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I AM THE DOOR OF THE SHEEP


Jesus used a lot of symbols from the nomadic traditions of the Jews. These traditions were ingrained in the Jews through the Bible.

5.1 Door as a symbol of entry to safety

Home in all cultures symbolizes a place of safety. Going in and closing the door behind gives the members of the household security. The outside world with its hate and competition rages with violence and cruelty. At the end of this mad race one get back home and closes the door. You are surrounded by love and protection and care.

Traditional Arab rule is that one is beyond the law beyond the door. You can do anything inside your house. The law can wait for you outside the door. This is depicted beautifully some of the Old Testament symbolisms

5.2 Door in Passover

When Jesus spoke to the Jews about the door, the first picture that came to their mind was probably the door of the Passover night.

Exo 12:22 Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it into the blood in the basin and put some of the blood on the top and on both sides of the doorframe. Not one of you shall go out the door of his house until morning.

Exo 12:23 When the LORD goes through the land to strike down the Egyptians, he will see the blood on the top and sides of the doorframe and will pass over that doorway, and he will not permit the destroyer to enter your houses and strike you down.

A door that is marked with blood, providing a blood covering.

If you are familiar with the Passover traditions and the traditions of the middle eastern nations one can see the similarity very easily. There are two doors to the eastern homes. One door is the door leading to the inner rooms of the house and the other door is the door that leads into the compound. The lamb is sacrificed (killed) just outside of the gate and is hung on the wooden beam of the outer gate. In the sacrifice of the Passover lamb, they were instructed to dip a bunch of hyssop and put blood on top and on either side of the post. The bleeding of the lamp will mark the bottom of the door forming a cross. The lamb as it is being killed is the exact picture of Jesus on the cross. It is this blood that covers the sinners. All first born of the Egypt were to die. But the blood covering protects those who are within the gate with blood mark. The destroyer will not enter the gate and strike you down.

5.3 The City Gate

Another meaning of the door that was brought to the memory of the hearer was that of the door of the city gates. All ancient cities were walled all round to protect it from invaders. These were huge towering walls several feet high so that no man can climb on it. The city gates were large massive wooden structures. These were the protection of the dwellers inside the city. Jesus is simply implying that I am the door that keeps enemies outside and keeps you alive. The most vulnerable point of the city is the gate. If that is safe, it is easy to guard the city.

5.4 The City of Refuge

This concept is further strengthened by the establishment of the cities of refuge.

Num 35:11 select some towns to be your cities of refuge, to which a person who has killed someone accidentally may flee.

Num 35:12 They will be places of refuge from the avenger, so that a person accused of murder may not die before he stands trial before the assembly.

Num 35:15 These six towns will be a place of refuge for Israelites, aliens and any other people living among them, so that anyone who has killed another accidentally can flee there.

Num 35:26 "'But if the accused ever goes outside the limits of the city of refuge to which he has fled

Num 35:27 and the avenger of blood finds him outside the city, the avenger of blood may kill the accused without being guilty of murder.

Num 35:28 The accused must stay in his city of refuge until the death of the high priest; only after the death of the high priest may he return to his own property.

The door of the city of refuge keeps the avenger away. Jesus is that door. He is also the High Priest who will never die. As long as we are within the city ruled by Jesus we are safe.

5.5 Door of the Sheepfold

 

The imagery in the door of the sheep is directly taken from the nomadic life style. Nomads tend their sheep and move from place to place seeking supplies of water and grass. These sheep do not have a sheepfold that is permanent. They move into areas infested by wild animals that prey on the sheep. In the night the shepherds make a fold with thorn bush in circle over a yard wide, thorny and impenetrable even by the wildest and agile of all animals. There will be a small opening through which the sheep is herded into the Kraal. This then is the only door through which the sheep may enter into the sheepfold and into safety. Then the shepherd lights a pyre of thorn and wood in front of this opening and he will himself lie down as the door. Jesus was simply describing that there is only one way to heaven and that lies through his body. Those who enter through him will find peace

The same picture can be seen in the wilderness sanctuary. The sanctuary was fully cordoned off with curtains with only one entrance. At the entrance is the altar of sacrifice. a person may enter into the house of the Lord only after sacrifice. This door is Jesus.

Heb 10:19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus,

Heb 10:20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body,

 

As the sheep come in to the fold the shepherd will count them with his rod and in the morning he will count them as they go out. None should be found missing. No wild animal can enter inside unless the shepherd himself is killed first.

Jesus said

John 14:6 "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Those who enter in through Jesus the gate are safe.

Rom 8:1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,

Rom 8:2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.

But outside this door there is danger.

Gen 4:6 Then the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast?

Gen 4:7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it."

Safety lies inside this door.

5.6 Door where a slave becomes a member of the family.

To the settled Israel however the door meant something more than that.

Exo 21:5 "But if the servant declares, 'I love my master and my wife and children and do not want to go free,'

Exo 21:6 then his master must take him before the judges. He shall take him to the door or the doorpost and pierce his ear with an awl. Then he will be his servant for life.

This is connected with the seventh year, the year of jubilee when every debtor r or person who sold himself to slavery because of his debt will go back to his own. However, if during the period, he has endeared himself to the family and becomes part of the family, he can become a member of the family. This ceremony involved piercing the ears with an awl to the doorpost. He becomes a slave in the family forever.

The imagery of Jesus as the door is that you are outside the family of God where there is pain and suffering and death that sway all the time. David once said

Psa 84:10 Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.

It is better to be a servant of the Lord all our lives than is a free person into this decaying world. But then the door is the way in to become part of this Kingdom of God.

5.7 Earthians as quarantined

Earthians are quarantined because of deadly sin.

There is another world outside of this world -- the Kingdom of Heaven where there is no sin, where there is no decay, pain, suffering or death. There the laws of Physics are different. There everything grows from order to greater order, glory to glory. We cannot get into the city of heaven because we are bound to this material dimension. We have been trying to get out of this world all the time. In the earlier days great many sailors tried to find the end of the earth. They expected a cliff from where they could jump into another world. But there were no edge for the earth. Earth's surface has no edge, because it is closed in the third dimension. A sphere does not have any edge. We have heard the great story of the Russian astronauts last centaury that tried to find God in the space. They were trying to get out of this world. They went into the third dimension. There are not doors. The only door beyond this world is the door that is Jesus.

John 10:7 Therefore Jesus said again, "I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep.

John 10:8 All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.

John 10:9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture.

John 14:6 No one comes to the Father except through me.

 

CHAPTER SIX

I AM THE GOOD SHEPHERD

 

JOHN 10.11-18

This is in fact a continuation of the pastoral symbolism of the door of the sheep. The door of the sheep is the shepherd. It is the shepherd who lies down in front of the only one door. In so doing he is laying down his life for the sheep. No wild animal can enter or even come near the camp unless the shepherd is first killed. This was a common experience of every shepherd of the time.

It was natural for the nomads to think of God as their shepherd - the Great Shepherd

So Jacob when he blessed Joseph looks upto God as his shepherd.

Gen 48:15 Then he blessed Joseph and said, "May the God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day,

So in the Psalm of Asaph the Choirmaster, he addresses God as the Great Shepherd who sits enthroned .

Psa 80:1 Hear us, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock; you who sit enthroned between the cherubim, shine forth

Psa 80:2 before Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh. Awaken your might; come and save us.

Psa 80:3 Restore us, O God; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved.

When the shepherds go from place to place, the head of the household, the Father Patriarch usually stays at one central place where there is water all the time and tracks the journey of the children , guide them, sent provisions and help as needed. This is the picture we have in Jacobís family. It was easy for the Jews to visualize God as the Father Shepherd who sits enthroned among the cherubim. This is reflected in the Hebrew authorís picture:

May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Heb. 13:20-21

God is the one who supplies all our needs while we who are laboring in the field requires.

When Jesus ascribed himself as the Shepherd he was claiming also the root of Davidís ancestry.

Psa 78:70 He chose David his servant and took him from the sheep pens;

Psa 78:71 from tending the sheep he brought him to be the shepherd of his people Jacob, of Israel his inheritance.

Psa 78:72 And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them.

Much more than that there is a direct reference to the ordination of Joshua.

Num 27:15 Moses said to the LORD,

Num 27:16 "May the LORD, the God of the spirits of all mankind, appoint a man over this community

Num 27:17 to go out and come in before them, one who will lead them out and bring them in, so the Lord's people will not be like sheep without a shepherd."

Num 27:18 So the LORD said to Moses, "Take Joshua son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and lay your hand on him.

The Hebrew name of Jesus was same as Joshua - Yeshua. As Joshua was ordained to lead the people from the wilderness into Canaan, so God has ordained Jesus to lead mankind from the wilderness of this life to the Kingdom of Heaven.

These are some of the subtle tones that reverberated in the minds and spirits of those who heard Jesusí claim "I am the Good Shepherd".

6.1 Good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep

But then Jesus explained that he is not just the Great Shepherd Patriarch who sits in comfort at home with all the servants and pomp and splendor, but also one who came down to the earth, in the field to search, to care and tend the young and the old.

David was a shepherd and he knew exactly what it meant to be a good shepherd. Read what he says about himself.

1 Sam 17:34 But David said to Saul, "Your servant has been keeping his father's sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock,

1 Sam 17:35 I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it.

1 Sam 17:34 But David said to Saul, "Your servant has been keeping his father's sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock,

1 Sam 17:35 I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it.

So Jesus explains himself:

John 10:11 "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

John 10:12 The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it.

John 10:13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

Isa 40:11 He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.

In contrast we have the characteristics of a bad shepherd who is a hireling is described for us

in Ezekiel:

Ezek 34:2 "Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock?

Ezek 34:3 You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock.

Ezek 34:4 You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally.

This is repeated again in Zechariah:

Zec 11:16 For I am going to raise up a shepherd over the land who will not care for the lost, or seek the young, or heal the injured, or feed the healthy, but will eat the meat of the choice sheep, tearing off their hoofs.

Notice the characteristics

He will not care for the strayed or search for the lost

He will not seek the young

He will not strengthen the weak or heal the sick or injured

He will not feed the healthy

instead

He eats the meat of the choice sheep, tearing off their hoofs.

One characteristic of all shepherd tribes (this applies also to cowherd tribes also) is that they will not eat the meat of the sheep. This may sound queer. It is a taboo among all shepherding tribes to kill a sheep for meat, even when they are dying of hunger. Only an unethical shepherd kill to eat. The only time they normally have meat for food is when there is a sacrifice. Then the meat is to be shared among all the members of the tribe. They may eat the meat of a sheep who is dying or who cannot walk and therefore follow the pasture as the group move from place to place. If an animal falls down while in transit and it is not a lamb, the shepherds may eat its flesh instead of leaving the animal behind and wild animals preying on it. That is why the bad shepherd tears off the hoof of the sheep - so that the sheep may fall down and it may become an excuse .

So when Jesus said I am the good shepherd he meant all these:

He will care for the strayed or search for the lost

He will seek the young

He will strengthen the weak or heal the sick or injured

He will feed the healthy

6.2 To seek and to find

Our Lord in the story of the lost sheep beautifully paints the picture of the good shepherd. H cares for the lost. It does not matter whether the loosing was the mistake of the sheep or of any body else. The good shepherd goes after it. One of the major differences between other religions and Christianity is that god of all other religions wants men to seek after God. Jesus gives us a totally different picture of God. Man cannot really seek God nor can he find God of his own. This is simply because he is dead spiritually and cannot spiritually discern. Man does not even know that he is lost and caught up in a bush. Man is dead spiritually and dead cannot get up and run after the shepherd. So we have the picture of a God who comes down in search of man.

Man cannot of his own understand God. How can a finite being comprehend the infinite? The only way man is able to know God is when God reveals himself to Man. God being infinite is able to reveal himself to man. This he did through Jesus.

Mat 18:12 "What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?

Mat 18:13 And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off.

Mat 18:14 In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.

 

6.3 Shepherd knows his own and sheep knows his voice

John 10:2 The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep.

John 10:3 The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.

John 10:4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.

John 10:5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger's voice."

In actual practice this indeed is the case. The shepherd knows each one of his sheep in person. He can call them by name. As he leads the group they follow the call of the shepherd. They distinguish the call of the shepherd from other.

Do you know your shepherd?

John 10:8 All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.

There have been messiahs before Jesus. there have been messiahs after Jesus. Even today there are many who came to be God. This is what Jesus emphasizes. Jesus is the Shepherd. Those who came before him and there who claimed after him and still claiming godhead are thieves and robbers. The proof is the ultimate sacrifice. They have not laid down their lives for the sheep. Indeed they cannot. they simply feed on the meat of the choice sheep.

John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

6.4 I have other sheep

In his high priestly prayer just before he was laying down his life for many he declared the universality of his sheepfold. Until then messiah was the King of the Jews only. Now Jesus declares that his mesiaship is far beyond the narrow nationalistic boundaries that were set by the Jews. The call of the Jews was for the redemption of mankind. So he declares to the puzzled disciples:

John 10:16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.

Eph 2:15 His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace,

Eph 2:16 and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.

Eph 2:17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.

Eph 2:18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

But this was realized painfully through the calling of a new Apostle - Saul turned Paul.

Eph 3:2 Surely you have heard about the administration of God's grace that was given to me for you,

Eph 3:3 that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly.

Eph 3:4 In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ,

Eph 3:5 which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God's holy apostles and prophets.

Eph 3:6 This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.

Eph 3:7 I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God's grace given me through the working of his power.

6.5 Song of the Sheep Ps. 23

Psa 23:1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.

Psa 23:2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,

Psa 23:3 he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

Psa 23:4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ's sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed:

Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers--not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve;

not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.

1 Pet. 5:1-4