Why does Jesus call Himself ‘the Door’ in John 10? How is Jesus the door, and even more importantly, if He is the Door what does it mean to us today?
In John 10:7 Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep” ESV.
Again a couple of verses after He repeats, “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture” John 10:9 ESV.
Jesus’ claim resounded rich with meaning to His listening audience in their context and time. While those words scandalized religious rulers of His day, His declaration offers us solid hinges upon which to rest the door of our faith.
What Does 'I Am the Door' Mean?
Let’s look at the biblical concept of Shepherd-King in order to better understand what ‘I Am the Door’ means.
Woven through Scripture many men of God worked both as sheep tenders and leaders of people. Political and religious rulers were often referred to as shepherds. In fact, many Old Testament leaders served as shepherds on the hills of Israel and Judah. Jacob, Moses, and David cared for flocks before leading God’s people.
“The Lord is my shepherd,” David declares in the well-known passage of Psalm 23:1 ESV.
God often refers to Himself as the shepherd of His people. He refers to His people as His sheep and the sheepfold as those possessing eternal life. The imagery of sheep following a shepherd was well-known and common to see.
Ezekiel writes, “And you are my sheep, human sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Lord God” Ezekiel 34:31 ESV.
Biblical history recounts God shepherding His people through His designated leaders. David fulfilled the prophecy to become the shepherd line through which the Messiah Good Shepherd would one day be King.
Jesus’ statement, “I am the door,” reflected Eastern customs of towns gathering scattered flocks into one common sheepfold.
Shepherds either took turns to guard or were designated as gatekeepers. They stayed with the sheep throughout the night, protecting the fold from predators and robbers.
A gatekeeper then served as a type of doorway to the sheep, often spending the night prone across the narrow entrance to the sheepfold.
Jesus in the context of John 9-10 contrasts Himself with the Pharisees and religious rulers of the day. Bad shepherds and false leaders understood the reference pointed toward them, but their real outrage came in Jesus’ claim to being the promised Shepherd-Messiah.
Religious rulers, steeped in the laws of Moses, listened to Jesus speak and understood the significance of His words.
“I am the Door,” is the third of seven recorded “I Am” declarations in John. Through this statement, Jesus claimed divinity and Himself as the passageway, The Door, to the Father.
What Is the Context of Revelation 3 and I Am the Door?
The same John who penned Jesus’ words in John 10 authored Revelation, the final book of the Bible. In the context of Revelation 3 a much older John announces to the church in Laodicea, modern-day Turkey, a lack in their spiritual state.
“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me” Rev. 3:20 ESV.
Caught in the rampant persecution of the day, John wrote the book of Revelation from the tiny island of Patmos where he was exiled for his faith.
In an expose of seven churches in seven locations, he praised and chided, revealing their various strengths and weaknesses. The church at Laodicea came under scrutiny for its lack of fervent spirituality. It was “neither hot nor cold” Rev. 3:16 ESV.
Although the context is written to believers within a church body, it echoes back to Jesus’ declaration as The Door. His plea in John 10:9, “If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture,” coincides with Revelation 3:20, “If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”
Christ desired fellowship with His followers. An open door allowed unhindered passage and communication with the Father, it bid access and communion.
The Laodicean church languished in lukewarmness, unaware and unbothered by its barrier and lack of passion. Wealth convinced them they had no needs. But in fact, they had no clue of just how “wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked” they really were (Rev. 3:17).
They were like sheep needing a Shepherd’s care. Christ desired much more for them. He called for repentance and offered treasures of vibrant spiritual relationships. Jesus patiently waited for their response to His voice. He stood at their heart’s door and knocked, waiting for all obstacles to be removed, to commune as brothers.
John understood the immense significance of Jesus’ sacrifice for our salvation. He knew the immeasurable prize of an open door, of unhindered opening to God. This tender appeal from the Father displays the earnest desire for all hindrances to be broken and fellowship renewed. A Loving Savior knocked.
John bade the church at Laodicea to repent, turn from their sin, to remove whatever stood between. He pled for the clear passageway of sins forgiven. Followers of Christ today, our eagerness to be rid of hindrances in our spiritual path, indicates how deeply we thirst to remove all barriers and draw close to Jesus.
What Does the Bible Have to Say about Doors?
The Bible has a lot to say about doors both literally and figuratively. They open and shut. They have an inside and outside, provide access or denial and give freedom or captivity.
In the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot shut a physical door against the wicked men of the city (Genesis 19:6). When God led His people out of Egypt, the final plague required the Israelites to put blood on their doorposts signaling the angel of death to pass by (Exodus 12:22-23). Rhoda left Peter at the door of the house where he knocked after his miraculous escape from prison (Acts 12:12-16).
The Bible speaks of doors symbolically as passageways, communication, agreement, or opportunity.
Matthew 25:10 Jesus tells a parable about 10 virgins and a shut door.
Luke 13:22-28 Jesus relates a parable about the narrow door.
Acts 14:27 speaks about an open door for Gentile faith.
1 Corinthians 16:9 Paul talks of a door open for effective work with opposition.
2 Corinthians 2:12 refers to an open door to preach.
Revelation 3:8 proclaims an open door no one can shut.
Is Christianity a 'Gatekeeping Religion'?
Sometimes as a question, other times an accusation, the challenge of whether or not Christianity is a ‘Gatekeeping Religion’ begs an answer.
Scripture tells us: “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” 1 Timothy 2:5 ESV.
He is the gatekeeper.
Biblical Christianity invites everyone, yet it is clear that Christ alone is the Door. All worldviews are exclusive in their own ways, each with their own master, creed, belief, or even unbelief. Negativity surrounds our cultural misconceptions of gatekeeping but our look back to the ancient customs brings a much different perspective. The gatekeeper is a merciful Savior and Lover of the sheep.
Only Jesus, the Good Shepherd laid down His life for His people. His sacrifice on the cross for our sins provides for an open gate for all to enter into eternal life. Salvation came with a price only the sinless Son of God could redeem but is offered freely to all who believe.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” John 3:16 ESV.
It is with the outstretched arms of a Good Shepherd and the tender love of a Father, He invites us into His fold.
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/Grafner
Sylvia Schroeder loves connecting God’s Word with real life and writing about it. She is a contributing writer for a variety of magazines and online sites. Sylvia is co-author of a devotional book and her writing is included in several book compilations. Mom to four, grandma to 14, and wife to her one and only love, Sylvia enjoys writing about all of them.
Her love for pasta and all things Italian stems from years of ministry abroad. She’d love to tell you about it over a steaming cup of cappuccino. Connect with Sylvia on her blog, When the House is Quiet, her Facebook page, or Twitter.
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