In Yeshua’s “I am” statement about being the Door of the Sheep, He teaches us that He is “the Door”, not just “a door”. He is saying that He is not only our Shepherd who leads us into the sheepfold of the Kingdom, but He is the only door by which we can enter and be saved and find safe pasture (John 10:9). There are deeper meanings for understanding Yeshua as our door into the Kingdom of God, so come with me now as we dig deeper into the Word to explore these meanings.
It is helpful to understand more about sheep and shepherding in general and specifically during Yeshua’s time. Of all domesticated animals, sheep are the most helpless. Sheep will spend their entire day grazing, wandering from place to place, never looking up. As a result, they often become lost. But sheep have no “homing instinct” as other animals do. They are totally incapable of finding their way to their sheepfold, even when it is in plain sight. By nature, sheep are followers. If the lead sheep steps off a cliff, the others are likely to follow.
Also, sheep are very susceptible to injuries and are utterly helpless against predators. If a wolf enters the pen, sheep won’t defend themselves or run away. Sheep are totally dependent upon their shepherd for food, shelter, guidance and protection. So close is the bond between shepherd and sheep that to this day Middle Eastern shepherds can divide flocks that have mingled at a well or during the night simply by calling their sheep, who know and follow their shepherd’s voice. The shepherd leads the sheep to safe places to graze and makes them lie down for several hours in a shady place (think of the parallel to Psalm 23). Then at nightfall, the shepherd leads the sheep to the protection of a sheepfold.
In ancient times, there were two kinds of sheepfolds or pens. One kind was a public sheepfold found in villages. It would be large enough to hold several flocks of sheep. This sheep pen would be in the care of a “doorkeeper”, whose duty it was to guard the door to the sheep pen during the night and admit the shepherds in the morning. The shepherds would call their sheep, each of which knew their own shepherd’s voice, and he would lead them out to pasture (see John 10:4).
The second kind of sheep pen was in the countryside, where the shepherds would keep their flocks in good weather. This type of sheep pen was nothing more than a rough circle of rocks piled into a wall with a small open space to enter. Through it the shepherd would drive the sheep at nightfall. Since there was no gate to close—just an opening—the shepherd would keep the sheep in and wild animals out by lying across the opening. He would sleep there, in this case literally becoming the door to the sheep[fold].
Several ancient Hebrew word pictures point to Yeshua as the Door in a powerful way. The ancient letter for door is dalet. This meant the tent flap or door originally, but also the “path” or the “way of life”. Devar in Hebrew means “word”. When we look at the ancient characters for Devar, though, the root meaning is “the Door of the Son”. Since Yeshua is the living Word, Devar can also be interpreted as “The Word of YHVH”, as in the book of Deuteronomy [Devarim]. Psalm 19:14 says: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, YHVH, my rock and my redeemer”. In Hebrew, a word for redeem is Padah and the word picture meaning is “redemption comes by the mouth of the door”. The ancient letters tell us that redemption is by the words of the door, and we know that door is Yeshua. Another significant word is the Hebrew word for Righteous, Tsedek, and the word picture tells us that a person is righteous when their hook is the Door they follow (hook, or fishhook, refers to that which draws you – your passion or desire).
God’s name, Yehovah, is spelled yod-hey-vav-hey in Hebrew. The letter dalet is added to spell “Yehudah” [Judah], out of whose line Yeshua was descended. These 4 letters of the Name of God plus the letter dalet which means “door,” paint a different word picture: His name tells us that “Praise opens the Door to God“. Since Yeshua is the Door, and He said everyone must enter through Him, this is a graphic picture of the pathway to YHVH – the key to the Door is praise!
Yeshua tells us that He is not only the shepherd of His sheep, but also the door of the sheep. In doing so, He is inviting us to be part of His sheepfold, where we will never have to fear or want for anything. All we have to do is praise Him, and follow Him on His path, trusting Him with every part of our lives!