“”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. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?” Others said, “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?” (John 10:1-21 ESV)
Is There a Back Door to God?
Truly, truly I say to you… or in the words of the KJV old English, “Verily, verily I say unto you.” What does that mean? Put simply, it means pay close attention to what I’m about to tell you. It is very important! So, the challenge before us is to hear and understand. Over the past few weeks we’ve been confronted by Jesus claims of deity. In John 8:58 Jesus clearly claims to be the same God who made promises to Abraham and appeared to Moses in the burning bush. “Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”” (John 8:58 ESV) And the Pharisees clearly understood his claim because they picked up stones to kill him for blasphemy. This morning he’s at it, again.
Notice there’s not a bridge, or transition verses, between chapter 9 and 10. So, Jesus is speaking to the same people he was speaking to at the end of chapter 9… the Pharisees. At the end of that chapter he states, “if you were blind you would have no guilt, but you say you can see (and, by implication, understand the Word of God), yet your guilt remains.” They claim to know and understand the Word and will of God, but they reject Jesus. So, his next words are like verbal bombs. He says, “Pay attention. Listen up. Anyone who tries enter the sheepfold without going through the door is just a thief or robber.”
John says he used this figure of speech, but they didn’t understand. So, he explains… “Truly, truly I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves or robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.” Ok, so that leaves absolutely no doubt what he’s saying. He just stated emphatically that He’s the door and the only way to God. He goes on to state that the Pharisees and their cohorts are just thieves and robbers trying to use their status and position for personal gain or benefit. They don’t really care about the sheep, they only care about themselves.
So, why should I care about the Pharisees and their power trip? Because these same type of “wolves” still hide around the sheepfold today. There are lots and lots of false teachers and teachings if you’re willing to listen and buy into their lies. Men and women who claim to have message from God, but only want to get your money or extend their power and influence. How can you tell the difference? Pay attention to who their teachings are focused on. Jesus specifically states that his purpose is to give his followers life to its fullest. The false teachers have come to steal and kill. So many false teachings today focus on either the teacher or their promised blessings that you’ll receive when you send them a gift. So, the false teachers try to get you focused on either them or your own selfish desires.
The best selling category of books, even among Christians, is self-help. The focus of all self-help books is the author’s formula/plan and your untapped inner abilities. Please, please here me clearly on this subject. Jesus’ focus is NOT on following some formula or plan to tap into your inner strength and refocus your life for a better financial or healthful outcome. Jesus’ focus is on recognizing that your life is in a death spiral and no amount of patching, painting or redirecting can prevent the coming crash. He doesn’t offer you a temporary fix, he doesn’t offer you some scheme, scam or self-help program, he offers you the truth. He offers you himself…
Jesus, the Only Door…
According to modern crime statistics, a burglar will look for the easiest entry point into your home. They know all of the common places people hide spare keys, and they can quickly spot unsecured windows or back doors. It doesn’t appear things have changed much in 2,000 years. Jesus knew that a thief will generally avoid the front door and will try and find another entry point, an easy way in. But remember, Jesus’ caution is about someone who’s intentions are harmful. The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy. He’s not talking about our homes, he’s talking about our lives. The outcome has eternal implications. Making a wrong choice here is more than just deciding between chocolate or vanilla.
“”Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:13-20 ESV)
There’s no getting around the cultural implications for these verses. Jesus’ teachings here are in direct opposition to American pop culture. We are constantly bombarded today with the popular belief that all religious beliefs are valid and ultimately lead to God. The term for this belief is PLURALISM. Here’s the basic gist of the idea… All major world religions lead to God and salvation. They are all equally valid and lead us to the same deity and the same salvation. None is better or more true. Jesus is just one of many different saviors, and no one religion has an exclusive claim or grasp on truth. All religions have some truth and are similar on major points. They may have some differences but many more similarities. It is the height of arrogance to believe that your religious beliefs are more correct or true than someone else’s.
However, I must tell you that if pluralism is correct, every major religion in the world is false, especially Christianity. Each of them claims to have an exclusive view on truth and God. So, why do I believe that Christianity is better? Simply put, it is much more consistent with reality, or life as we experience it, and the incredible supporting historical evidence for the resurrection. Which leads us to our last point this morning…
Why Follow the Good Shepherd?
Jesus has shown an example of those who try and use a back door to God. He says their only purpose is to steal what truly belongs to God, destroy our lives, and eventually kill us. He assures us that he, and he alone, is the door to God. If we will come “through” him to God he promises to give life to its fullest. He also promises to save us from the wolves and keep us safe. He does this because he’s the Good Shepherd and not a hired hand.
That’s the promise, but where’s the proof? Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep… I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.”
Now, here’s the key to what makes Jesus’ exclusive claim about being the ONLY door to God. Not only does Jesus have the authority to offer up his life as payment for man’s sin, he has the authority to take it up again. I’m not going to take time this week to go into the details of the evidence in favor of the resurrection. I’ll give a summary of the main points next week. But, for now consider the implications.
If Jesus was capable of dying and then coming back to life, he would definitely deserve our undivided attention. He would be worthy of our worship and absolute devotion. He says the Good Shepherd is willing to confront the dangers of leading this flock of sheep and to sacrifice himself on their behalf.
Why? If the shepherd dies, the sheep are scattered and the wolf has abundant opportunities to strike. How can a dead shepherd protect his sheep or keep them safe? He can’t… that’s one of the reasons why he emphasizes the importance of the resurrection. We don’t rely on a dead shepherd to protect and keep us safe or to lead us into abundant life. We rely on a risen Lord.
Let me close this week with a question and a quote from our focal passage…
Do you have ears that will hear God’s truth? “I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.”