The Door of the Sheep

When Jesus says, “I am the door of the sheep” (John 10:7), I always assumed He was mixing His metaphors, changing the subject, going off on a tangent. I suppose this is because I thought when Jesus called Himself a door, He was comparing Himself to… a door. Big, wooden thing with iron hinges. Silly me.

A good shepherd in Jesus’ day did not close His sheep in their pen for the night, go into his nice, warm house, eat a nice, warm meal, and sleep in a nice, warm bed. Oh no. The good shepherd stayed outside with the sheep. More than that, the good shepherd was the door of the sheep. A sheep pen has a wall on all sides. It does not have a door. What it has is a shepherd. Someone who will lay his body in between the doorposts, physically blocking anything from getting His sheep. Literally, if you want my sheep, you have to go through Me.

But what’s interesting is that Jesus doesn’t call Himself a fortress or a bulwark or a wall. He calls Himself a door. Comedian Brian Regan jokes about doors with the signage “This door to remain closed at all times.” Isn’t that called a wall?

Jesus is not the wall of the sheep. He is the door, and He’s made to keep things out, like wolves and bandits and the like, but He also lets things in. And anything that comes inside my fortress has to go through Jesus.

If I were making the list and handing it to the bouncer, who to let in and who to keep out, my keep-out list would include sickness, pain, disappointment, waiting, sorrow, and loss. Strangely enough, all of these are occasionally allowed in by Jesus. Jesus’ list is different. The distinction Jesus makes is very simple. He keeps out things that will hurt me. He lets in things that will help me.

When David painted his pastel picture of the good shepherd (Psalm 23:1-6), he didn’t paint a picture only of green pastures and quiet waters. He painted a picture of the staff and rod of God’s loving discipline, of the valley of the shadow of death, of feasts in enemy camps. David was not at peace because he had storehouses of grain and cisterns of water, walls of stone and barbed wire, and brightly lit courtyards for the rest of his days. He was at peace because he had a shepherd, and he dwelled in that shepherd’s presence all the days of his life.

Excerpt from “Peace and How to Keep It.” Coming fall 2020.