Updated: Jul 29, 2022
On its own, this saying of Jesus presents a curious image:
I am the door” (John 10:9).
You might think of the drab screen door at the front of your house or a heavy wooden door on hinges—not an inspiring image. But when Jesus announces that He is ‘the door,’ He uses an illustration familiar to his listeners.
Since the start of John 10, Christ has been speaking about the sheepfold, and the shepherd, and his sheep.
Farmers today have pens or corrals for holding their livestock. Similarly, shepherds in Jesus’s day had fixed enclosures. Animal pens are built with posts and boards and wire today, but back then a sheepfold was done differently.
A shepherd might find a large cave in which to corral the flock for the night. Or he’d make a pen behind a hedge of thornbushes. Most commonly, a shepherd would form an enclosure out of stones. Carefully stacking the rocks, a wall would be built high enough to keep the sheep inside.
During the day, the sheep would graze and be led to watering holes, but at night they’d be brought to their pen to sleep securely. The sheepfolds gave protection from hostile animals or other nighttime intruders. Corralling the sheep also kept them from carelessly wandering off and getting lost.
With the sheep resting safely behind stone walls, there was just one vulnerable place. Here it’d be easiest for an intruder to get in, or for a sheep to wander out. And that was the opening for the gate, the door—just a narrow opening in the stone wall. For the sake of safety, this was the only point of access.
So the gate was very important. And this is why the shepherd stationed himself at that opening. As darkness fell, he reclined at the doorway to be a barrier of protection until morning. He would be “the door of the sheep” (10:8), a door of flesh and blood. Such was the intimate care that a shepherd gave his sheep: with his own body, he ensured that none came to harm.
Jesus is our good shepherd (John 10:11). As the door for the sheep, He personally guarantees our safety. He watches over us always, even in those time when we are most vulnerable: when we are sleeping, when we are weak, when we are tempted or troubled. With Christ as the door for his sheep, nothing can happen to us apart from his strong and loving will.
And the Door says, “If anyone enters by me, he will be saved” (10:9). Into what do we enter through Christ? We get to enter life and salvation. We enter the presence of God as Father. When you enter to God, you receive the full forgiveness of your sins, and enjoy the privilege of prayer, and receive the gift of his Holy Spirit.
The way by which we enter into such blessings is believing in his name. We trust that we are entirely secure behind him, and that there isn’t anything that can separate us from his love.
Jesus’s words in John 10 cause us to reflect on the door which is in front of us. Have we entered by Christ? Have we found life through him, and trust in him alone? Or are we still wandering on the outside of the sheepfold, looking for the kind of security that only Christ can give?
Do we count ourselves safe and secure in the atoning work of our Lord Jesus?
When we enter through Christ, He says that his sheep will go in and out and find pasture (10:9). This is a picture of unhindered activity—coming and going—the freedom to thrive in Christ. Through knowing Christ, we can find all we need. For Christ feeds us daily with his Word. He encourages our faith regularly through the sacraments. He helps us through the fellow believers in our local congregation.
As Psalm 23 says, He leads us alongside the still waters of salvation. He makes us lie down in green pastures, so that we lack nothing.
Now see in John 10:15 what Christ does in order to achieve all this blessing:
I lay down my life for the sheep.
Imagine a shepherd on a dark night, somewhere in a deep valley, still on duty. The shepherd is posted at the enclosure’s opening, and his sheep are dozing quietly behind him. But then he hears a pack of wolves approaching. They’re already snarling, snapping their teeth—they’re hungry and bent on blood. The shepherd wants to run and to save himself, but if he leaves his sheep to their predators, he knows they don’t stand a chance.
So the shepherd stays at the door of the sheepfold. He will be the door! He positions his body between the flock and the wolves, and with his staff and sling he drives them away. For his weak and defenseless sheep, he’s willing to lay down his life. Under the care of a good Shepherd, the sheep live, and they thrive.
Christ is the door for his sheep. We enter life through him. We’re allowed to enjoy all the blessings that He gained when He laid down his life at the cross. Though we like sheep had gone astray, Jesus in great love searched for us and found us.
So enter through Christ. Trust in his name. Love him and listen to his voice. And know that you are enduringly secure behind the One who is the Door.
[The Seven “I Am” sayings in John - Part 3]