Jason Helopoulos / Jul 31, 2016 / John 10:1-10
DownloadMP3 Audio File
Sermon Summary / Transcript
This summer, we’ve been going through some of the “I Am” statements Jesus made in the Gospel of John. This morning, we’ll see two more, but we’re only going to tackle one.
Let me pray for us before we turn to God’s Word. Our Lord and God, we confess that man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from your mouth. We pray that we would know that we are hearing your voice as your word is read and preached. May you feed our souls! May you nourish us by your hand! May you give us your grace! In Christ’s holy name we pray, amen.
“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. 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. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
So Jesus again said to them, “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 listen to them. I am the door. If anyone 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. John 10:1-10
Though the grass withers and the flower fades, the Word of God is forever. Thanks be to God. Amen.
Our passage this morning is a little different. Jesus interweaves two different “I am” statements through this discourse. Next week, we’ll look at Jesus’ claim that he is the good shepherd. This week, we’ll look at his proclamation that he is the door. This passage is a little confusing, not only because you have Christ interweaving the ideas that he is the good shepherd and the door, but also because he is communicating several different ideas through the metaphor of the door and he merges those together here. We’ll do our best to sort this out together.
Look with me at verse 1. Jesus says, “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.” That’s the first use of the word “door”. Then, if you drop down to verse 7, Christ says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.” And in verse 9 he says, “I am the door. If anyone 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.”
The Warning (vv. 1-5)
In verses 1-5, Jesus is concerned about false shepherds—the thieves and robbers. What identifies them as false shepherds, or as thieves and robbers? A false shepherd does not enter by the gate, or by the door. It could be translated either way, but it’s the same idea.
Before I explain that, let’s try to wrap our minds around this imagery. This wouldn’t have been difficult for someone in Biblical times to understand, but it’s a little more foreign to us. In that region of the world, sheep were (and still are) one of the great commodities. They don’t tend to be so here in the Upper Midwest.
I drive down Hagadorn Road every morning on my way to church. On the corner of Jolly and Hagadorn, there are a bunch of cows. You see a lot of cows in the Midwest. I grew up in Illinois, and corn and cows is about all that you see. But If you drive a little farther down Hagadorn, there’s a pasture that is filled with sheep.
In Palestine, it would be rarer to see cattle than to see sheep. Sheep are still all over the place. My family on my dad’s side are Greek. They come from the Mediterranean world. In the Mediterranean world, you not only see sheep, but eat sheep all the time. A regular dinner for my Greek family was having lamb and sheep. I remember, as a young boy, watching my grandfather eat what the Greek culture considered the delectable part of the sheep: the head of the lamb. It was gross. In the Mediterranean world, you eat sheep. You see sheep. It’s normal.
Of course, you have to take care of these sheep. Usually, sheep are allowed to roam the pastures and eat the grass, but there are times when they need to be gathered together. In Palestine, they would be gathered into a sheepfold. This was an enclosure of rocks that would be piled up high enough that a sheep couldn’t jump over the rocks and get out of the sheepfold. To secure it a little more, they would usually take brambles and put them on top of the rocks, just to discourage the sheep a little more from trying to get out—but even more so, to discourage robbers or thieves from climbing the wall to try and steal a sheep or two.
The sheepfolds in ancient Palestine—and even if you go there today, I’m told—were built of stone in a kind of square or rectangular shape. But there’s always a gap in the wall that allows the sheep to go in and out. The shepherd would stand in that gap. That was his job. At night, when the sheep were gathered in, he would sleep in that break in the wall, making sure that no sheep could get out and no enemies could get in. He was the gate, or the door, of the sheepfold. This is the imagery that Jesus is presenting here. It’s a very common scene for Palestinian people.
Jesus says that “he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber.” We have to identify a few things here. First, who or what are the sheep? The sheep are the people of God. This was common imagery throughout the Scriptures.
Second, who are the thieves and robbers? To understand this, we have to look down at verse 7, where Jesus says, “I am the door.” He is the door to the sheepfold. Anyone seeks to be a shepherd who does not enter in through the door is no shepherd of his sheep. Another way of saying this is that all who seek to shepherd the church must enter in through Christ.
This is a warning to sheep about their pastors. The word “pastor” comes from the Latin word for “shepherd”. Jesus is saying that a pastor who does not know him and has not entered in through him is no shepherd of his sheep. Rather, he is a thief and a robber.
We have seen this time and time again in history—and sadly, in our own day and age as well. Unconverted pastors, who have not entered through Christ, are wrecking balls in the church. They are thieves and they are robbers, stealing the sheep. They harm, hurt, and destroy the people of God. They tear down the church from the inside.
Why is this necessarily so? How could Jesus make a broad statement like this? Because when the blind lead the blind, they both fall into a ditch. Unconverted pastors may well be the worst blight on the church.
When a man is seeking ordination in the PCA (the denomination that this church belongs to), there are a number of requirements he has to meet. He first has to graduate with a Master’s degree from a seminary. That’s usually a 3-4 year degree. After he’s finished that degree, he can accept a call from a church.
But the Presbytery doesn’t just trust his degree. They put him through the rigors of exams. They want to know that he actually knows what his degree says he does. When a man gets ready to accept a call to a church, he goes to the presbytery, and they give him 6 exams: English Bible, theology, Presbyterian history, church history, sacraments, and the PCA’s book of church order.
Once he takes those exams, he must also submit to the presbytery two original works where he exegetes Greek and Hebrew from the Old and New Testament Scriptures, showing that he is proficient in the original languages.
After he has passed those written exams and after they’ve accepted his papers, he has to sit down with a committee of pastors and elders from that presbytery (usually 6-10 men) who orally examine him on each of these 6 subject areas, asking him any question that they want about them for a few hours.
But that still isn’t enough. If he passes the committee, he goes to a presbytery meeting and stands before the entire presbytery—all of the pastors and elders in a given geographic area. Our presbytery is over all of Michigan and Northern Indiana—around 100 men. There, in front of the presbytery, he preaches a sermon. They listen to his sermon, and then they ask him questions from those six areas again. They can ask him any question that they want to, and he has to answer. Then, and only then, can he be ordained.
But do you know what happens at the very beginning of this process? Before a man takes any of the exams or does any of these things, he must stand before the presbytery and give his testimony. He must tell the other men in the presbytery his story of coming to Jesus Christ in faith and entering the church through him. It does not matter what he knows if he does not know the one who matters. A good pastor is but an under-shepherd who knows, loves, and follows the good shepherd. We’ll see that next week, as Jesus declares that he is the good shepherd.
Part of the reason that this text is confusing is because Jesus mixes these metaphors here. He speaks of himself entering by the right way, meaning that he is the legitimate authority. He is the truly good shepherd himself, who enters through the door. But he also says that he is the door. Therefore, any man who seeks to shepherd your soul must know the shepherd of his own soul. He has to enter through that door. A pastor who is not being pastored by Christ is not worth following.
Let me remind you: you should never trust a man just because he has the title of “Pastor”. It doesn’t matter how many degrees are behind his name, how many sermons he has delivered, or how many books he has written. He can be no shepherd if he doesn’t know the true Shepherd. A pastor must be able to say with Paul in Philippians, “For to me to live is Christ…” He must be able to say with John the Baptist, “He must increase, but I must decrease”, because Jesus is his life.
To know whether a pastor is worth following, don’t ask yourself how funny he is, how entertaining his sermons are, how nice he is, or how authentic he is (whatever that means). Ask yourself, “Does he point to the door? Does he point to Christ, because he knows him above all else? Does he say to me over and over, ‘That’s the way in?’ Does he exalt Christ? Does he love and treasure him above all?” If not, what good is he to you?
If he attempts to come to the sheep by any other way or means besides the door, you will know it, because Christ proves to be very little to him. But if he has entered through the door, then the name of Christ will be on his lips and in his sermons, because he is in his heart. If that is not the case, you should run from that church. If that is true of this church someday, run from it. If that is true of any pastor, steer clear of him, for he is no pastor—no matter how nice, charismatic, funny, or real he is. He may tickle your ears, but he’s damning your souls.
The Exclusive Claim (v. 9)
Why is this so key? Why is it so important that pastors—the under-shepherds of the flock, who enter in through Christ—know Christ and therefore preach him? Because of Jesus’ exclusive claim. In verse 9, he says, “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved…”
Again, he mixes metaphors here. Jesus is the good shepherd, who enters through the door—yet he is also the door. This mixing of metaphors is not quite as uncommon as we might think. For example, Jesus says that he is the Bread of Life, yet he gives bread. He says that he is the Light of the World, and yet he gives light. He tells us in John 14 that he is the Life, and yet he gives life. He tells us that he is the Truth, and yet he gives truth. He does this time and again.
He goes through the door, and yet he is the door. This is important to understand. Why would he say that he is the Shepherd who goes through the door, and that he is also the door? Why blend these two pictures together? Because he is, as commentator Warren Wiersbe once wonderfully said, “the true incarnation of every spiritual blessing he wants to give us.” There are blessings in the sheepfold. But the blessings are not just something that he gives to us as the good shepherd. He is the blessings! He is the door! This is why we must be continually pointed to him by our pastors. This is why we must not consider any other way into this fold. He is the only way to the blessings.
The blessings we receive are never found apart from Christ, because they are him. They can’t be separated from him. For example, Jesus gives us peace, but yet Paul says in Ephesians 2 that “he himself is our peace…” He gives us love, and yet we’re told that he is love. Wrapped up in Jesus is every spiritual blessing. They can’t be separated from him. They flow from him. They mark him. They belong to him. They are him! They can’t be conjured up from something else. Jesus makes an exclusive claim when he says “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved…”
We haven’t done this yet in this series, but this is as good a time as any. Take your Bibles and turn to Exodus 3. Look at these “I am” statements in the background here, because it makes Jesus’ exclusive statement even more jaw-dropping.
Exodus 3 is a familiar account to you. Moses has already fled from Egypt after killing an Egyptian. He’s in the wilderness at Mount Horeb, the mountain of God, as we’re told in verse 1. We’re told that as Moses was shepherding the literal sheep, God calls him to shepherd his figurative sheep: the nation of Israel.
In verse 2, we’re told that there was a bush that was on fire, and yet (interestingly enough) this bush was not consumed. As Moses drew near to see this this bush, God says out of the midst of the bush (v. 4), “Moses, Moses!” He calls him by name. Moses turned aside, and God said to him, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” He goes on to tell Moses that he is going to send him down to deliver his people from the land of Egypt. Moses is going to lead them out of slavery. He’s going to be this great deliverer, the shepherd of the people of Israel, and lead them out.
Moses is a little concerned. He has some fear. The primary concern going through his mind is, “When I go to the Israelites, and they ask me, ‘Who sent you? Who is this God? What is his name?’, what shall I tell them?” You’ll see there in the passage that God says, “When you go down there, tell them ‘I AM WHO I AM.’”
There is much in that name. Pastor Kevin just went through Exodus, so we’re not going to spend a lot of time on it. But one thing we must note about that name is that God does not utter a name for himself like Baal, Ra, Jupiter, or Allah. Why? Because he needs no name like that. There is no other like him. He just says, “I AM WHO I AM.” In effect, he’s saying, “There is none like me. I have existed. I exist. I always shall exist. ‘I AM WHO I AM.’” It’s an exclusive claim. “I alone am God. ‘I AM WHO I AM.’”
God immediately reinforces this to the people of Israel when they come out of Egypt. When Moses leads them into the wilderness, God appears before them at Mt. Sinai. You’ll remember that Moses went up and received the Ten Commandments from God. What is the first commandment? “‘You shall have no other gods before me.’ I’m exclusive. These other so-called gods are no god at all. I am unique. Me, and me alone, you are to worship.”
All of this is in the background when Jesus says in John 8, “…before Abraham was, I am.” Then, as we’ve seen in our passage so far, he says, “The bread of life, I am. The light of the world, I am. The door, I am.” The Jews understood this. In John 8, they picked up stones to stone him to death. He is making an exclusive claim: the claim of God. Jesus says what no one can say but God himself: “‘I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved…’ The door I am.”
Friends, who alone can save? God! That’s what Jesus is claiming. “Do you want salvation and blessing? Come to me!” Some of you may never have heard that before. Some of you have probably heard that a thousand times, so it doesn’t jar your sensibilities anymore. But it should. If it doesn’t, there’s a problem. You’re treating something uncommon as something very common—something holy and distinct as a throwaway line. “If anyone enters by me, he will be saved.” That should either offend you or rattle your soul with delight—one or the other. Jesus is saying, “There is no other way in to enjoy these eternal blessings but through me.”
This week, I was sending messaging back and forth with a boyhood friend on Facebook. He and I were in Boy Scouts together, and we also attended the same mainline church together. He was much more involved than I was in that church. He went to the youth group and was involved in all the youth activities. I went sporadically, if ever.
As we were dialogging on Facebook, it was an opportunity for me to share the gospel with him. When I began talking to him about Christ, he told me, “I’m a spiritual person. I’ve found the art of meditation to be an especially enjoyable blessing for me. Zen Buddhism has an especially great deal of appeal to me.” I asked him, “What is it that you like about Zen Buddhist meditation? What helps you?” He said, “Well, it gives me peace.”
In fact, he said that the youth pastor in that church had taught him the art of meditation, and what he had been taught was identical to what he had found in Buddhism. This is the danger of false shepherds. If this was, in fact, what the youth pastor taught him, he was no shepherd, but a thief and a robber.
There is a Christian discipline of meditation, but it is not emptying the mind, as in Buddhist meditation. It is filling the mind with the Word of God and of Christ. He alone provides peace. As I told my boyhood friend in this email exchange, I’m sure there’s some temporary benefit that is derived from emptying your mind of everything. I know this because I see a lot of people doing it—just look at our presidential cycle! But the peace you gain by emptying your mind isn’t lasting, because your mind begins to be filled with things again. My friend readily admitted this.
I told him that lasting, real peace only comes from Christ and can only be found in Christ. “If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.” It’s exclusive. There are not many ways to be saved, go to heaven, and enjoy spiritual benefits—just one. As Peter said in Acts, “There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” There is only one. If this is not the door that you are seeking to enter eternal life, heaven, blessing, or salvation through, then you’re at the wrong door. Salvation only comes as you come to Christ. It’s an exclusive claim.
The Expansive Offer
As exclusive as that claim is, so expansive is the offer that he makes. Jesus says, “If anyone comes through me, believing and trusting in me, they will find salvation.” It’s not “may”, “might”, or “should”, but “will”. This is an iron-clad guarantee, because the door is not locked, or even shut. It’s wide open to all that would come to it. That’s the beauty of the gospel: God opens a door of salvation to anyone who would believe, but you must go through it. It’s an expansive offer for everyone, but it means nothing to you if you don’t actually go through it. You have to cross that threshold. You must enter that door.
Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones, a pastor of a previous generation, had a wonderful illustration of this. He said that he likes to think of Jesus as if he was a turnstile at a stadium—you know, those metal barred things that circle around that you have to push to go through.
For my birthday, my family recently went to a Chicago Cubs game—that is, what shall be the 2016 World Champion Chicago Cubs. I wanted to see them this year, because this is going to be their World Series year after 108 years of futility, and I wanted to be able to say that I saw them. We arrived at the game a little late, because you can’t just go to Wrigley Field if you go to Chicago. You also have to get some deep-dish Chicago-style pizza. So we stopped there first and got to the game a little late. They had already sung the national anthem and thrown out the first pitch.
We were trying to make our way through this mass of humanity outside the stadium and get to the entrance. I had Grayson by the hand, and Leah had Ethan by the hand. Then Leah took her free hand and had it on the back of my shirt, and I took my free hand and parted the crowds as we were going into the stadium.
Eventually, we got near the entrance after going through that mass of humanity. All of the sudden, there was a single-file line, because you had to go through the turnstile—the security apparatus. We stood in that line with this mass of people on the outside, and yet the only way to enter in was one by one through the turnstile. It’s a narrow opening. You can’t get in any other way. You can’t take anything with you. You have to go through by yourself.
I love it when I finally get through and walk into the corridors of Wrigley Field. You make your way to the entrance to the field and step out into the light of the stadium, and there’s that green grass and those ivy covered walls. There’s no other stadium like that. People on the rooftops, flags blowing in the breeze, and this buzz in the crowd. There are so many people that it feels like they’re countless, yet every single one of them entered one by one by themselves.
So it is with the kingdom of God. Have you crossed the threshold? Have you entered through the narrow door? As one theologian said, “Every person must believe for themselves, because every person dies for themselves.” A door only allows one person at a time. I have to walk through it, and so do you.
A door is not just an entrance. It also divides those who are within and those who are without. “If anyone enters by me, he will be saved…” Anyone.
I think that when we arrive in heaven, we’ll be elated and shocked at the diversity that is there. We read that there will be those from every tongue, tribe, and nation. We sing about it. But I think that when we’re standing there, looking at the mass of humanity that is there—people of every race, every ethnicity, every age, and from different ages of time; this huge, heterogeneous group of people, that all look differently and all are different—we’ll think, “What unites all of those people?” As heterogeneous as that group is, it’s also the most homogeneous group, because we’re all marked by one thing: we’re all sinners, sheep that had gone astray, that turned to the Lord Jesus Christ in faith and entered through that narrow door. Every single one of us. Is that true of you?
The Enduring Promise
What’s so great about this salvation? What benefits are found within? We could spend 10 weeks looking at all the benefits that are within that sheepfold, but Jesus points out two: protection and provision.
There is safety inside the sheepfold, but not without! The door himself keeps that darkness at bay and protects the sheep within. You say, “I don’t know of any great dangers.” The dangers outside of that sheepfold are great: sin, death, Satan, demons, and eternal damnation—things that lurk out there to devour you. It’s only within that fold that a sheep is safe.
But in the sheepfold, you are only as safe as the door is secure. If the door is not secure, you are not safe. It’s an open door, for enemies to come in, rob, and thieve. But we have the most secure door.
A number of years ago, we had a back door on our house that was not the most secure. Leah and I learned that the hard way. We had laid down for a Sunday afternoon nap, and half an hour into that nap, our front doorbell rang. I got up, trudged up to the front door, and looked out the window. There was our neighbor, standing on our front porch. So I opened the door—and it wasn’t just my neighbor standing there. It was my (at the time) 3-year-old daughter, who was supposed to be upstairs sleeping, standing there with wide-eyes, holding her hand.
While we had been napping, our 3-year-old daughter had decided to creep down the stairs, go to the back of the house, open our back door (which was not very secure), go onto our porch, go down the stairs of our porch, go across our backyard, and climb a chain-link fence into the neighbors’ yard, where they had a pool. At the time, Grayson only wore swimsuits. She loved them. She wouldn’t wear anything else. She bypassed the pool, thankfully, but went up their back stairs to their back porch, found their back door, went in it (we have problems with back doors in our neighborhood), and welcomed herself into their house.
Oh, the dangers we faced—robbers, thieves, and pools—just because that door wasn’t secure. Christ, the door to the kingdom of God, is secure for all eternity. There is eternal protection within. Nothing can harm those who are inside—forever.
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39
My friend, are you looking for eternal peace? It’s found nowhere else but here. Jesus doesn’t just promise protection. He also promises provision, and he points that out here, about the sheepfold (v. 10): “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
In verse 9, he says that we may go in and out and find pasture. This is a Hebrew way of saying that he will provide for us every single day of our lives, now and for all of eternity: when we go out and when we come in. He provides for everything.
And it’s not mere piddlings. He doesn’t just provide enough, but provides abundantly. It’s not just that we’ll have eternal life. It’s not merely about the length of time. It’s the best possible life that we could imagine. It’s abundant, full, and overflowing. That’s the provision. That’s what’s in the sheepfold: abundant life—a life of complete satisfaction and refreshment.
As we’ll see next week, he is the good shepherd, who makes us lie down in green pastures and restores our souls—not just for a day, but forever. That is a door worth entering, because there are blessings inside that supersede anything you and I can dream of. He’s in there. He’s our shepherd for all of eternity, but the only way in is through him.
Let’s pray. Our Lord and God, we’re thankful that you are a God of salvation. We’re thankful that you have even sent your Son, a great shepherd of the sheep, to this world, to live and die for sinners such as us. We’re thankful that that door stands wide open for all that will come to faith in you. How we long to dwell with you forever and ever in the security of that sheepfold. In Christ’s holy name we pray, forever and ever, amen.
Transcription and editing provided by 10:17 Transcription