As we move into Jesus’ second story, the scene changes. There is still the shepherd and his sheep, but the setting shifts from a village to the open fields. In this parable, there is no gatekeeper guarding the pen—that task now belongs to the shepherd himself.
“So Jesus said to them again, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly’” (John 10:7-10).
Just like the first story, the shepherd has been leading his sheep to quiet waters and rich grazing ground throughout the day. Now dusk is settling in, and rather than bringing his sheep back to the village, the shepherd decides to spend the night in the countryside, but the sheep still need protection. The shepherd finds a cave to use as a temporary pen—a makeshift enclosure that has no doors to lock or gatekeepers to hire. So, the shepherd needs to take his place in the opening. He needs to become the door for the sheep. They need to pass through him.
As dusk turns to night, the shepherd stands by the cave’s entrance and places his rod across the open door. He calls each sheep by name and the sheep walk and stand before their shepherd. The shepherd inspects each one of them, anointing the wounded with oil and giving water to the thirsty; counting each sheep to make sure none has been lost. He determines which sheep enter his pen. Sheep from other flocks are turned away, other animals are fought off.
The shepherd was the door. He stood as the human gate the sheep had to pass through to enter the fold.
The Saving Shepherd
Once again, the image is a simple one, but the meaning is profound. Jesus is speaking of Himself. He says, “I am the door.” But what is the cave in the story? That’s salvation! “If anyone enters through Me, he will be saved”—saved from the many predators that roamed the open fields at night, looking for a midnight meal. Jesus is illustrating salvation from sin, deliverance from divine punishment, and rescue from eternal wrath.
The point of this second story is that there is only one way that leads to eternal salvation—one door into God’s fold, one entrance into God’s house. That door is Jesus. He’s not just a door, He’s the door. He is the shepherd who will one day call each sheep by name and inspect every sheep before He lets them into God’s heaven. Jesus is the door through which man must pass if he is going to be saved from his sins.
This was Jesus’ consistent message throughout His entire life: salvation from sin, release from punishment, and rescue from judgment are experienced only through Him.
John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
John 3:36 – “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”
John 14:6 – “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.’”
The Thieves in the Story
However, today many believe there are other doors that lead to God, other saviors who provide entrance into God’s heaven. Jesus warns about a thief in this story, “the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” Thieves roamed the open fields looking for unguarded sheep to snatch and kill.
The thief of the story represents every false religion that promises salvation outside of Jesus. Jesus used the word destroy to describe what these thieves do because that is what the thieves and liars bring. It’s a word that means “perish,” a word used by Jesus on other occasions to describe eternal Hell,[i] the very opposite of the salvation the shepherd promises his sheep.
“Beware of these thieves,” Jesus says. “Be on the lookout for anyone who promises salvation through other saviors, other ways, other doors. Those are not shepherds you should follow. They are bandits who lead only to your spiritual death.”
Let me give you some examples of the thieves that prowl around today.
- The Moralist – “You can be moral enough, good enough, to earn God’s favor.”
- The Legalist – “You can follow a list of dos and don’ts (i.e., say enough prayers, do enough religious ceremonies, pay enough money) to enter God’s presence.”
- The Rationalist – “There is no spiritual realm or eternal life. This world is all there is.”
- The Hedonist – “Pursuit of pleasure is the highest virtue of life, and so you should live for the moment and do whatever makes you happiest.”
- The Secularist – “The worth of humans is found apart from God.”
- The Agnostic – “God is unknowable.”
- The Atheist – “There is no God.”
- The Modernist – “Man determines reality and truth.”
Each is a thief that kills and destroys your soul.
Sheep in a Perfect Pasture
How different Jesus’ Gospel is! His Gospel of salvation doesn’t kill; it saves. It doesn’t lead to death; it leads to life.
The shepherd’s flock grazes in a luscious prairie. They “go in and out and find pasture.” Jesus’ sheep are happy and content, allowed to roam in a perfect meadow, eating their fill, fully satisfied—exactly what God promised in the Old Testament to all who find salvation in Him. Listen to God’s promise, “I will feed them in a good pasture, and their grazing ground will be on the mountain heights of Israel. There they will lie down on good grazing ground and feed in rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I will feed My flock and I will lead them to rest” (Ezekiel 34:14-15). Food. Satisfaction. Rest. Safety. All pictures of the blessings Jesus grants His sheep.
Eternal life is God’s pasture. This is the reason Jesus came from heaven to earth, “I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly”—that is to say, “I have come so that you might graze in My Father’s perfect pasture forever.” No lack, no want, no fear, no sorrow; only satisfaction and joy will one day be experienced by God’s sheep.
The Door Will Not Always Be Open
As we conclude this second story, let’s make it somewhat personal.
Not everyone enters this perfect pasture. The only way to experience the spiritual protection of God and the fullness of joy in His presence is by entering through the only door He has provided, Jesus. And yet, that door will not always be open.
J.C. Ryle, a pastor from the late 1800’s, put it like this,
"In the highest sense [Jesus] is “the door.” No one “can come to the Father” but by Him….Let us take heed that we use this door, and do not merely stand outside looking at it. It is a door free and open to the chief of sinners: “If any man enter in by it, he shall be saved.” It is a door within which we shall find a full and constant supply for every want of our souls. We shall find that we can “go in and out,” and enjoy liberty and peace. The day comes when this door will be shut forever, and men shall strive to enter in, but not be able. Then let us make sure work of our own salvation. Let us not stand tarrying without, and halting between two opinions. Let us enter in and be saved."[ii]
Back to the Question
Back to the question we started with: Who is Jesus? He is the only shepherd who can lead you into God’s pasture. He is the only path that leads into God’s presence. He is the only door that leads to eternal life.
But there is still one more story in this trilogy—a final story, with a shocking twist.
Read about the third story and the question "Who is Jesus? " in Part 4.
[i] Read the following verses to learn more about what Jesus had to say about Hell: Matthew 5:22; 12:5; 22:13; 25:30.
[ii] J.C. Ryle, “St. John” in Expository Thoughts on the Gospels (New York: Robert Carter and Brothers, 1878), 178.