John chapter 9 opens with the story of Jesus healing a man born blind. Soon after the incident, the teachers of the Law step into investigate the situation and interrogate the adult man who was healed and his parents. After a heated exchange, he was ejected from the temple by the self-righteous and stubborn Pharisees. By the end of the chapter, Jesus again encounters the very grateful man and tenderly encourages his new found faith. The obstinate teachers who overheard the conversation confronted Jesus and were indignant when He accused them of being spiritually blind and akin to thieves, robbers and threats to the people of God. Christ continued his confrontation, using a familiar analogy saying “I am the door for the sheep.” (John 10:7) Though it might seem to us to be a bit of an abrupt transition for Him to suddenly begin talking about shepherding, they should have easily understood His reference since capable leaders in that day were sometimes described in terms that harkened back to King David’s time as a shepherd. Instead, His figure of speech only confused and divided them. (vs 7)
Sheep now are pretty much like sheep from a couple thousand years ago. They are not particularly bright, and with no internal homing instincts, they are prone to wander away from the fold quickly. Being basically defenseless against predators, if left unprotected, they become easy prey to wolves or other predators. In the first century, shepherds had to be diligent in caring for their animals especially during the evening and night hours. So before sunset, herders brought the entire flock into the sheepfold. A standard corral back then wasn’t like a modern day pasture with wooden fencing. Instead, the pen was little more than piles of rocks stacked in a circle, and sometimes topped with briers that became a deterrent to attackers and thieves. A single opening was then left in the barrier that provided easy entrance for the sheep. Since there was rarely a real gate to close, the shepherd would keep the animals in and wild animals out by lying across the opening. By making his bed there, he would literally become the door to the sheep.
Christ’s analogy is meant to convey His role as protector of His flock from thieves and predators. Now we like that part. I mean, who doesn’t want protection from things we can’t see or defense in the face of predators we’re powerless against, right? But He also goes on to say that the only way to be covered by this protection is to be granted access to the pen by the true Shepherd. A lot of people don’t want to hear that today because it sounds too exclusive. They prefer to believe He is one of many ways to God. But scripture definitively proclaims Jesus is the only doorway to heaven. There is no other way to into the fold except through Him.
But that’s not all Christ says. In verse 9, He goes on to say, “if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.” That verse takes on more depth when you think about Psalm 23. Verse 2-3 say “He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.” I think that’s what our soul really craves. Green pastures. Still waters. And soul restoration. It begins with entering the door, but remember, Christ’s offers us more than safety for the night… He offers to be the complete fulfillment of our souls’ desire.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly..” John 10:9