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Author:Rev. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/mountnasura/
 
Title:I am the Door
Text:John 10:9 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Life in Christ
 
Preached:2021
Added:2021-07-19
Updated:2021-07-19
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 100:1,2,3,4                                                                                    

Ps 79:3,5                                                                                                        

Reading – Ezekiel 34:1-10; John 10:1-21

Ps 80:1,2,7,8

Sermon – John 10:9

Ps 118:1,5

Ps 95:1,3

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved in the Lord, who does the Bible say that you are? Many beautiful comparisons and images portray our identity in Christ. Who are you? You are the apple of God’s eye. You are the holy bride of the Lord. You are his vineyard, and his body, and his temple. You are his inheritance and treasure. And you are his sheep, the precious ones who belong to God’s pasture.

If we are sheep, we need a good shepherd. And God in his sovereign grace has given us a shepherd in himself! We know the much-loved Psalm 23: “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.” The same truth is in Ezekiel 34. The chapter is all about how God’s sheep were being forsaken and maltreated by their earthly shepherds, the leaders of Israel, but how the Lord yet searched out and preserved them. And today we’ll see how the sheep are so well cared for by our good shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ.

In John 10, Jesus explores several different aspects of being the flock of God. He will speak about the sheep and what we do. He’ll speak about the thieves and robbers who threaten the flock. And then He’ll also speak about the gate of the sheepfold, and about the faithful shepherd of the sheep.

You might notice that in our reading we find very close together two of the seven ‘I am’ sayings, both ‘I am the door’ (in verse 9) and ‘I am the good shepherd’ (in verse 11). In our text, Christ portrays the intimate concern that He has for his people. He gives constant care for our well-being, so that we would experience the security of belonging to him and enjoying his salvation. I preach God’s Word to you from John 10:9 on this theme,

            I am the Door:

                        1) as his sheep, we enter by Christ

                        2) as his sheep, we find pasture through Christ

 

1) as his sheep, we enter by Christ: If you took Jesus’s saying all on its own, without reading any of the surrounding verses, you’d be left with a curious image. ‘I am the door’—maybe you’d think of the screen door at the front of your house, or a heavy wooden door on hinges, or a sliding glass door. Is that what Jesus is like?

We’ve learned, of course, to see every text in its web of connections to the words around it. And in this case, when Jesus announces that He is ‘the door,’ He is using a familiar illustration. It’s an illustration that his listeners could’ve understood, but no, it’s not a reference to the kind of door that you can buy at the hardware store. For since the start of the chapter, Christ has been speaking about the sheepfold, and the shepherd, and his sheep.

Picture for a moment how sheep were taken care of in the time of Christ. Farmers today have pens or corrals for holding their livestock, and similarly, shepherds in Jesus’s day had enclosures for their sheep. Animal pens are built with posts and boards and wire today, but back then a sheepfold looked quite different.

In some cases, it actually wasn’t unusual for sheep to be held in the inner courtyard of the family home. A family might keep three or four sheep as a means of providing a regular supply of milk or wool or meat. For most families, these were valuable animals, so the sheep would be locked up securely within the house.

But out in the fields and paddocks, when a farmer had greater numbers of livestock, the sheep needed to be watched over in a different manner. The shepherds would find large caves in the mountains in which to corral the flock for the night. Or perhaps they would make a pen for the sheep behind a tall hedge of thornbushes—so it’d be hard to get in or out. And most commonly, shepherds would form an enclosure out of stones. Carefully stacking the rocks in piles, they would build walls that were high enough to keep the sheep inside.

During the day, the sheep would graze and be led to watering holes, but at night they’d be brought to their pen so they could sleep securely. The main purpose of these sheepfolds was to protect the sheep. It would keep them from hostile animals or other nighttime intruders, from wolves or lions, or perhaps people who were looking to steal. Corralling the sheep for the night would also keep them from carelessly wandering off and getting lost.

It was often the case that several flocks would be sheltered together in the same fold. Then in the morning, the shepherds would call their sheep, separate them from each other, and assemble their own flocks for another day of grazing.

With the sheep resting safely behind the stone walls, there was just one vulnerable place, a potential weak spot. This was where it’d be easiest for an intruder to get in, or for a sheep to wander out. And that was the opening for the gate, the door. When we say ‘door,’ it was really just a narrow opening in the stone wall. And for the sake of safety, there would be only one point of access.

The gate was very important, then. And this is why the shepherd himself would be stationed at that opening in the wall. As night fell, he would recline at the doorway and be the barrier of protection until morning. He would be “the door of the sheep” (John 10:8), a door made of flesh and blood. The sheep could rest easy behind him. Such was the intimate care that a shepherd would give to his flock. With his very own body, he would guarantee that none of his sheep would come to harm.

Jesus is our good shepherd. And in our text, we see how devoted He is to his people. As the door for his sheep, He personally guarantees our safety. When we enter through faith in him, He makes us his own possession, He takes full responsibility for our wellbeing.

He watches over us always, even when we are most vulnerable: when we are sleeping, when we are weak, when we are tempted, when we are troubled. With Christ as the door for his sheep, there is nothing that can happen to us apart from his will. You are secure when you are with Christ!

All this is true, and it is very good. But we need to look closer. For this chapter also speaks a lot about the threats and dangers that we face. Out in the countryside, even if a shepherd was strong and steadfast and devoted, there could be predators around that would raid the flock and carry some sheep away.

This danger is present in the church too. Just listen to how God describes what befell his people in Ezekiel 34. At the start of the chapter, Ezekiel is told to speak against the shepherds of Israel, those shepherds “who [only] feed themselves” (v 2).

For God has always called the leaders of his people to be ‘shepherds.’ In the Old Testament, kings were called shepherds, and prophets were, and judges. To the mind of an Israelite, any leader should be a kind of shepherd.

But in Ezekiel’s time, because the shepherds were not doing their task properly, and not caring for the sheep, God’s flock was at risk of being torn apart. Says God: “My flock became a prey, and my flock became food for every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, nor did my shepherds search for my flock” (v 8).

The same tragedy was happening in Jesus’s time, when there were grave threats to God’s sheep. There was trouble in the flock, and it was actually because of its leaders. And Jesus is in a sharp confrontation with them in our text. Notice when He starts comparing himself to a shepherd in verse 1, He begins negatively, speaking about are those who were not being good shepherds: “He who does enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and robber” (v 1).

And this wasn’t just a vague possibility, a potential threat. He’s talking about people He knows, the scribes and Pharisees. These were the learned men of the law, those who should’ve been shepherds, keeping the believers on the right path and helping them to serve the Lord.

But in this calling, the leaders were failing miserably. For the Pharisees put heavy burdens onto the people, teaching them to obsess over the minor points of the law at the neglect of what was really important: faith, justice, and mercy. In this way, the Pharisees were robbing God’s people of their true comfort. They weren’t seeking the good of the flock, but their own benefit. These were the thieves and robbers who were crawling in over the wall.

Very recently, Jesus had clashed again with the religious leaders. If you look at chapter 9, there’s one of the seven signs (or miracles), when Jesus healed the man who was born blind. It was a stunning act of grace and power. But instead of rejoicing with healed man, the Pharisees warn the man that he must not confess his faith.

Then when he won’t stay silent, they cast him out of the synagogue (John 9:35). Just take notice of that: as false shepherds, they force him out of the sheepfold. He had a truer faith than they, for he was ready to confess Christ. But they oppress him. The words of Ezekiel 34:4 very much apply to the Pharisees: “with force and cruelty [they] have ruled” God’s people.

Undoubtedly, there have always been leaders in the church who have sought their own benefit, not the good of God’s flock. We can think of false teachers today who lead God’s people astray with their bad theology. We can think of pastors who seem more interested in promoting their own fame and agenda than the glories of Christ.

In certain ways, every human shepherd of God’s flock is going to fail you and disappoint. Your elders, your minister, your deacons—we are all men of deep weakness. We are all men with our own sins and frailties. Even if we don’t intend to, we’ll sometimes do and say things that harm or hinder the flock. And so the best shepherd is the one who doesn’t point to himself. Instead, the best shepherd is the one who keeps pointing you to the true Shepherd, to Christ, who is the door for the sheep.

For in contrast to all the failings of men, and particularly the misdeeds of ‘thieves and robbers,’ stands the Good Shepherd. God will never leave his people unprotected, uncared for, unfed, like sheep without a shepherd. In his Son, God provides one who will lead and care for us, one who will give us life.

And this shepherd says, “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved” (John 10:9). What do we enter through Christ? We get to enter life. We enter salvation. We are allowed to enter the very presence of God, who becomes not only our Maker and Judge but our Father. When you come into the presence of God, you can receive the forgiveness of our sins, and enjoy the privilege of prayer, and the gift of his Holy Spirit. Through Christ, we’re allowed to enter into all the riches of redemption.

The way that we enter all this is by believing in his name. By faith we accept all that Christ has done for us and in our place. By faith we rest only in his work, and not in our own. We trust that we are secure behind the door who is Christ. We trust that when we know Christ, there truly isn’t anything in the world that can keep us from his love.

The gift of salvation through Christ is granted to all people who believe. Just underline what Jesus says, “If anyone enters by me…” That is inclusive and welcoming, and it’s again in contrast to the Jewish leaders, who were very good at excluding and shutting out. They had their own ideas about who should enter, and they thought that people like Samaritans, and Gentiles, and that blind man who’d been healed—such folk didn’t belong, for they weren’t acceptable.

I wonder if we sometimes have our own ideas about the ideal church member: someone of a similar background to us, a similar culture, someone with similar opinions and levels of knowledge. But Christ says that He is the door for anyone who lives by true faith. It may be a simple faith, a struggling faith, a new faith, but through Christ, all sinners are allowed to enter into life. When a sinner believes in Christ, they are made part of his flock, his church, and they are granted all the benefits of his salvation.

Jesus’s words about himself should make each of us reflect on the blessed door which is in front of us. Have we entered by Christ? Have we gone in, and have we found life through him? Do we trust in him alone? Are we maybe still wandering on the outside of the sheepfold, searching for home, still looking for the security that only Christ can give? Or do we count ourselves safe and secure behind the saving work of our Lord Jesus?  

 

2) as his sheep, we find pasture through Christ: I’ve often thought of an Israelite shepherd as having a pretty peaceful and easy-going occupation. After all, most of his time he’s enjoying the quiet countryside, surrounded by his docile sheep, with lots of time for sitting and dozing in the shade of a tree. Not bad work if you can get it!

But they say that a shepherd’s task was intensely physical and demanding. And a lot of that had to do with the kind of animals that he was caring for. Livestock like goats and cows can fend for themselves, but sheep often depend heavily on their shepherds.

If you were a shepherd, you would have to lead the sheep to good pastures for grazing, and provide shelter at nighttime, and apply medicines, and give the mums help in lambing time. You would need to assist the sheep that were lame or weary, and run after the wandering ones. In all things, a shepherd had to work hard for the good of his sheep: apart from him, the sheep were nearly helpless.

Weak and ignorant sheep so badly need a faithful shepherd. But when they have one, the sheep can trust the shepherd, in life and in death. When they enter by him into the safety of the sheepfold, they know that all is well.       

As Jesus says, “If anyone enters by me, he will be saved” (v 9). To be saved means to be delivered, kept safe and sound. For with Christ as the door, He shuts out so many threats and dangers. False teachers are still lurking, and the devil and his demons, and all manner of worldly pressures—and some of these will find their mark. But think of how much worse our condition would be without Christ’s constant protection! He is busy every day, guarding and defending us.

And when we enter through Christ, He says, we as his sheep “will go in and out and find pasture” (v 9). This is a picture of unhindered activity, the freedom to thrive in Christ and all He gives. With Christ, we can ‘go in and out’ and find all we need.

Think for a moment of the backdoor of your house in summertime, when the kids are playing in the yard, or you’re having a family barbecue. The door is constantly opening and closing, banging shut and flying open, people walking in and out—getting food, getting drinks, going to put on their bathing suits, getting more food. The door is the happy centre of activity, and this is what we have through Christ: freedom, blessing, access to everything we truly need.

For what do Christ’s sheep do as they go in and out? He says they find pasture. A shepherd in Israel wouldn’t keep his sheep in their sheepfold all the time, but the sheep need to be let out to graze in the pastures.

I read that in some parts of the Mediterranean, shepherds would get up from the doorway of the sheepfold, call their animals out, and typically begin grazing them just after dawn. Then they’d lead them to pools of water to drink around mid-morning. The shepherd would get them to shade during the midday heat, bring them again to water, and then pasture them further, grazing in the fields until evening. Then in the evening, a shepherd would bring his sheep into the fold. Like we said before, he would see to his sheep being well supplied—going in and out and finding pasture.

Through faith in Christ, this is the blessing and security that we can enjoy. When you believe in the Lord, you can know that you’re actually at home. In him, you have found a place of rest. In him, you can have the confidence that the Lord knows what we need, and He will generously supply it.

Christ feeds us with his Word. He encourages our faith through the sacraments. He helps us through our fellow believers, and through the elders and deacons. He fills us with his Spirit in all our coming and going, and He leads us alongside the still waters of salvation. He makes us lie down in green pastures, so that we lack nothing. It is constant care, daily, never-failing.

And now listen to what Christ does in order to achieve all this blessing, “I lay down my life for the sheep” (v 15). Hearing that verse, imagine a shepherd on a dark night, somewhere in a deep valley, still on duty. The shepherd is posted at the enclosure’s opening, and his sheep are dozing quietly behind him.

But then he hears a pack of wolves approaching. They’re already snarling, snapping their teeth. They’re hungry, and bent on tasting blood. The shepherd wants to run—of course he wants to run: save his own skin! But if he leaves his sheep, he knows that they don’t stand a chance. They’ll all be dead by morning.

So the shepherd stays at the door of the sheepfold. He will be the door! He bravely keeps his body between the flock and the wolves. For his weak and defenseless sheep, he’s willing to lay down his life. He cares for them, and they will live. Resting behind the door, the sheep are secure.

And that is us, beloved. Christ is the door for his sheep. For us He lay down his life! We enter into life through him. We’re allowed to enjoy all the blessings that He gained through his self-sacrifice, when He was killed at the cross. Though ‘we like sheep had gone astray,’ Jesus in great love searched for us and found us. Through faith in him, we may go in and out and find pasture.

So enter through Christ. Trust in his name. Love him, and listen to his voice. Know that you are forever secure behind the One who is the door.  Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2021, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

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