There’s more to Jesus’ statement than meets the eye.
It’s such a privilege to welcome back teacher extraordinaire, author and speaker Lauren Crews, a regular guest here at Five Stones and a Sling. I’m very grateful that Lauren’s providing her fascinating insights this week while I’m on deadline with my novel. Thanks, Lauren!
A Guest Post by Lauren Crews
“I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.” (John 10:9 NASB)
In my home, we celebrate both Passover and Resurrection Day. I’m not Jewish, but Jesus was. As I’ve learned more about the life of Jesus I’ve come to embrace the Jewishness of His life. This includes not only the celebration of His culture, but also the way He would have studied and taught Torah. As a Christian, knowing some of these nuances has helped me better understand God’s word.
One aspect of God’s word I’ve enjoyed studying are the I AM statements of Jesus. Jesus made each announcement with the backdrop of a feast or timing important to the Jewish calendar. The parallels for some of his statements are easy to recognize.
I am the Bread of Life relates to both the sustaining manna in the desert and the pierced challah placed on the Table of Showbread in the Temple.
I am the Great Shepherd relates to the messianic prophecy that Messiah would be both a king and a shepherd.
But why would Jesus call himself a door in John 10:9? We are tempted to read through this passage of John with the quick understanding that this statement expounds His teaching on the Good Shepherd. For Western readers (that’s us), we understand the passage to say He’s not only our shepherd, but He’s also the gate, or door, to the sheep pen as well. This line of thought gives us our first layer of understanding- a good lesson of comfort and protection. For the Jewish listener, this statement, as well as the words surrounding it, are packed with remarkable insight.
Jesus had just healed a blind man by putting mud in the man’s eyes. The Pharisees questioned the man, and when he challenged them a bit, their response was, “Well, you are His disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses; but as for this man, we do know where He is from.” (John 9:26)
The recounting of the Pharisees’ rebuke to the man spread swiftly through the Temple area and reached Jesus. I can imagine after the Pharisees sent the healed man from their presence, they secretly followed him through the city as he returned to Jesus. When Jesus spoke again to the man, He noticed the Pharisees lurking in the background, watching to see what this rabbi from Galilee would do next. What Jesus said next would have struck them like a lightning bolt.
“I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.” (John 10:9 NASB)
If you were a student of scripture during the time of Christ, it was imperative you memorized Torah. Even the common people did to some extent. Rabbis would begin their teachings by stating the first few words of a passage with the expectation that the disciples would repeat the remainder. Or, words from the passage would be used to indicate the context and topic of teaching.
For example, if your pastor were to say, “Our Father, who art in heaven,” you would respond with, “Hallowed be Thy name,” and finish the prayer. By saying, “If anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out,” Jesus was referring to Numbers 27:15-17 which tells us:
Then Moses spoke to the LORD, saying, “May the LORD, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation, who will go out and come in before them, and who will lead them out and bring them in, so that the congregation of the LORD will not be like sheep which have no shepherd.” (Numbers 27:15-17)
Jesus was directly challenging the Pharisees’ claim to be disciples of Moses and challenging their authority as leaders of Israel who would be over “all who go out and come in” before the Lord. Another layer of understanding.
This door, leader (or shepherd) is essential. It was the protective boundary for the sheep. If the door was secure, the sheep were at peace. We should remember, only sheep kept domestically or at the temple were in pens with a gate. Most sheep grazed under the watchful eye of the shepherd throughout the countryside of Israel. At night they would be led into a cave for protection from the elements and predators. The door to enclose this makeshift sheepfold was often a wall built across cave entrance made of stones and topped with thorns.
An astute student of Hebrew scripture may have also recognized a reference to the story of Gideon in Judges. During the time of Judges, the sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, a phrase repeated throughout the book. As the Midians prevailed, the Israelites were forced to flee to the mountains and take cover in caves. Their strongholds would have been enclosed similarly to the makeshift sheepfolds. The contrast in this story is that the Israelites would not be at peace. Chaos through the Midians continued to rage against them. Eventually, Gideon met with the Lord, built an altar, named it Jehovah Shalom and the Israelites defeated the Midians. (Judges 6:16-27)
Shalom is more than just peace. It shares a root with the word Shabbat, which means rest, but it also implies “to cease” and “to finish.” When we consider the Hebrew spelling shin, lamed, vav, mem, the letters are even more telling.
True shalom is to nail down and destroy the leader of chaos firmly.
Another rendering of a door would be to understand what door is in Hebrew. The letter “D” in Hebrew is Dalet. The written image of dalet resembles an animal skin hanging from the lintel, a home’s entrance. The word picture is a door.
In the Old Testament, the door held an important, symbolic role in the salvation of the Israelites. The Israelites were instructed to spread blood across their lintel and down their doorposts to survive Egypt’s final plague of death. This would prevent the angel of death from entering their home. (Exodus 12:22) Another layer of understanding.
When Jesus said, “I AM the Door,” he was challenging the religious practices of the time. He was proclaiming He was Messiah – the door, covered with the blood of His sacrifice so the angel of death would pass over you and me. His statement tells us that not only is He the good shepherd, but He is also the protective door for his sheep. Crowned with thorns, He will ultimately destroy Satan, the leader of chaos. As Jesus said, “It is finished,” He became the only door through which we can enter the presence of God.
Consider another exciting word picture. Although the word is not used this way in Scripture, the modern Hebrew word for religion is dat, spelled dalet tav – דָת. The word picture of those letters together shows that our access to the spiritual world of God is through dalet (word picture door) and tav (word picture cross) or the door to the cross.
Aren’t the layers of God’s word profound? It sure makes you think differently about an ordinary door.
By Lauren Crews, MDiv.
As a Bible teacher and speaker, Lauren is excited to encourage Christians to explore and understand the Jewish roots of their faith. She lives in north-east Florida with her husband and two chocolate labs. She is mom of three fantastic young adults and recently welcomed a daughter-in-love to the Crews crew. She is represented by Credo Communications and working toward the publication of her books The Strength of a Woman and Jesus: The Alef and the Tav. You can connect with Lauren on the web at www.laurencrews.com.