Lent Midweek 3 – March 7th, 2012 – I Am the Door
In the Name of Christ the Crucified +
Our verse for tonight, our Lord saying “I am the door of the sheep” is one of shame for me. In the spring of 2000, down in Norman, I was a college student taking his Greek test to pass out of Greek at the Seminary, and when finished the test, I walked into Pastor Nehrenz’s office and said, “What in the world is a probata – I know it’s ‘I Am the door to something, but what in the world is that?’” I read Homer, you had swords and armies, you didn’t talk about sheep. So this verse has stuck with me for rather embarrassing reasons for quite some time. It’s interesting though, when we think about the things that Christ is, all the I AM statements, “door” ranks pretty low. In fact, of all of these midweek sermons, this is probably the least familiar – if I had been familiar with it, I wouldn’t have blown the answer on the test. So let’s consider our text and see what our Lord teaches.
First, let’s consider the first verse: “Truly, truly, I say unto you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way; that man is a thief and a robber.” This is our context. You’ve got a sheep-pen, where the sheep are gathered nice and safely. If you are supposed to be dealing with the sheep, you enter through the door of the pen. Makes sense. But if you aren’t supposed to be dealing with the sheep, if you are there to mess with them, there to steal, there to rob, you slink in, you creep in some other way, and you snatch them away, maybe entice a few with some grass, some feed, get them to come to you and then abscond with them. And we can think about modern ways of saying this – if I drive by a house at night and see a guy walking through the front door, I don’t think much of it. If I see him crawling in a side window… I call the police. If you aren’t coming in through the door, you are probably up to no good.
Now, realize that our passage is describing the Church – the Church is the sheep pen, and you guys are the sheep. Now, how does someone rightly approach you? “But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.” Keep in mind that the Latin Word for “shepherd” is “Pastor”. And yes, next week we are going to talk about Jesus being the Good Shepherd, so don’t jump there yet – He’s the door tonight. If someone is going to be a right and properly called pastor, how does he come to the Church? Through the door. Through Christ. And openly so – the gatekeeper knows who he is. This is part of the reason why the Lutheran Church has always kept the practice of having our pastors be both called and ordained. A pastor is to be called by the local church – where they acknowledge and say, “Yes, you are our pastor” and they are to have been ordained, acknowledged by the other pastors who say, “Yes, you are indeed a pastor.” That’s why the absolution reads, “I as a called and ordained servant of the Word announce the grace of God unto all of you, and in the stead and by the command of My Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you all your sins.” Stead and Command. There’s no sneaking around, there’s no mystery as to why I’m here – it’s all open and straight forward – I have been called here to preach Christ and Him crucified for the forgiveness of sins – that’s the voice, the words that you need to hear.
And then we get to the crux of the issue at hand – “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.” When I come to you to do my pastor stuff, how am I to approach you? How am I to come? Sneaking through a window? No, I come through the door, through Christ Jesus, and everything I say or teach is to be focused on Christ the Crucified who has died for the forgiveness of your sins and risen so that you will have eternal life. He is the door – He is the way in which the sheep are to be accessed… and if I’m dealing with you without Christ, without proclaiming His salvation, then I have fallen into false doctrine and error.
This passage shows us how to spot false doctrine. “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” If it’s not focused on Christ, if it’s not about the forgiveness of sins, it’s false doctrine, meant to kill and destroy your faith in Christ. As Christians, as God’s own precious lambs, you know how to recognize false doctrine. And the simplest way to check is to listen for the voice of the Good Shepherd – is the preaching, is the teaching giving you Christ and Him Crucified for you so that you may have life and have it abundantly. And not “wealth”, not the trappings of this world, not stuff – but that you may have life – that you might rise out of your grave because your Lord has come to call you out of it. If the preaching is just about having stuff now – this is the place where rust and moth destroy. Satan wants you focused here, and he stirs up pious sounding scoundrels who preach wealth and health and anything but Christ and Him crucified for the forgiveness of sins. Christ came that you may have life.
This is to be the focus of preaching. If there comes a time when the sermons I preach no longer give you Christ and His forgiveness, get rid of me. I say this not only for your sake, but for mine – because if I fall that far your kicking me to the curb may very well be the thing that brings me back to my senses, returns my focus to Christ. But if you will for a moment, consider that life and life abundantly is also the point of the sacraments. What’s the point of baptism, what does it give? “It works forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.” Or what does such baptizing with water signify? “It signifies that the old Adam in us should, by daily contrition and repentance, be drowned and die with all sins and evil lusts, and, again, a new man daily come forth and arise; who shall live before God in righteousness and purity forever.” Life, and life abundantly.
Or consider the Lord’s Supper. What is the benefit of such eating and drinking? “That is shown us in these words: Given, and shed for you, for the remission of sins; namely, that in the Sacrament forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are given us through these words. For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.” Again, life, and abundant, everlasting life. And if you didn’t notice, all I was doing there was quoting from the Small Catechism. The reason some stodgy old pastor, or perhaps some stodgy young pastor tried to get to you memorize it was so that when thieves and robbers preach junk at you, you’d know to reject it.
Christ Jesus is the door. He is the right and proper way for you to be approached, the right and proper way for you to receive life. And if some so called teacher wants to tell you about “God” – about how things are, and he’s not preaching Christ and Him Crucified, if he’s telling you some other “Gospel” that isn’t focused on the death and resurrection of Christ for you – stop up your ears. You are God’s sheep, don’t listen to false voices. And you will know these false preachers by their works – for they do not show the works of Christ for you, they show some other works. Flee them. But when you hear your pastor enter by the door, enter bringing Christ and Him crucified, rejoice, because in receiving Christ, you receive life everlasting. In the Name of Christ the Crucified +