In John 10 we hear powerful and encouraging words from the Lord Jesus Himself: “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear 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 does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:7-10 NKJV).
In the ancient Middle East, sheep generally ranged freely, especially during the day. However, they might be penned up at night. As the dusk approached, the shepherd would call to his sheep—for they knew his voice. He would gather them together, and herd them into the sheep pen. This often would be a stone enclosure, that is, many stones loosely piled onto one another to form a circular stone wall. This would not be very high, perhaps just to the waist of the shepherd. But this was high enough to contain the sheep. There might a crude gate to this enclosure. But it was not uncommon for there to be no permanent gate at all. Instead, the shepherd himself would act as the gate. When the shepherd had all the sheep in the fold, he would bed down for the night in the entry way into the sheepfold. The shepherd’s own body would serve as the door. He was literally the “gate” or “door” of the sheepfold. Jesus used this common practice to illustrate his role as our Great Shepherd, and his care for us as His sheep.
What does this mean for us?
It is basic to our faith that there is only one legitimate way into the sheepfold. In an ancient sheepfold, there was only one entryway, guarded by the shepherd himself. It is the same in the church. Our sheepfold (the body of Christ) can only be entered through the one gateway. Truly we say that Jesus is the only way (John 14:6).
To enter any other way would mean climbing over the stone wall. Only a thief would do this. For those in the church, any who would attempt any other means of approaching God are spiritual thieves and robbers. Their purpose is to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10). This sounds harsh to modern ears. But it is clear in the teachings of Jesus Himself. He is the one Door, the only Gate.
We see the spiritual thieves today. They are all around us with their demonic and seductive teachings, leading many astray, away from the true sheepfold (see 1 Timothy 4:1). They say that Jesus is not the Way, that actually there is another way.
> Islam says that there is another way—through Muhammad and his teachings.
> Hinduism says there is another way—good works and multiple reincarnations.
> Buddhism says there is another way—self effort and enlightenment, God being unneccesary.
> Judaism says there is another way—obedience to the moral law.
> Mormonism says there is another way—Joseph Smith and his “restored gospel”
> Jehovah’s Witnesses say there is another way—blind obedience to the Watchtower.
> The Mind Sciences say there is another way—changing your thinking and perspective.
> Scientology says there is another way—hook up to an E-meter and became your own god.
> Yoga and TM say there is another way—train your body and mind to unite with Brahman.
> New Agers say there is another way—mystical experiences and spiritual illumination.
All cults and heresies miss it here. In some way, they either add to the work that Jesus did, or they assert that what Jesus did is really not good enough. It always comes down to an issue of who Jesus is and what He did. But we know Jesus is the only Way… and He is enough! Nothing more is needed.
However, this idea that Jesus is the Gate is not just important as a matter of doctrine. It has practical application to the spiritual walk of the Christian. Think about what have said about the shepherd guarding the sheepfold with his own body. He becomes the actual door into the sheepfold. The shepherd doesn’t trust anyone else to watch his sheep. They are his sheep!
For us, this means that we are watched over by the Shepherd Himself. Jesus took personal responsibility to care for us as His sheep. He didn’t send an angel to die on the cross. He did it Himself. (Cf. John 10:11-13) He is ever vigilant to watch over us. A human shepherd must sleep. But our Shepherd is unchanging (Hebrews 13:8). He ever lives to make intercession for us (Hebrews 7:25). Thus, we see that Jesus is personally involved in caring for us.
Furthermore, we are assured of His great love for us. The shepherd loves his sheep. He even knows them by name. Even in large flocks, the shepherd will know each of his sheep. They are important to him.
Our Shepherd also loves His sheep, and is willing to give His life for them. He literally lays His life on the line for His sheep. A shepherd voluntarily puts himself in harm’s way for his sheep. So did our Great Shepherd. No man took His life from Him; He laid it down freely of His own accord. Remember, our Lord said that there is no greater love than a man laying down his life for his friends (John 15:13) … this is what our Shepherd did for us.
One final thought, through the Great Shepherd we have access to God the Father, through His body. Think again of the picture of an ancient sheepfold. The only way into the sheepfold is through the body of the shepherd. He is the gate. From this we understand that Jesus is our gate. He laid down his own body, allowing Himself to be nailed to the cross, in order to provide access to the Father. In the Temple, access to God was only through one doorway, and that doorway was closed off by means of a veil. One door—one veil. And access to God was restricted. But when Jesus died, the veil was torn into two. Access to the Father was made possible. This access is through the very body of the Lord Jesus Himself. His body is the veil. It is through the sacrificial offering of His body on the cross that we can come into God’s presence (see Hebrews 10:20 and Eph. 2:18).
What a poignant image! What a powerful doctrine! Jesus is our Door, providing the only true access to the Father. The teachings, programs and schemes of men cannot provide access. No religious experience, or moral code, or philosophical speculation can provide access. No self-styled messiah, deceiving prophet or sanctimonious religious guru can provide access. The only way to God is through the Great Shepherd, the Gateway into the sheepfold.