What did Jesus mean when He said “I am the door of the sheep”?

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What did Jesus mean by "I am the door of the sheep"? Listen to the talk here on one of the "I am statements" in John's gospel from Chapter 10: 1-10. #drawingontheword #dotw #iamthedoor #iamthegate #iamthedoorofthesheep #imthegateofthesheep #iamsayings

In the 2015 disaster movie San Andreas, a massive earthquake hits California. While Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is the main star, Aussie pop princess Kylie Minogue has a surprising but amusing cameo in the film.

Kylie plays a rather snooty character, who is grilling Carla Gucino (who plays the Rock’s ex-wife) over lunch while dining at a fancy restaurant on the top floor of a skyscraper.

Suddenly an earthquake hits and the building begins shaking violently. As panic ensues, Carla tells Kylie that they need to get to the roof. So without a second thought, the pop princess races to the nearest exit, screaming the title of one her hit songs “Get outta my way”, as she slams the door shut behind her.

Carla follows her and opens the door, but to her horror, she sees that the entire section of the building has disappeared. Kylie has plunged 50 stories to her death.

In real life, we are often faced with different doors or choices. Some of these may lead to a better life or future, while others can lead to failure, defeat or even death.

In John 10: 7, Jesus refers to himself as the door of the sheep, which is sometimes translated as the gate of the sheep. In fact, the whole of chapter 10:1-21 uses these metaphors of a door or gate, of gaining access to something else, and the idea of Jesus as a good shepherd watching over us.

What does Jesus mean by this, and how can we take this truth and apply it to our own lives?


What is the context of Jesus saying “I am the door of the sheep”?

Jesus heals a man born blind
Image credit: Free Bible Images, courtesy of www.LumoProject.com.


Why does Jesus suddenly start talking about himself as the door of the sheep and using this kind of metaphor?

The context is John Chapter 9. This is where Jesus healed a man who had been born blind.

Jesus spat on the ground and made a paste out of mud and his spit and rubbed it on the man’s eyes. Then He told him to wash his face in the Pool of Siloam. After the man did this, he was able to see.  Naturally, he wanted to know who had healed him, so Jesus spoke to him. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Now you’d think this miracle would make everyone happy. But some people were sceptical. “Was it even the same man?” some asked. The Pharisees too were doubtful. They called his parents over and began to grill them with questions, asking them to verify their son’s identity.

The Pharisees took a legalistic approach to the healing and the fact that Jesus performed it on the Sabbath. This was the day that there wasn’t supposed to be any work done. Therefore, the healing was breaking their laws.

After arguing with the man for a short while, they eventually cast him out of the synagogue. In their eyes, the former blind man couldn’t possibly have experienced God, since he wasn’t healed in the way that they expected God to heal. This healing couldn’t be valid.

Instead of rejoicing that the blind man had experienced God, they decided they would act as a block or obstacle to access God. They were trying to be a door to God themselves.

This is why Jesus then replies in John chapter 10, “I am the door of the sheep.” There is no real break between chapter 9 and 10. It’s still the same scene, and Jesus is addressing the same people.

Jesus is essentially saying “I am the door, not you. I am the one who decides who comes in and who goes out, and who experiences God.”


Why does Jesus use the imagery of the door of the sheep?

Shepherd acting as a door or gate for the sheep in a sheep pen

When Jesus refers to himself as the door or gate of the sheep, he’s using a familiar metaphor for his listeners. It would’ve been commonplace to see shepherds and sheep wandering around.

Jesus draws his metaphor from the imagery of a sheep pen, which was an enclosure usually made of stone walls. At night, the shepherds would bring the sheep in there to allow them to rest securely. The sheep would enter one at a time, while the shepherd would stop each sheep with his rod and check each one out for wounds. He would let them through one by one and drop his rod over the next one and when he had examined him, would let the sheep in.

Shepherds would even share a sheep pen and put all their animals in this enclosure. All of the village sheep would be in one fold which was the place of protection.

Historians have found evidence that when these shepherds put the sheep in the pen at night, the shepherds would lie across the front of the pen and would act as a guard.  They were effectively a door or gate for the sheep pen. This was not only to prevent predators getting in but to prevent sheep getting out. The shepherds would lay across and fall asleep there or stay watch. The sheep would go in or out only with the shepherd’s care.

It’s an image like this that we get when we read John 10.


Implications for us

While we could have a long and detailed discussion on this passage, there are 3 main things I want to focus on, all beginning with the letter “I”.

1 Idols What kind of doors are we seeking instead of Jesus?

2 Impediment Are there any ways in which we are trying to be a door for someone else and blocking their path?

3 Invitation How and why is Jesus the only door through which we can enter?


1 Idols – What kind of false doors are we seeking instead?

All who enter another way are thieves and robbers
Image credit: Free Bible Images, courtesy of www.LumoProject.com.


In John 10: 7-10, Jesus says:

“Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.[a] They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 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.” (NIV)

Jesus talks about life in all its fullness here or life in abundance. What does he mean by this?

Well in John’s gospel, it also has the same meaning as eternal life. However, whenever Jesus uses that phrase in this gospel, it is not only something that is reserved for the future. It is also something we can experience here and now.

Eternal life also corresponds to the phrase that Jesus utters at the end of verse 10, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

How many times do we try to experience life in all its fullness on our own apart from Jesus? How many times do we try to find pasture on our own?

We try to save ourselves by seeking our own doors. These doors are idols – something we place over and above God to give our life meaning or significance. We can spend our lives trying to open all kinds of other doors in the hope that it will bring pleasure, success, hope or significance.

Some of these can be legitimate things like relationships or children, or even wanting to be successful. They are good things in themselves. But when we seek to achieve them in the hope that they will satisfy and give us a sense of identity, then they’re ultimately an idol. When we place all of our hope in these things, they will not bring life in all its fullness like Jesus has promised.

It is only through Jesus that we can feel truly significant and that our life can have true meaning.

Jesus is the door through whom we find pasture and life in all its fullness.


2 Impediments – Are there any ways in which we are blocking someone else’s path?

The Pharisees question the healing
Image credit: Free Bible Images, courtesy of www.LumoProject.com.


The Pharisees at the end of chapter 9 declared that the former blind man was born in sin. They believed he was such a broken individual and sinner that he couldn’t possibly come to God. Being filled with scorn for him, they threw him out of the synagogue.

The Pharisees were trying to decide for themselves who could have access to God. Similarly, even Jesus’ own disciples were in danger of acting as a door at the start of chapter 9 when they asked Jesus who was responsible for the man’s blindness. Was it his own sin or his parents?

However, Jesus contrasts himself with the Pharisees. He says effectively,  “I am the door of the sheep. I am the one who is going to allow him to come to God.”

How often can we treat others as inferior in some way? We can marginalise them by labelling them in some way and saying that they don’t belong because they’re not quite like us. We can create an impediment for them to come to God.

Like the Pharisees, we can look upon them with suspicious and scorn, believing that a person can’t possibly be near God. On the other hand, we can also have an inflated opinion of ourselves, acting self-righteously like the Pharisees and believing we are close to God.

Jesus is tells the Pharisees that he is the only way to a relationship with God. He is the only way to life eternal and life in all its fullness. Jesus is the only one through whom we can be forgiven.

Now while this is a warning to the Pharisees and to use to stop acting as a door to prevent people coming in, it can also serve as an encouragement as well.

How often do we try to take things into our own hands to get people into the kingdom of God? Maybe we think that if only our friends are able to hear a certain speaker or able to come to a special event, then they’ll surely be saved.

But Jesus says “I am the door of the sheep. All who enter through me will be saved.”

We can end up doing things in our own strength and inadvertently believing it is either our own efforts or the charisma of someone else that will make all of the difference.

We can’t be a door to salvation for others, and we can’t make other speakers or preachers that door either. Jesus alone is the door.


An invitation to all

Jesus invites us to enter through the door
Image credit: Free Bible Images, courtesy of www.LumoProject.com.


Jesus says in verse 9: “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.”

Let’s think about this verse in more detail. In the first part of it, Jesus says “If anyone would enter by me”

This is an invitation. An invitation to all.

Jesus is inviting everyone – even the Pharisees. However, the Pharisees miss who he is – as he invites them in, they miss him.

They are unable to see the door in front of them, even though they have been accusing the man who was born blind of being in sin. Even though the light of the world shines in front of them, they are still spiritually blind.

But the 2nd part of verse 9 is a promise of salvation. Jesus says “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.”

Jesus promises all those entering through him will be saved. This is similar to what he says in John 14:6 where he says “I am the way, the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me.”

It’s through Jesus alone that our salvation comes. He is the door of the sheep. All other ways, all other doors ultimately lead to death. Jesus is the door of life where we become part of His flock.

Not only is it a promise of salvation, but also a promise of peace. Jesus says “They will come in and go out, and find pasture.”

What does Jesus mean by this?

Well, this hearkens back to a passage found in Ezekiel 34:25-31 which says:

25 “‘I will make a covenant of peace with them and rid the land of savage beasts so that they may live in the wilderness and sleep in the forests in safety. 26 I will make them and the places surrounding my hill a blessing. I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessing.27 The trees will yield their fruit and the ground will yield its crops; the people will be secure in their land. They will know that I am the Lord, when I break the bars of their yoke and rescue them from the hands of those who enslaved them. 28 They will no longer be plundered by the nations, nor will wild animals devour them. They will live in safety, and no one will make them afraid. 29 I will provide for them a land renowned for its crops, and they will no longer be victims of famine in the land or bear the scorn of the nations. 30 Then they will know that I, the Lord their God, am with them and that they, the Israelites, are my people, declares the Sovereign Lord. 31 You are my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Sovereign Lord.’” (NIV)

God says he will make a covenant of peace with us. He has achieved this through what Jesus did for us on the cross. But it’s not just a covenant of peace with himself but with others as well. The peace of Jesus Christ reconciles us back to God and reconciles us with each other.

Indeed, in Ephesians 2:14-16, Paul talks about how Jesus has torn down the dividing wall between us:

14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.

Therefore, knowing that through Jesus we have peace, hope and salvation, how will we respond to his invitation to enter through his door?



If you want to hear the audio version of this post, you can check it out here.

Are you seeking to go through other doors in your life instead of the door of Jesus Christ?

Are you trying to be a door for someone else?

And how will you respond to Jesus’ invitation to enter through His door?

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. I’m studying up to preach on this passage this week. Your article was one of the top links–and deservedly so. Thanks for this clear explication here.

  2. Thanks for posting this.

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