John 1:1-10 (Fourth Sunday of Easterâ€”Series A)
â€œThe Door of the Sheepâ€
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT
May 7, 2017
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.Â Amen.
Our text is the Gospel Reading recorded in John 10:
1â€œTruly, truly I say to you, he who does not enter through the door into the sheep pen but climbs in by another way, that person is a thief and a robber. 2But he who enters through the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3To this one the doorkeeper opens and the sheep hear his voice and he calls his own sheep by name and he leads them out. 4When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them and his sheep follow because they know his voice. 5But they shall surely not follow a stranger, but they will flee from him because they do not know the strangerâ€™s voice.â€ 6Jesus told them this figure of speech, but they did not understand what He was saying to them. 7Therefore, Jesus said to them again, â€œTruly, truly I say to you, I Am the door of the sheep. 8All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9I Am the door. If anyone should enter through me, he will be saved and will come in and go out and will find pasture. 10The thief does not come except in order that he should steal and kill and destroy. I came so that they might have life and that they should have it abundantly.
They had cast him out of the synagogue! The man who had been blind was kicked out of the church, excommunicated! For some unrepented sin? No, because Jesus had healed this man who was born blind and he had confessed that Jesus was from God. When Jesus heard that they had kicked him out of his church, He went and found the man. Jesus asked, â€œâ€™Do you believe in the Son of Man?â€™ He answered, â€˜And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?â€™ Jesus said to him, â€˜You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.â€™ He said, â€˜Lord, I believe,â€™ and he worshiped him. Jesus said, â€˜For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blindâ€™â€ (Jn. 9:35-39 ESV).
Some Pharisees near Jesus heard Him speaking to the man who was formerly blind. They asked Jesus, â€œAre we blind too?â€ Jesus told them, â€œIf you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, â€˜We see,â€™ your guilt remainsâ€ (Jn. 9:41 ESV). If they simply didnâ€™t know any better, if they were just ignorant of the Word of God, that would have been one thing. But they did know better. The Pharisees did know the Word of God and yet, they remained spiritually blind, refusing to acknowledge their need for a Savior in spite of what Godâ€™s Word says about the human condition. The Pharisees had condemned the formerly blind man, â€œYou were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?â€ not seeing that they too were born sinful and unclean.
Jesus continued His response to the Pharisees, â€œTruly, truly I say to you, he who does not enter through the door into the sheep pen but climbs in by another way, that person is a thief and a robber. But he who enters through the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To this one the doorkeeper opens and the sheep hear his voice and he calls his own sheep by name and he leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them and his sheep follow because they know his voice. But they shall surely not follow a stranger, but they will flee from him because they do not know the strangerâ€™s voice.â€
There is a difference, Jesus says, between Himself and the Pharisees. He uses a figure of speech, a parable, a sermon illustration if you will. The contrast is between the shepherd and â€œthieves and robbers.â€ The shepherd uses the door to get to his sheep. â€œThieves and robbersâ€ climb into the sheep pen by another way, illegally. The doorkeeper opens the door to shepherd. He knows him. The doorkeeper doesnâ€™t open the door to â€œthieves and robbers,â€ so they have to break in. The sheep recognize the voice of their shepherd when he summons them by name. Their knowing the voice of the shepherd is the result of hearing his voice, but it is also the result of the sheep being known by the shepherd. He has a close relationship with them. They are â€œhis own.â€ Obviously, the sheep do not belong to â€œthieves and robbers.â€ They do not know the voice of a stranger, and so the voice of a stranger brings fear, causing the sheep to flee because they donâ€™t know the voice the stranger who has broken into their pen in order to steal them, kill them, and destroy them.
The Pharisees didnâ€™t know the needs of the sheep, the people of God entrusted to their spiritual care. They didnâ€™t know the needs of this formerly blind man who needed Godâ€™s grace and compassion. They were like strangers to formerly blind man, and their violence against him was shown when they threw him out of the church.
When Jesus finished His story, there was a pause. John writes that those who heard Jesus, the Pharisees, didnâ€™t understand what He was saying to them. We should also pause here to reflect on the meaning and purpose of Jesusâ€™ illustration. The accent of Jesusâ€™ message is on the overwhelming response of the sheep to the shepherd and the relationship between shepherd and sheep. The shepherdâ€™s legitimacy rests with the fact that the sheep hear his voice and know it so well that they can distinguish it from the voice of strangers. At the same time, the sheep are those whose names the shepherd knows, and in being able to recognize the shepherdâ€™s voice speaking their names, they also legitimize themselves as his own sheep. Hearing makes all the difference.
Do you hear? Do you understand? Jesus calls you by name in the Sacrament of Holy Baptism to be His own. Is He like a stranger to you? Do you listen to His voice in the read and proclaimed Word of God? Or do you listen to the voice of strangersâ€”to the voices of â€œthieves and robbersâ€ from whom you should flee?
â€œAll we like sheep have gone astray; we have turnedâ€”every oneâ€”to his own way,â€ says the prophet Isaiah (Isa. 53:6 ESV). Yes, we all must confess that we have not listened exclusively to the voice of the shepherd. Weâ€™ve listened to the voice of temptation. We have heard and followed the lures of the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh and have sinned in thought, desire, word, and deed. We have looked at others with lust and have â€œundressed them with our eyes.â€ We have sinned against the Lord and our own bodies by having sex outside of the covenant of marriage. Our eyes have become windows allowing impurity and sensuality to fill them through images in magazines, on television, and on the Internet. There is not one of us who has not committed idolatry, worshipping with our words and actions something or someone other than the one, true God. Weâ€™ve listened to the voices of hatred and jealousy, greed and envy, fits of anger, and drunkenness. With the Psalmist each of us can say, â€œI have gone astray like a lost sheepâ€ Â (Psalm 119:176).
But the Psalmist continues to pray to the Lord, “Seek your servant, for I do not forget your commandments.” As sinners, we are like sheep that go astray. When we ignore the voice of the Good Shepherd, our Lord, we have only ourselves to blame when we fall prey to Satan, who prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking to devour us (1 Pet. 5:8). And yet, at the same time, we are believers in Jesus Christ. We are â€œthe communion of saints,â€ those who have been redeemed by Christ the crucified and have been made holy by the work of God the Holy Spirit. We are, in that wonderful description of Lutherâ€™s, simul justus et peccator, paradoxically believers in Jesus who are at one and the same time righteous in Christ and sinful in our flesh.
Precisely because Jesus has made us His own righteous people through His life, death, and resurrection, our Shepherd seeks His lost sheep. He comes and finds us in the midst of the very dangers to which we have wandered in our sinfulness. He carries us home on His shoulders, rejoicing (Luke 15:5). Jesus comes to us in our sinfulness. â€œWhile we were still sinners, Christ died for usâ€ (Rom. 5:8). He calls us by name in Baptism, claiming us as His own redeemed people saved from sin and death. â€œBut now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: â€˜Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with youâ€™â€ (Isa. 43:1-2 ESV). The Savior says to us in the Gospel Words of Absolution, â€œI forgive you all your sins.â€ That forgiveness is yours and mine because our Shepherd â€œlaid down his life for the sheepâ€ (10:11). Jesus willingly gave up His life into death on a cross, suffering Godâ€™s wrath and punishment in our place, so that by His blood, we might be made clean, forgiven, and made new by the power of the Holy Spirit whom He has poured out on us in Baptism.
It is the Holy Spirit who calls, gathers, enlightens, and makes us holy by the Gospelâ€”the Good News of Jesusâ€™ suffering, death, and resurrection as full payment for our sins which purchased and won our forgiveness and eternal life. The Holy Spirit brings Christ to us by Means of the Word and Sacraments of Christ. He teaches us who Jesus is, what He has done to save us, and who we are now by Godâ€™s gift of the Saviorâ€”redeemed children of God in Christ.
By grace through faith in Christ, through the power of the Spirit, we have come to know the voice of the Shepherd speaking in His Word. Again and again, it is the voice of Jesusâ€™ Gospel that brings us to repentance and faith, granting us forgiveness and the ability to live a new life in Jesus by hearing His voice, following His Word, and fleeing from the â€œthieves and robbersâ€ who seek to drag us away from the Savior. Because Christ has known us and called us as His own in Baptism, we do know His voice. We do have the ability by the power of the Holy Spirit NOT to listen to the voice of the devil, the world, and our flesh. Yes, we might wander from the safety of Christ, but He never leaves or forsakes us. And when we wander into sin, Jesus comes and finds us. He graciously forgives and restores us to His fold.
You see, Jesus is for you and me the door of the sheep. For those who live by His grace through faith, Christ is an open door to a place of ultimate safety. Jesus is the â€œgate of the Lordâ€ through whom those who have been made righteous by His blood will enter one day into an abundant life in body and soul in the resurrection. (Psalm 118:2). It is true; eternal life is ours now by faith. But it will be ours by sight when the Shepherd comes again at the Last Day to bring all of His own sheep into the new heaven and earth that He will create for us. â€œOn the Last Day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ. This is most certainly trueâ€ (SC: Third Article).
It is most certainly true that you have a Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ. He knows you by name and calls you by name. He reveals His love and mercy to you in His Word by the power of the Holy Spirit so that you know Him and the voice of His call to repentance, forgiveness, and the blessings of life and salvation. Because your Lord knows you and has called you to faith, He is the door to eternal life who is open for you. You can be certain that a new heaven and earth will be your forever-home with the God who made you, who saved you from sin and death, and who now makes you holy so that you live a new life of trust and faith in Jesus, the door of the sheep, your Shepherd and Savior. Amen.
 J. Ramsey Michaels, The Gospel of John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010), 581.