Bible Passage: John 10:1-10
Pastor: Pastor Berg
Sermon Date: May 7, 2017
Back in 1963, Let’s Make a Deal debuted on American Television. Audience members would dress up in fantastic costumes, hoping that Monty Hall would choose them to be the trader. Hall would present them with a deal. They could keep the prize that they had in their possession, or they could go for something bigger. But there was a risk. You see, there were three doors to choose from. Behind one door would be a fabulous prize. Behind the other doors, however, would be a “Zonk.” If they chose the wrong door, they would be left with nothing. It was a risk many took with the hopes of a fantastic prize.
Knowing the right door, it just so happens, is the thing that matters the most for each of us for eternity. But this is much more serious. For not knowing the right door will leave us with much more than just a “Zonk.” Going through the wrong door will send us straight to hell. You see, there is only one door that makes the difference for eternity, and Jesus is it. “Amen, Amen, I tell you: I am the door for the sheep. All who came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. Whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. “A thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”
What prompted Jesus to speak this way? Earlier in John’s gospel, Jesus had met a blind beggar. He put mud on his eyes and told him to go wash in the Pool of Siloam. The blind man came out of the Pool seeing for the first time in his life. But his joy was soon overshadowed by the relentless determination of the Pharisees not to believe in Jesus. No matter what miracle Jesus performed, not matter how clear the evidence, the Pharisees tried to downplay its legitimacy and discredit Jesus for performing it. Looking for any hint of fault, they repeatedly interrogated witnesses and the blind man himself. Finding no fault, the best thing they could come up with was that this miracle couldn’t be from God because jesus was “working” on the Sabbath.
Jesus sought out this man who was being harassed by the Pharisees. “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” “Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.” Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.” Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.” By God’s grace, this man born blind was led to see and confess that Jesus was his Savior.
What a contrast to how the Pharisees reacted! Notice, also, how differently Jesus speaks to them! “Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?” Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.” So determined were the Pharisees to believe anything but Jesus, so determined were they to believe in their own self-righteousness, their own works, that they refused to accept the evidence that stared them in the face. This is the event and the following conversation that prompted Jesus to speak this way. Jesus wanted to make it crystal clear to the Pharisees and to everyone else that salvation is found only in him. Jesus’ whole purpose in coming to this world was that so people, yes even the Pharisees, could be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. Jesus spoke these words to help us see that Jesus was not just a miracle worker, but a Savior from sin.
“Amen, Amen, I tell you: Anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the door, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. The doorkeeper opens the door for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own sheep, he walks ahead of them. The sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will never follow a stranger, but will run away from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers.” Jesus’ illustration would have been very clear and vivid to his original audience. But for whatever reason, the people didn’t get it. John tells us: “Jesus used this illustration in speaking to the people, but they did not understand what he was telling them.” So Jesus made it even more plain: So Jesus said again, “Amen, Amen, I tell you: I am the door for the sheep. All who came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. Whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture.“A thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”
Perhaps this is an odd picture for Jesus to use, at least to our way of thinking. We have no problem seeing Jesus as a shepherd, but a door? However, that’s not how those standing there would have pictured it. A tourist to the holy land was sightseeing when he observed a single “c”-shaped stone wall with one small opening. The structure had no roof; it was away from any residential area; so the tourist concluded it was some sort of holding-pen for animals, probably sheep. Except, the small opening had no door. How could it serve any purpose without a door? Puzzled by all this, the tourist inquired from a local worker who was near the pen and seemed to know his way around. “Why does this sheep pen have no door?” he asked to which the gentleman replied, “I am the door.” His simple, but direct answer obviously meant that when the shepherds brought their flocks in from the pastures for safekeeping during the night, this one worker curled up in that small entrance to the sheep-pen and served as the human door for the sheep. No sheep, shepherd, or stranger could wander in or out of the pen without passing over his body. The tourist, who was a Christian, gained a greater appreciation that day for Jesus’ words, “I am the door for the sheep.”
But before we delve into that picture, listen to how Jesus described the other religious leaders, all those who are not the gate. All who came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. A thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy…” Jesus doesn’t mince words. He doesn’t say the other religious leaders are merely misguided or misunderstood. He doesn’t sympathize with them, assuming they mean well. When the eternity of souls hangs in the balance, Jesus doesn’t care about being politically correct or tolerant. He calls them what they are, “thieves,” and “robbers,” who came “to steal and kill and destroy.”
Do you understand what Jesus is saying here? He’s saying that anyone who doesn’t come through him, who doesn’t preach him and proclaim him as the only way, the only Savior is like a thief and a robber. That’s exactly what the Pharisees were doing. They were preaching salvation through following the Law, following their regulations. They weren’t concerned about the people, the sheep. They were only concerned about themselves. Like a thief and a robber, they were only interested in exploiting the sheep, using the, not loving them. Just look at how they treated the man born blind! And all that emphasis on works would ultimately destroy the sheep.
But Jesus was different. Jesus makes such a sharp distinction between himself and others because he genuinely loved the sheep! He genuinely loves you! I am the door for the sheep. Whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” There you have it, plain and simple. Jesus was flat-out telling the Pharisees that salvation comes only through the door, only through him. He wasn’t bragging, but inviting the Pharisees, yet again, to put aside their works, to recognize their sins, and to find their salvation in him.
Though we know it, we need that reassurance over and over again, don’t we? The world openly and without apology paints a target on the back of those who have a connection to Jesus. But Jesus’ response is, “I am the door; whoever enters through me will be saved.” Others say faith in Jesus is for the simple and unscientific; Jesus says, “I am the door; whoever enters through me will be saved.” Even our own doubts lead us to question if maybe something is left undone, some requirement unmet, to which Jesus says, “I am the door; whoever enters through me will be saved.” And to those who enter through that door Jesus promises, He will come in and go out, and find pasture. Jesus, the door, provides protection and security, so we can be at peace. He does not bind us with rigid requirements, but grants us the freedom to be served and to serve him in so many ways. In him we are taken care of and fed. We are guarded and guided. There is nothing we need to fear. The pasture of his Word and Sacraments sustain us. And Jesus promises you something that many in the world promise, but which only Jesus can deliver. He says, I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
What is an abundant life? Think back to Easter morning, just as dawn was breaking. There at Jesus’ tomb was Mary Magdalene. She was there because she was empty. She didn’t know what to do. She had no plan to move the stone. She had no direction in life. She had lost everything. She was empty. May was so empty that the empty tomb confused her. She was so empty that she talked with angels like they were ordinary people. She was so empty that she talked with Jesus like he was the gardener. Only only thing snapped her out of her fun. Her Shepherd called her name—Mary. ANd once she heard her name in his voice, her empty life was full again. SHe was full of love and forgiveness and salvation. Her life was abundant only when it was full of Jesus.
Nature abhors a vacuum. Think about what happens in your yard if you have a bare patch. If you don’t put grass seed there, what’s going to fill that space? Weeds, right? Because nature abhors a vacuum. The same truth works in people. Everyone in this world has an innate desire to be filled. Form our stomachs to our homes to our hearts, we long to be filled. Have you ever noticed that when you’re feeling down, you try to fill up your schedule so you don’t have time to think about what’s bothering you? Do you realize that when you’re hurting, you have a tendency to fill your life with something, anything, even if it’s bad for you, just to take away the pain? We so long to be filled that we’ll look just about anywhere and do just about anything to make it happen. You confirmands, especially need to hear this! You life is as abundant as it could possibly be today! You are full of Jesus and are making that confession publicly before God, this congregation, your family and friends. And the temptation is real that after this day, Jesus will take a back seat and that abundance you have now will become less and less. Don’t think for a minute that his spot in your heart will stay vacant. The world will offer to fill that spot. But even though your life may be full of things, apart from Jesus, you will be empty.
Abundant life starts with Jesus’ promise that my eternity is safe because it’s in his hands and has already been bought and paid for with his blood. Then with the certainty of Jesus, the door, guarding my heart, my eyes see my life in this world in a different light. Fear and trepidation have been cast aside; they don’t need to follow or haunt me anymore, for all is well with the door. Guilt and regret don’t hang around my neck like a noose, for all is well with the door. Failure and folly don’t disqualify me, for all is well with the door. Loving and serving are not obligations, but an opportunity, for all is well with the door. I have an abundant life, for I have Jesus, the door! Amen