In coming Sunday’s Gospel reading (John 10:1-10) Jesus gives one of the most beautiful word pictures in all of the New Testament, when he states. "Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep".
This statement, is the third of seven “I am” declarations of Jesus recorded only in John’s Gospel. These “I am” proclamations point to His unique, divine identity and purpose. In this “I am” statement, Jesus colorfully points out for us the exclusive nature of salvation by saying that He is “the door,” not “a door.”
Jesus speaks about two kinds of sheepfolds. In Jesus’ time in the villages and towns themselves there were communal sheepfolds where all the village flocks were sheltered when they returned home at night. These folds were protected by a strong door of which only the guardian of the door held the key. It was to that kind of fold Jesus referred in John 10:2-3.
But when the sheep were out on the hills in the warm season and did not return at night to the village at all, they were collected into sheep-folds on the hillside. These hillside sheep-folds were just open spaces enclosed by a wall. In them there was an opening by which the sheep came in and went out; but there was no door of any kind. What happened was that at night the shepherd himself lay down across the opening and no sheep could get out or in except over his body. In the most literal sense the shepherd was the door.
That is what Jesus was thinking of when he said: "I am the door." Through him, and through him alone, men find access to God. "Through him," said Paul, "we have access to the Father" (Ephesians 2:18). Jesus opens the way to God. Until Jesus came men could think of God only as, at best, a stranger and as, at worst, an enemy. But Jesus came to show men what God is like, and to open the way to him. He is the door through whom alone entrance to God becomes possible for men.
To describe something of what that entrance to God means, Jesus uses a well-known Hebrew phrase. He says that through him we can go in and come out. To be able to come and go unharmed was the Jewish way of describing a life that is absolutely secure and safe. When a man can go in and out without fear, it means that his country is at peace, that the forces of law and order are supreme, and that he enjoys perfect security. Once a man discovers, through Jesus Christ, what God is like, a new sense of safety and of security enters into life. If life is known to be in the hands of a God like that, the worries and the fears are gone.
1“Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. 2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6 Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. 7 So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go 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.