goes on to say, ‘Hey, listen, you don’t know where he is from,’ verse 30, “Yet He opened my eyes.” What is the result of all of this interchange? This is what becomes important: we want to notice, the end of verse 34, after all of this conversation with him and his parents and him again, they put him out. They threw him out of the temple, out of the synagogue. ‘You have no place in the kingdom of God. Sorry pal, we’re tossing you on your nose…the consequence of what you’ve said about Jesus.’
This is just the Pharisees being those self-appointed door keepers of the temple. We’re the ones who decide who gets in. We’re the ones who make the determination of whether or not anyone is going to be in the family of God.’ It’s up to us. You are out! That is why Jesus got so mad at them.
Why He would get so angry with them? You might look at Matthew 23, verse 13. One time, this is what Jesus says to them, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces, for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.” And I am confronting you over that kind of an attitude.
That is what had happened just before He began to talk about being the door in chapter 10. He talks about there being a sheepfold; He talks about there being a shepherd; and He talks about there being a door. As He is beginning to explain this imagery, notice what it says in verse 6 of chapter 10, “This figure of speech that Jesus spoke to them, they didn’t really understand what He was talking about.” In other words, they just weren’t catching it, they weren’t getting it.
That brings us down then to verse 7 when Jesus says to them again, I am going to give it to you clear, this is as clear as I can make it, “Truly, truly, I say to you,” here comes the bottom line of My point, verse 7 “I AM (Ego Eimi) the door of the sheep.” To make sure they don’t miss it, He says in verse 9 again, “I AM the door.”
All of that context leads us to our second question we want to ask and answer and that is: what was this door He was talking about? What was this door? What He is sharing with them in that day and that culture would have been common knowledge to them, because they understood shepherds, they understood sheep, they understood sheepfolds.
But we need to talk about that whole idea of a sheepfold. What was a sheepfold? A sheepfold was an enclosure that they made for the sheep. They would make walls out of rocks. Often, these sheepfolds, if they were more permanent ones, could be as high as eight to ten feet in height because they wanted to keep the sheep in and they wanted to keep the predators out.
Sometimes, they would even take large branches with thorns and they would lay them on the top of the rock walls just to make them more secure. But one thing that was interesting about a sheepfold is: a sheepfold always had an opening. It might be more rounded. It might be square in dimension. It would have these rock walls, but there was always one opening where you could enter and exit.
Here is what is interesting about that opening, and that is, the shepherd would lay at the opening. This opening was called a door, or I think the NIV translates it, a gate. It really wasn’t a door, it really wasn’t a gate, but they called it the door, because the shepherd was effectively the door.
G. Campbell Morgan tells an account of an Old Testament scholar friend of his who visited the Middle East in the early 1900’s and he came across an Arab shepherd. He started having this conversation with this Arab shepherd back in the early 1900’s, and the man showed him the sheepfold into which his sheep were led at night and it showed that there were these four walls, with this one way in. This friend said to the shepherd, ‘That is where they go at night?’
‘Yes,’ said the shepherd, ‘and when they are in there, they are perfectly safe.’
‘How is that possible? There is no door.’
And, the Arab shepherd said, ‘I am the door.’
‘What do you mean? What do you mean when you say that?’
The shepherd replied, ‘Well, when the light of day has gone and all the sheep are inside, I lie in the open space and no sheep ever goes out, but across my body and no wolf comes in unless he crosses my body. I am the door.’ Ahh. Now we are getting an idea of what kind of door he was talking about.
That leads us to the third question, and that is: what is Jesus communicating about Himself when He says, “I AM the door?” We’re going to see three different things, I believe, that Jesus is communicating.
The first thing He is communicating, when He says, “Ego Eimi, I AM the door,” is that He is the door of salvation. Look at what it says in verse 9, He says, “I am the door, if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved.” When we go through Him, as the door of salvation, that is when we receive forgiveness, that is when we come into new life, that is when our destiny changes to a destiny in heaven, right? This is why He came to the planet, why the Yahweh God of the Old Testament became a man and came to this planet.
We know from Isaiah 53, it says, He came so that He could be wounded and crushed for our sins…for yours and for mine. It says there in Isaiah 53 that the Lord, that is God the Father, laid on Him, that is Jesus, the guilt of us all. Your guilt, my guilt, your sin, my sin, our trespasses, our rebellion, all of that got put on Him on that cross. Thus, He says, “I am the door, if anyone…” it doesn’t make any difference who they are, “enters through Me, he (or she) will be saved.”
By the way, that verb structure there, when it says, “will be saved,” is in what is called the passive voice. That means you don’t perform the action; you receive the action. See, sheep don’t rescue themselves, they are dependent on the shepherd to save them. “I AM the door,” He says. By the way, you will notice that the door is singular. There’s not many doors. Literally, it says, in the original, “I am THE door,” singular.
A lot of people are running around out there in the world and they want to say, ‘Oh, there are all kinds of doors. You can go through all kinds of doors.’ No, that is not what Jesus says. In fact, we are going to talk about that more next week as we look as His I AM statement when He says, “I AM, (Ego Eimi), the Way, the Truth and the Life.” We’ll look at that a little more next week.
One thing that Jesus communicates very clearly in the Bible is something I think we don’t always think about every single day, but we should be. In Matthew, chapter 25, verse 46, Jesus says this—think about everybody you know, everybody you work with, everybody you go to school with, everybody—there are only two destinies for people, Jesus says there. There is the destiny of eternal punishment and the destiny of eternal life. Only two. It’s good to be reminded of that. It’s not automatic that everyone gets the destiny of eternal life. It’s not an automatic thing. Ah, God just gives it to everybody. No, that’s not what it says.
It’s not something that we get eternal life instead of eternal punishment because we admire Jesus. There are people running around that say, ‘You know, I really like that Jesus guy. He was for the ‘down and outers’, He did a lot of good, I kind of admire Him. Historically, He is a good guy.’ Well, admiring Jesus isn’t what it takes. It takes Jesus being our only hope, our only hope for our sins being paid for, our only hope for our sins being forgiven. That is what the cross is all about.
Changing our destiny from eternal punishment to eternal life involves a decision. That is part of the problem with a lot of people. ‘Ah, I kind of like Jesus, I sort of like this spiritual thing, I like people doing good to people. All that is a good thing, but I haven’t really made any decision to place my destiny on the person of Christ.’ Here is the thing that is so important to remember: no decision is making a decision. Jesus, Himself, said that in John, chapter 3, verse 18. He said, “Whoever believes in Him (speaking, really, ultimately of Himself) is not condemned, but whoever does not believe (doesn’t put their faith and trust in what Christ did for them) stands condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of God’s only Son.”
See, saying, ‘Well, I haven’t really made a decision yet,’ is to make a decision. So, when Jesus says, “Ego Eimi, I AM the door,” what is He teaching us about Himself? Well, first of all, we have learned that He is the door of salvation.
Secondly, I believe He is teaching us that He is the door of security. Think about the whole picture of the sheepfold. When we are part of the fold, guess who is guarding the sheepfold? The Shepherd who is the door. Nothing—think about this in your own life—nothing can come in or out without His permission. That is part of what our worship team was singing about today. Just to remember that. We are always, when we know Him as our shepherd, under His watchful vigil at…all…times.
That does not imply that there are not going to be threats. You know there are always threats for the sheep. It doesn’t mean we aren’t going to face difficult times, that we’re not going to face difficult circumstances. What it means is: we are under the watch of the Shepherd, we need to be reminded of this, at all times.
In 1 Peter 5:8, Peter writes, “Your adversary, the devil, (our great enemy) prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” If we think about that, we can get a little bit scared, start shaking a little bit. But He wants us to remember that we are secure since we are in the fold. So, Peter goes on to say in the next phrase, even though he is going around like a roaring lion and he is seeking someone to devour, “Resist him, firm in your faith.” Keep your trust in the Shepherd. He is there for you.
I can speak from my own personal spiritual experience that when you have a sense of your security in your relationship with God, it makes a difference in how you operate in everyday life. You see, I actually was introduced to the Shepherd as my Savior when I was 11 years old. But I did not really understand the security of my relationship with Him until I was around 19 years old. I remember what it was like when I didn’t really know how secure things were. It made a huge difference in how I operated in everyday life. I so, so, remember the time when it finally became clear how secure my relationship was.
Tim Morrow tells about the sense of security that impacted the building of the Golden Gate Bridge. I don’t know if you knew this or not; it was built in 1937, in San Francisco. Here is what is interesting: “At the time it was built it cost 77 million dollars and it was actually constructed in two different stages. During the first stage the work moved very slowly and 23 men fell to their death because of the treacherous conditions. So, soon fear spread through the ranks and the work slowed and slowed until it finally stopped.“
He goes on to say, “Then the construction bosses began to think seriously about safety and security. A huge net was built below the bridge. It was the largest net ever built, costing a mere 100,000 dollars—a drop in the bucket [a tiny amount when compared to a much larger one] compared to the overall cost of the bridge. But after that net of security was in place, the second phase of the bridge construction began. Ten more laborers fell from the bridge, but each one was saved by the net. What was the impact of that security? Slowly, confidence returned and the workmen believed that even if they should fall, the safety net would save their lives. During the second phase of the construction on the bridge, construction moved along at a rate 25% faster than before.”
You see, when you have a sense of security, it has an impact on how you operate in everyday life. He goes on to write this, he says, “God has provided safety and security, shelter and salvation to the sheep who enter by the ‘door’ of eternal life. When you go through the door, you receive salvation and security. The sheep felt secure because of the faithful and dependable shepherd”. Think about it. Our greatest enemies are sin and death and hell. And when we know the Shepherd, we are secure forever from those things.
When we were in John, chapter 10, before we looked at verses 28 and 29. I want to look at them again because they underscore our security. Notice He says, Jesus speaking to His sheep, “I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish.” I’ve shared before there is a construction in the original that could validate a translation—it would say this: I give eternal life to them and they will absolutely never, ever, ever perish. “And no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father,” verse 29, “who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” When we know the Shepherd, we are secure forever.
Jesus said, “Ego Eimi, I AM the door. I AM the door of salvation,” secondly, “I am the door of security,” and thirdly, I believe He wants us to learn that He is the door of sustenance. Look back again at verse 9 of chapter 10. “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved,” and then what? “And will go in and out and find pasture.” Verse 10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” I want them to be sustained by abundant life.
Now, the ‘prosperity teachers’ see John 10:10 and they rush right in. There you have it! You have the promise of the abundant life, the promise of perfect health and total prosperity; a promise of abundant possessions and a prestigious house and stellar health and a stack of shekels so high you can’t count it. They claim that is right there in verse 10. But that is not what Jesus was talking about. He was talking about depth of life. We are still going to have problems; we are still going to have pain; we are still going to have trouble.
In John 16:33, Jesus said, “In the world you will have trouble, but take heart I have overcome the world.” Here is the promise: the promise is to sustain us in the midst of the pain and the problems and the trouble. The promise is to grant us peace and joy in the midst of those things. The promise is so mysterious to me I don’t even understand it—the promise is to utilize even our pain and our trouble for eternal purposes.
Think about it. He gave His life for us and He gave His life to us. His resources, His provisions, are there every day. When He is talking about, in verse 10, ‘abundant life’, He is talking about vitality of life; He is talking about depth of life. I think the New Living Translation says, “I have come that they might have life in all of its fullness.” In other words, He provides joy and peace and grace and purpose despite what life may bring to us.
I’ve shared something with my wife a number of times. You might think this is a little odd, but I really do believe it. I’ve told my wife that apart from Christ—we’ve been married a little while, 45 years—I said apart from Christ and His resources and grace in my life, sweetheart, I am convinced that I would have been divorced years ago due to my own selfishness. I know my heart. But, you see, that is the sustenance that He brings. His presence in my life has brought great depth to my life. It has brought fullness to my life. He says, in verse 10, “The thief likes to steal, and kill and destroy, but Jesus (the door) makes life worth living.”
Ego Eimi, I AM the door of the sheep, the door of salvation, the door of security, the door of sustenance. So, what life response should we have to what we have looked at today?…to His statement that He is the door of the sheep? Well, I am going to suggest three things.
Number one, enter the door! Isaiah 53:6 says, “All we like sheep have gone astray, each one has turned to his own way.” That is why we need to enter the door. Remember, there are two destinies. There is the destiny of eternal punishment and the destiny of eternal life. What makes the difference? Well, John 3:16 says that God so loved the world—you can put your own name in there—God so loved Bruce that Bruce would not perish if Bruce believes, trusts in, counts on, what Christ did on the cross, that I might have everlasting life and eternal life. Two destinies, eternal punishment, eternal life. If you’ve never trusted in Christ’s work on your behalf, to change your destiny from eternal punishment to eternal life, why would you delay that? Why? We are going to have a prayer at the close that might help you to express that to God.
So, the first life response is to enter the door. The second one is to sign the door. You say, what are you talking about? Well, this goes back to our 50th Anniversary. We have a door out there in the Gathering Hall and it says above the door, ‘If you entered into new life in Christ during your time at Wildwood, sign the door.’ Some of the signatures there reflect to entering into new life in Christ forty-two years ago. Some of the signatures on the door reflect entering into new life in Christ this year. If you have not signed the door, would you sign the door? It is just a way of saying, again, I’ve trusted in Christ.
Then, the third life response is this, rest in the door. Rest in the door. I love the phrase, “He is the shepherd and guardian of your souls.” When the darkness comes, when the circumstances press in, rest in the door. He offers security, He offers sustenance, to you and to me. Even in the midst He has the grace; He has the peace; He has the resources that we need.
Let’s pray together. Father, we thank You that Jesus says, ‘I AM the door.’ He is the door of salvation; He is the door that we so desperately need for security. He is the door of sustenance. For any who may be listening to my voice, who’ve never yet trusted in Christ, I would pray that they would pray this prayer. That they would pray and say: Jesus, I know that I’ve sinned against You many times. That they would pray: I’m sorry and I ask for Your forgiveness. That they would pray: I believe Your death on the cross was to pay for my sin. That they would pray: I believe You are the door of salvation. And that they would pray: I place my trust in You as my Savior and Shepherd. And they would pray that in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Questions for Reflection
I am the Door of the sheep
1. Have you ever encountered an unusual or truly memorable door? When,
where and why?
2. Have you entered the door of eternal life?
If you have, share some about when and the events surrounding it.
If you haven’t, what is holding you back from experiencing forgiveness and a new destiny in heaven?
3. Matthew 25:46 clearly indicates only two eternal destinies. How should this impact us as we think of those with whom we work, go to school, and live near?
4. With Jesus as the Door of the sheep we are under the watchful eye of the shepherd at all times. Why do we struggle with believing that when we are in the midst of difficulty?
What’s the solution?
5. When Jesus speaks of ‘abundant life’ in John 10:10, what does that really mean?
6. How can assurance of our security in Christ make a practical difference in how we go about living our lives?
7. Take some time to praise Jesus for being the Shepherd and Guardian of your soul (1 Peter 2:25)