The Shepherd Enters by the Door
© 2022 C. O. Bishop
John chapter nine ended with a statement of Judgment. John chapter ten offers two of the “I AM” statements. The first two messages go together, but they use the same word in two different ways: In verses 1-6 Jesus said that the true shepherd enters by the “door into the sheepfold,” and He refers to a “porter” who opens the door.
1 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. 2 But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. 4 And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. 5 And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.
6 This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them.
But in verses 7-10, Jesus said that He Himself is the “Door of the Sheep.” And in verses 11-18, He affirms that He is the Good Shepherd. So, in order to access the meaning, we have to ask some questions.
Evidently, the “Door into the Sheepfold” is not the same as the “Door of the Sheep.” But perhaps the first question would be “What is the Door into the Sheepfold?” and the second goes right along with it: “Who is the Porter?”
What is the Door into the Sheepfold?
Jesus is about to declare Himself to be the Good Shepherd, in verse eleven…and that means He must have entered by way of the “Door into the Sheepfold.” It also means that there must be another way to come in, declaring oneself to be the Shepherd, and that whoever comes by another means (however many there are) must be identified as a thief and a robber.
How might one declare himself to be the Messiah, the “Shepherd of Israel?”
The few times when someone claimed to be the promised deliverer, they obviously did not measure up: They fell short one way or another. That continues still today. There have been self-anointed “messiahs” of every stripe, every so often, for centuries. I looked online to see how many have made that claim, and found that at least fifty people apart from Jesus Himself, have made such a claim, in the last two thousand years.
Did they Enter by the Door?
One thing these fifty all had in common was the fact that they did not fulfill the prophecies regarding the Messiah. There were many clear (and many rather obscure, but still valid) predictions as to the coming Messiah: And, they all had to be fulfilled in the same person. (I have been told that there are over three hundred such prophecies in the Old Testament.)
Not a Smorgasbord
God’s prophecies did not constitute a “smorgasbord” from which a claimant could “select as many as he could manage,” and thus proclaim himself the “anointed one.” They all had to be true on the same person! Here are just a few:
- Place of birth: Bethlehem Ephrata (Micah 5:2)
- But He was also “called out of Egypt” (Hosea 11:1; Matthew 2:15) and called a Nazarene. (Matthew 2:23)
- Descendant of Abraham (Genesis 22:18)
- Descendant of Jacob (Numbers 24:17)
- Descendant of Judah (Genesis 49:10)
- Descendant of David, (2nd Samuel 7:12-13; Luke 1:32) but
- Not of the line of Coniah (“Jehoiachin.” Jeremiah 22:24-30, cp Matthew 1:12)
- Son of God (Luke 1:35)
- Virgin Born (Seed of Woman Genesis 3:15, and Isaiah 7:14)
- Born into poverty, arrives as the King, riding upon a donkey (Zechariah 9:9)
- Sinless Life (Isaiah 53:9)
- Heals the sick, set free the captives, proclaims the Gospel (Isaiah 61:1, 2; Isaiah 35:4-6)
- Healed the Blind, Healed lepers (Psalm 103:3…”all their diseases!”)
- Crucified; hands and feet pierced (Psalm 22:1-18)
- Died with the criminals, (Isaiah 53:9) but
- Buried in the tomb of the rich, (Isaiah 53:9)
- Stayed dead for three days and three nights. (Jonah 1:17; Matthew 12:39, 40)
- Was resurrected (Psalm 16:10; Isaiah 53:10-12)
“Entering by the Door”
Notice that very few of these could be “self-fulfilling prophecies.” No one but God has a choice in their own place of birth, nor the gene pool from which he will spring. But God predicted, thousands of years in advance, the source of the Messiah…and protected his forbears so that the promised Messiah could arrive on time, in the right location, and into the right family.
Seed of the Woman
Clear back in Genesis 3, He predicted the birth of one who would be (specifically) the Seed of Woman (not of Adam, Abraham, or whomever…) and would undo the damage of the Serpent.
Jesus was not only the “Seed of the Woman,” in the sense that it was a truly miraculous birth, without a human father: He was also specifically called out as being God in the Flesh… Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14, Luke 1:35; Matthew 1:23)
Place of Birth
A human cannot choose his own place of birth. God predicted Bethlehem Ephrata, in Micah 5:2. But Joseph and Mary did not live in Bethlehem, of Judea. They lived in Nazareth, of Galilee. So, God provided that they should be forced to take a “road-trip” at just the right time so that Mary’s firstborn should be born in Bethlehem. The Caesar decreed that everyone must travel to their ancestral home, to complete a census and pay a tax. So, they got to Bethlehem at just the right time.
The Messiah had to be the Son of David, but could not be the son of Jeconiah… “Coniah”… “Jehoiachin.” If we read the genealogy in Matthew 1, we find that Joseph was of that cursed lineage. Joseph could not be king, and if Jesus was his son, then Jesus could not be king either. But Jesus was Virgin-Born of a woman who was also of David’s lineage, but not that of Coniah. He had the legal tie through Joseph, but the blood tie through his mother, Mary.
His parents fled to Egypt to escape Herod. And God called them back after Herod died. So, God had literally “called His Son out of Egypt.” And as they returned, they moved back to Nazareth, where Jesus grew to adulthood, and he was called a Nazarene, thus fulfilling one more prophecy. (How many of these prophecies, so far, look like something a person could “self-fulfill?” Remember; Jesus was still a toddler when all this happened.)
Many later prophecies were fulfilled in a way that might tempt us to say, “Well, see, it says right here, that he did this ‘to fulfill prophecy.’ That means he was fulfilling them on purpose!” (Well, sure; but I could want to fulfill prophecy, and want to heal blind people, or lepers, all my life, but I can’t! I just don’t have the power or authority to do it!) Jesus did so to prove His authority, and His power, and to fulfill prophecy so that no one could say, “Hold it! He is not doing what God said He would do!”
He did exactly what God said He would do! He entered by the Door!
But, Who is the Porter?
I remember being taught that the “Porter” was John The Baptist, because he opened the way before the Lord, and pronounced Him to be the Lamb of God who would take away the Sin of the World. And, in a sense, he did function as the “Porter:” the Forerunner who announced the coming of the Messiah, and “Opened the Door for the King,” saying “Prepare ye the way of the Lord, and make His paths straight!”
On the other hand, many teachers have (correctly) argued that apart from the Holy Spirit, John could do nothing…so, the Holy Spirit must be the true Porter, not only making the Way, but opening the hearts of many in Israel. I can accept that, but John at least made some official announcements, pointing to Jesus as the True Messiah, and the Shepherd of Israel.
Some have even suggested that Moses was the Porter, as the prophecies in the Torah all pointed to Jesus, and the Law forced the realization of our need for a Savior. I don’t see that as a logical answer, though. There isn’t a good enough connection. (And some teachers try to say, “…it really doesn’t matter!” But if it was important enough for Jesus to say it, it’s important!)
However, God is clearly the ultimate “Porter,” as He works through people, and manifests Himself by His Holy Spirit. But none of the “Potential Porters” listed above would have opened the door to the “wrong person.” The Door was the prophetic record. Fulfilled prophecies, throughout the Bible, are the Credentials of God. They constitute the Pedigree and the Divine authority of Christ. And whoever we think the “Porter” may be, He only opens to the One who comes via fulfilled Prophecy and comes in the Name of the LORD.
Jesus came, fulfilling those requirements, and He proved who He was throughout His life.
Calling the Sheep
The next verse says that, when the Porter opens to the Shepherd, the Shepherd begins calling out His sheep.
“…and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. 4 And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. 5 And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.”
6 This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them.
I can see how the people might not understand this parable. I have a hard time with it myself. Part of the problem, for me, is that I am not a “shepherd in the Middle East.”
Knowing the Sheep
I saw a video about a Palestinian shepherd boy. The interviewer asked (through an interpreter) how many sheep, or goats, perhaps, he actually had. The child cheerfully shrugged and admitted that he didn’t know. (The interpreter explained that he probably did not know how to count.) But the next question was, “If you don’t know how many you have in your flock, how will you be able to tell if one is missing?”
The child responded incredulously, as if the question was ridiculous: “Because I know them all! I would know immediately if one were missing!” He saw that the answer was obvious. We do not see it as obvious, because we can barely tell one sheep from another. We have never learned to know them as individuals and care enough about them as individuals. If we did, then we would know when something is wrong, or when one is missing. But that is how the Shepherd knows us, as His sheep!
The Sheep Follow the Shepherd’s Voice
Two friends of mine, at separate times, told how they had taken a trip to Israel, and each of them had been in a taxi or some other vehicle, waiting while two flocks of sheep crossed their road in opposite directions at an intersection: Both related how they felt dismayed, thinking the two flocks would be mixed so badly that they would be hours getting them separated.
But both watched in amazement as the two shepherds cordially greeted one another, but went about their business, leading their respective flocks through the other flock. They just kept calling, and their sheep knew their respective voices and utterly ignored the voice of the other shepherd. The flocks flowed through one another, with hardly any resistance, and became two separate flocks again, as they parted.
Follow your Shepherd
Jesus calls us, and we are expected to know His voice, and to follow Him. He came by the Authority of His Word. He came by the Door of fulfilled prophecy. We are to listen to His voice, through His Word and in Prayer.
2nd Peter 1:19 tells us that the Written Word of God is to be our “light” until the Lord returns. God says that is how we learn to “know His voice,” and not be led astray. We want to learn to know His voice to the extent that the voice of a stranger, a false shepherd, would cause us to flee. We must not follow the leading of those who do not “Enter by the Door:” …those who fail to lead by the Word of God.
Human Shepherds Have the Same Responsibility
Notice, too, that, just as Jesus had to fulfill all the prophecies, the human shepherds He sends have to be preaching the whole Word of God. It all has to fit together. As we said, earlier, this is not a “smorgasbord” where we can choose what portions we believe. It either is God’s Word, in its entirety, or it isn’t!
Teach the Whole Counsel of God
In Acts 20:27, speaking to the Ephesian Elders, whom he had trained, Paul pointed out that he had faithfully preached “all the counsel of God.” He had treated all of the Word of God honestly and had not just preached private “hobby-horse” doctrines. He had taught the elders, to whom he was speaking, to see God’s Word as a unit… as a continuum of truth, beginning in Genesis and ending in Revelation, but with one core theme: the Person of Christ.
As a shepherd, I take this warning very seriously: I do not have the freedom to supplant God’s Word with my own opinions. If I don’t know what His Word means, I say so. If I have ideas about what it might mean, but no real assurance that my interpretation is correct, I say so. But, I do not just “skip” passages, unless there is a specific reason, and I will be coming back to complete what I skipped. I want to faithfully teach the whole counsel of God.
The Flock is to Listen for the Voice of the Shepherd, as Well
So, we see that Jesus has warned us to look carefully at the credentials and behavior of the persons proposing to teach. Are they “entering by the door to the sheepfold?” Or are they coming some other route, that seems attractive, but is not in keeping with the Word of God?
When we first heard His voice (John 10:27, 28) inviting us to faith, and we followed Him in faith, Jesus gave us Eternal Life as a gift—and we can never lose it: He promises that we shall never perish.
Called to Follow
But we are called to follow him in faith as a daily way of life, as well. Our lives are to be transformed by His Word. It says, “he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.”
Each of us, individually, is called to walk with Jesus, reading His Word, praying, learning from our teachers, but always, listening for His Voice.
May the Lord help us to Hear Him clearly!
Lord Jesus, focus our attention on Your Word, by Your Spirit, so that we can follow in Your Steps. Teach us to avoid the teaching and temptations of the World, and to grow in strength as your disciples, to be your hands and feet and voice, shining Your Light, in this dark world.