ESV John 10:1 “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.
In the name of Jesus. Amen.
Door. Door. Door. Door. It almost doesn’t sound like Good Shepherd Sunday! It sounds more like “Doors Sunday.” Now “Doors Sunday” isn’t as catchy and it doesn’t look as artistic on bulletin covers as “Good Shepherd Sunday.” But if you just went by what Jesus says in the Gospel today, you might actually think it was Door Sunday. Four times in only ten verses, Jesus uses the word “Door.” Four times! Door. Door. Door! Door!
The guy who doesn’t use the door and gets into the sheep pen a different way is a thief or robber. The thief sneaks over or slithers under the fence. He doesn’t use the door. How could he use the door? He’s not the shepherd. The One who uses the door is the Shepherd of the sheep. He loves and cares about the sheep. He’s the one who protects the sheep. He’ll even give up his own life for the sheep. And when the Pharisees didn’t get it, when they didn’t understand what Jesus was talking about, he doubled down, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. . . . I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture” (vv 7, 9).
Jesus is the Door, literally. He is not using a metaphor or figure of speech here. He is the entry way into heaven, the door to God, the door to salvation. Through the door of his holy life and bloody sacrifice, you have eternal life. Through him and him alone, you have heaven. He’s a door dripping with water and blood through whom you enter into the good pasture.
Outside of him is the way the thieves and robbers play. That’s how the devil and the other false teachers of this world tempt you to believe that your salvation and life and success are all really based on you picking yourselves up and improving your lives on your own. After all, he’s done his part; now it’s up to you to do yours.
So they ask: do you love Jesus enough? Have you made him the Lord of your life? Really? Have you fully committed to him? Is your life better than it was before? Have you stopped sinning? Do this, do that, change this, change that, pray, work, and maybe God will count you worthy to be saved. But what happens in all this “you doing” stuff? You make yourself the door! You are actually the one who, by what you do and don’t do, determines if you are in the sheep pen or not. You are the door through which you get into heaven.
It sounds funny when I put it that way, doesn’t it? Sounds weird. You’d never believe such false teaching. You wouldn’t even listen to it. For you don’t listen to the voice of a stranger. You don’t recognize the voice of the thief. You will never follow anyone’s voice other than that of your Shepherd, Jesus Christ, who speaks to you in his Word. The sheep do not recognize the voice of anyone other than the one speaking to them in the Bible, the voice of the Shepherd. The shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep.
Why? Because you are the sheep; his sheep. Now the Lord uses the word sheep six times today. Sheep. Sheep. Sheep. Sheep. Sheep. Sheep. Maybe it should be “Sheep Sunday”!
But you aren’t just anyone’s sheep. You are his sheep. You have heard his voice. Each of you is a sheep. You’re a sheep. You are a sheep. You over there, sheep. You two over there, sheep. Each one of you is his sheep. You are each uniquely loved, particularly cared for, and led out to pasture by him. He called you by name. Shepherds used to do that! They’d name their sheep. Pet names. Special names for each one. He knows each of you by name, for you are his sheep.
To me, all sheep look the same. When I am driving through the countryside and see a flock of sheep, in my mind they’re all white(ish), fuzzy, and go “baaaaaah.” But to the Lord, each one is unique. He gave you your name. He gave me my name. He names his sheep at the baptismal font. In the water and in his name, you were tagged as his sheep.
Your Lord Jesus is the Door for the sheep. He’s the way into the sheep pen. He’s the way out to green pasture. And he’s not just any door or anyone’s door. He’s your Door. He’s your way into not just life, but into eternal life.
You are the sheep. He is the Good Shepherd. He lays down his life for you. That’s the Good News of this day. Jesus says that hireling shepherds were anything but good or noble. When the wolves or thieves would show up, the hireling shepherds had a choice between their lives and the sheep. “Hmm. Do I want to live and see my family, or do I want to protect these stupid sheep? I’m gonna go with my family.” The hirelings bolted, and the sheep were slaughtered.
For the thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy. The thief would draw you away. He would try to steal you. He tries to get you to trust in yourself and what you can do to lock down your green pastures in this life by something that starts and ends with you and your work. But the only thing that you’ll find behind that door is death. You must not listen to the thief. You must not listen to your deceitful hearts. You must not trust yourself, your works, your reason, your intellect. These will all fail you on the day of judgment. They are not the door. They are the voice of the thief, the false shepherd.
But your Shepherd—he gave up his life for you. You must cling to him. Whenever you find yourself trusting in your own efforts and reason you must run and flee from the false shepherd and cling to Christ alone. He took upon himself the guilt of all the times that you live for yourself and not others. He died for all the times you try to make yourself the door. He rose again on the third day to give you eternal life. You have life in his name, in his Baptism. Life that goes on and on and on as long as he goes on and on and on.
You are his own sheep. He goes before you, protects, guides you. He meets your enemies head-on and defeats them for you. You follow him, for you know his voice.
Don’t listen to other voices that would tell you that you can make things better with God by doing, saying, and feeling the right things; or that there is any other way into the sheep pen than through Jesus and Jesus alone.
You are his sheep. He isn’t just a shepherd. He’s your Good Shepherd who lays down his life for you on the cross. He is the righteous sacrifice that makes you acceptable to God.
Doors Sunday? Sheep Sunday? Nah, better than all of that. Today is Good Shepherd Sunday. The Sunday when we celebrate that
Jesus Is Our Shepherd,
the Door through Whom We Have Life
and Have It Abundantly Forgiven.
In the name of Jesus. Amen.