Sermon for May 3, 2020, Fourth Sunday of Easter

John 10:7-10 (Fourth Sunday of Easter—Series A)

“The Door”

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT

May 3, 2020

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Our text is from the Gospel lesson recorded in John 19:

7Therefore, Jesus said again, “Truly, truly I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8All those who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9I am the door. Through me, if anyone should enter, he will be saved, and he will go in and will go out and will find pasture. 10The thief does not come except that he should steal and kill and destroy. I came in order that they may have life and have it in abundance.”

 

“’Oh my ears and whiskers, how late it’s getting!’ [Alice] was close behind it when she turned the corner, but the Rabbit was no longer to be seen: she found herself in a long, low hall, which was lit up by a row of lamps hanging from the roof.

There were doors all round the hall, but they were all locked; and when Alice had been all the way down one side and up the other, trying every door, she walked sadly down the middle, wondering how she was ever to get out again.”[1]

When it comes to eternal life in heaven, the only way to enter is through the Door, Jesus Christ. There is not little golden key to open a tiny, hidden door; no bottle labeled “Drink Me” to make Alice or you shrink so that you fit through to go into the Garden. There are no windows through which one can climb in. There are no side entrances through secret passages hidden in the wall, no out-of-the-way open doors. If you want to enter into eternal life, the only way is through Jesus, the Door.

Fallen human nature doesn’t like that exclusivity. When you tell someone that Jesus Christ is the exclusive entrance into eternal life, people tend to get a little defensive. “What about the other world religions? What about other systems of belief? Don’t they open to the same God and the same heaven?” Absolutely not! Trying to get into heaven apart from faith in Jesus Christ is like being a thief who tries to break into the sheepfold or the house. People without faith in Jesus, it can be said, are trying to “break into” heaven, with no success. They refuse the Door that is Jesus Christ and therefore force themselves to seek other ways to enter into eternal life, all which fail, for all other ways are locked doors.

The religions of the world with the exception of Christianity are religions of works. The person must earn his or her salvation. The truth be told, no one will ever enter into eternal life by doing any works—good, bad, or indifferent. You cannot buy your way into heaven. You cannot earn your way into heaven. To put it another way, a person cannot “break into” heaven and “steal” eternal life for himself by his actions or his system of belief. God’s Word in Galatians 3 says, “For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.’ Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for ‘The righteous shall live by faith’” (Gal. 3:10–11 ESV). And in Ephesians 2, God says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8–9 ESV). The only Door to heaven that the Lord provides is out of His grace and not by our merit: He is Jesus Christ, who said to Thomas on the night in which He was betrayed, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). “He is the Way, because he leads us through himself. He is the Door who lets us in, the Shepherd who makes us dwell in green pastures, bringing us up by waters of rest and leading us there” (Gregory of Nazianzus).

We cannot listen to those who tell us that there are alternative paths to heavenly glory. We cannot heed the words of those who would turn us away from the voice of Jesus. Jesus said in our Gospel, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”

Dear friends in Christ, do not listen to the voice of strangers—the voice of the devil, the world, and your sinful flesh—who try to convince us that we can enter heaven by our own merits. It is the Good Shepherd Jesus Christ, who’s voice calls us as His own sheep, who leads us into eternal life. He alone is the Door to that leads to real, abundant life Listen only to His voice and His Words of Promise: “I am the door. Through me, if anyone should enter, he will be saved, and he will go in and will go out and will find pasture. The thief does not come except that he should steal and kill and destroy. I came in order that they may have life and have it in abundance.” It is by this faith that we enter the fold so that we may live and have full life. “For as true believers [we] die, and [we] will have life more abundantly when [we] come to place where the Shepherd has preceded [us]—a place where [we] will die no more. . . . This is the pasture that was found by the one who heard, ‘Today you will be with me in paradise’” (Augustine).

The devil, the world, and our flesh, however, tempt us to find other ways into this abundant life by causing us to doubt God’s Word. Those ways will not lead to eternal life but only everlasting death. They offer no guarantee of salvation as they leave too many unanswered questions: “When have I done enough works to merit eternal life? Have I been good enough? What about the things I have done wrong, won’t they be held against me? How can I be sure that I have earned eternal life?” Apart from Jesus Christ, you can never be sure that you have abundant life. Apart from Jesus Christ, all of your sins and wrongdoing will be held against you because you can never do enough or be good enough.

But Jesus came as the Door, through which you and I may enter and be saved, having the absolute guarantee of eternal life. Because we are sinners, we cannot earn salvation. We can’t do enough good works because we must be perfect. And we’re not. But Jesus, God the Son, became fully human and lived a completely perfect life for you and for me. He did everything exactly the way God wanted it to be done. And then Jesus went and took our place under God’s punishment for our wrongdoings and sins. He who had no sin became sin for us so that in Christ Jesus we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21). Jesus cancelled out our debt of sin when He died on the cross. He died for all the times we disobeyed God’s Commandments. Jesus gave up His life into death for all the times we failed to do the good we should have done.

In exchange for our sins, Jesus gave us His perfect obedience. We are credited with having kept God’s Commandments perfectly because our Substitute, Jesus, gave us that credit. We are completely forgiven for all our sins because our Substitute, Jesus, suffered the full punishment for them by dying on the cross in our place. Through His perfect life, death, and resurrection, Jesus has opened to us to door of everlasting life through the very forgiveness of all our sins. We didn’t earn it—Jesus did! We didn’t work for it—Jesus did! Jesus gives us that abundant, eternal life with Him entirely free of charge. It is a gift of God’s grace to us because of what Jesus did through His cross and resurrection.

Listen again to the voice of your Good Shepherd, the Door to everlasting life: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). “This is the promise that He has made to us—eternal life” (1 John 2:25). And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:11-13) because you have faith in Jesus. Hear His voice, the voice of your Good Shepherd, and follow Him into life everlasting according to His grace. Amen.

 

 

 

 

[1] Lewis Carroll, Allice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass (New York: Barnes and Noble, 2004), 16-17.

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