Fourth Sunday of Easter
May 3, 2020 - John 10:1-10
Jesus says, “He who does not enter through the door into the sheepfold but goes up from another place – that one is a thief and a robber. But he who enters through the door is the shepherd of the sheep.” Please join me in observing four actors in today’s Gospel reading – the thief, the shepherd, the sheep, and the door.
Jesus defines anyone who tries to enter the sheepfold through any means other than the door as a thief and a robber. What marks a thief? They won’t enter the sheep pen as it was intended to be entered. They sneak around creeping in the dark. Just the very idea that they refuse to go through the door of the sheep pen reveals they’re up to no good. They have evil intent. Jesus says they come to steal and kill and destroy. They work with self-serving intent. They have no true interest, no true investment in the sheep. All they see is that there are sheep that can get them some sort of gain. If sheep are lost in the process, so be it… the sheep aren’t really theirs after all, right? Those who enter from another way are definitely strangers.
The one who dares to enter through the door is the shepherd. The doorkeeper will allow him to come into the sheepfold in the proper way. He doesn’t have to sneak around. He doesn’t have to find another way. He strides right through the entrance, calling his sheep. He cares for the sheep. He has a vested interest in the sheep. They’re his sheep. How can you tell? Because he calls his sheep, they follow his voice, and the shepherd leads them all out to pasture. He looks to provide for and protect his sheep in a way that nobody else would be willing.
The sheep are vulnerable, and from what I understand they tend to wander into mischief. They need provision and protection. Yet, they know their shepherd by his voice. If someone else tries to call the sheep, they won’t recognize that voice and they won’t listen. They’ll flee from that voice. The sheep know their shepherd and they cling to his voice, following where he leads them. Just as the sheep belongs to the shepherd, so the shepherd belongs to the sheep.
Then there’s the door. The door forms a barrier between the sheep and the enemies outside. Also, outside is the pasture. So the shepherd will come through the door to bring out the sheep and safely lead them to pasture. The door is the only proper entrance to the sheep pen, and therefore becomes a visual cue as to whether someone has evil purpose or not. The door lets shepherd and sheep in and out of the pen.
Those who hear this figure of speech are confused. They don’t get it. What is Jesus talking about? What’s His point? Soooo… what is He saying?
The Lord says, “I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not here them. I am the door. If anyone enters through me, he will be saved and he will come in and he will go out and he will find pasture.”
Jesus is the door, the entryway. To get from one place to another, they must go through Jesus. This is Jesus’ consistent teaching that He is “the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Peter says, “There is salvation in no one else. For there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Jesus is the door, the only door to the sheep. Whoever enters through Him will be saved. They will find pasture. They’ll receive and experience abundant life.
Anybody who enters the sheepfold by any way other than the door is a thief and robber. Jesus says that those who came before Him were thieves and robbers. Why? Some of the history of the Old Testament Israelites involve idolatry. Forgiveness and salvation come through the grace and mercy of the Lord as revealed in Jesus Christ, but many of the leaders sought to lead the Israelites astray to worship false gods. They tried to enter the pen by another way. They showed themselves to be thieves and robbers.
Others such as the scribes and Pharisees are thieves and robbers because they try to get to the sheep pen through good works. They say that doing the Law is how the people will find salvation. Yet, they do nothing to help the people keep the Law because they like to be able to lord it over the people. They have no interest in the sheep. They’re after their own gain. They don’t teach the grace and mercy of God which brings forgiveness and salvation through Jesus – instead they try to use the sheep for their selfish cares and personal profits.
Thieves and robbers act much in the same way today. Some thieves and robbers in the world claim that we must follow a way other than through the door of the sheep pen – following one of the many other gods, or trusting in money and wealth and financial security, or trusting in science to end sickness and disaster that bring death, or that the pasture is having as much fun here and now while we can, or trusting in ourselves to find pasture, or there are some thieves and robbers that say there’s no pasture at all – we’re here today, gone tomorrow and that’s it.
There are so many thieves and robbers – many voices – trying to steal away the sheep. They wear fancy suits and fill your ears with what always makes you feel good. They may look like they’re having so much fun. They may seem so wise and knowledgeable. You spend every moment of every day being influenced by what you see, what you hear, what you experience. All of these come from one of two places – the door or another place – that is, Christ or the world. And if they come from anywhere apart from Christ there’s only one end – they come to steal and kill and destroy. For there is salvation in one place and one place only – the door, Christ.
There is one who enters through the door – the shepherd – the pastor. Pastor means shepherd. The pastor enters through the door – Christ – and leads the sheep out through the door – Christ – and brings them to abundant life, abundant pasture. The door gives entry to the shepherd – pastor that he may do this. You see, the faithful pastor will enter the sheepfold through Christ. Everything he does as he interacts with the sheep is shaped and molded through the door. It’s his perspective. That’s his focal point – the door. He doesn’t go to the sheep through another way – but always through Christ.
UNLIKE A THIEF, A SHEPHERD ENTERS THROUH THE DOOR TO CALL SHEEP TO PASTURE
The pastor cares for the flock. He has an interest in the flock. They are his sheep. He calls to His sheep through the door – through Christ – speaking words that are shaped and formed by the door. The pastor’s message – my message – is to be conformed to Christ and nothing else. That means if I have to speak a word that seems harsh to the world, I have to speak it regardless of whether anyone wants to hear it or not, because it aligns with Christ. If I have to speak a message that seems silly to the world, I have to speak it regardless of whether anyone wants to hear it or not, because it aligns with Christ.
There are many uncomfortable, angering, guilt inducing things that pastors must preach to sinners. They don’t want to hear it. Some may rebel against it, but the faithful sheep will follow. There are many things that seem silly to the world. Some may be led into thinking its silly. Some may be led astray, but the faithful sheep will follow. For the voice of the faithful pastor is not His own, but the Lord’s. Jesus says, “He who hears you, hears me.” So sometimes the pastor will bring a harsh word, but it’s a loving Word meant to direct the sheep to Christ and His forgiveness. Faithful pastors rebuke sin, that they may declare forgiveness.
So you’re the flock of God. You listen to your shepherd – the pastor – knowing that he’s the under-shepherd of the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ. You listen to Christ’s Word and you follow, and you’re led to lush, green pastures because through Christ comes the abundance of life. Pastors aren’t only shepherds, but they’re also part of the flock, called out from the flock to shepherd the flock. So we all go in and go out through the door of Christ to the pasture.
We hear His voice together in Baptism, as we are declared to be God’s children. We hear His voice together through the absolution where the forgiveness of God is declared. We hear His voice together in His Supper where He promises to be with us under the bread and wine with His body and blood – and that these forgive our sins. These gifts come through Christ, and by these gifts you have an abundance of life. You have it now, with the peace that passes all understanding in Christ, and you have it eternally – for He who rose from the dead will raise you and all His sheep from the dead on the last day, to enter eternal paradise. Alleluia, Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, Alleluia! Amen.