The Claims of the Christ: I Am The Door
For twenty-five years a conductor presided over one of the world’s great symphony orchestras. The conductor died. The orchestra scheduled a memorial concert. The concert hall was filled to capacity. The orchestra proceeded to play the entire evening’s repertoire of rapturous music without the conductor ever once appearing on the podium. That visibly empty podium was the most memorable part of that memorable evening. One of the members of the orchestra said later: “For 25 years, he taught us everything we needed to know and he taught us to honor the will of the composer. Because we did that tonight we were able to play together and produce beautiful music.” Who was that conductor? Leonard Bernstein.
For the 33 years of His earthly life, Jesus taught us all we ever need to know about God. Therefore, when we honor God’s will and God’s Word and God’s way in our daily experience, then our lives will be beautiful indeed. We see that so clearly in this remarkable claim Jesus made in John 10. He said: “I am the door; if anyone enters by me, he will be saved…I have come that you may have life and have it abundantly.”
The people who first heard Him make that claim for Himself knew immediately what He meant. You see, the sheepfolds that dotted the hills of first century Palestine were shaped like a large letter “C.” There would be a crude, circular fence with some briars on the top to keep the animals from jumping over, but they always left a space in the circle wide enough for the sheep to enter. If you were to ask why they had no fixed door or gate, the shepherd would reply: “I am the door.” At night, the shepherd would lead the flock into the fold and provide them with everything they needed. Then he would wrap his cloak about him and lie down across the opening. Nothing could come in or go out without the shepherd knowing it. Thus the shepherd gave to the sheep all the security and protection they needed for life.
So when Jesus said: “I am the door,” everyone who heard the words knew what He meant. He was saying: “I am the door to God. I am all you ever need to know and I am all you ever need to have in order to live a life that is both safe and saved, a life that is both attractive and abundant.” Let’s look a bit more closely at this remarkable claim.
First, Jesus is the door to the truth about God.
He called God His Father and He referred to Himself as God’s Son. He claimed that the relationship between God and Himself was stronger and closer than that between an earthly parent and a child. He said: “Look at Me and the way I live and you shall see God.” On the lips of anyone else such claims would have seemed either blasphemous or ludicrous, but coming from Jesus they only affirmed what the disciples already knew—that this One they knew and loved was God in the flesh.
My friends, the truth about God is most impressive, most inspiring, and most influential when it is wrapped up in a living person. God knows that. That’s why He sent Jesus—so we could see God’s truth wrapped up in a person. The most effective argument for Christianity is a real Christian. The supreme argument for our holy faith is a holy life.
Harry Emerson Fosdick in his book Twelve Tests of Character, makes the point dramatically. He tells how during the atrocities that occurred in Armenia in the early part of this century, a Turkish soldier had chased a young woman and her brother down the street and into a dead-end alley. As the soldier proceeded to beat the brother to death, the woman escaped. Later, however, she was captured and since she was a nurse, was put to work in a military hospital. Then one day the soldier who had murdered her brother was brought to that hospital and placed in her ward. Terror flashed over his face as their eyes met and they recognized each other. The soldier was critically wounded, and the nurse knew that the slightest inattention would cause his death. She struggled within. One part of her cried out: “Here is your chance for vengeance. No one will ever know.” But the spirit of Christ won out. She tenderly nursed that soldier back to health and each evening she prayed for him. Later he asked: “Why did you care for me so faithfully?” She replied: “Because I serve my Lord who said, ‘Love your enemies and do them good. That is my faith.” After a quiet moment, the Turkish soldier said: “Tell me more of your religion. Tell me more of your Lord. I would give anything to have a faith like yours.”
My friends, as Jim Moore puts it, “Only when our creeds become deeds do they really become compelling and contagious.” That’s what Jesus did for us. He turned the creeds of faith into the deeds of faith so that we could learn the truth about God. He helps us understand God because He understands us and He stands beside us in all of life’s experiences. He opens the door to the truth about God, and anyone who enters that door will be saved.
Secondly, Jesus is the door to the practice of compassion.
From all the New Testament portraits of Jesus, one feature shines most prominently—His compassion. Never has anyone cared so deeply for people, identified Himself so closely with them, and involved Himself so completely in their lives. We read that “when He saw the multitude, He had compassion on them.” A crowd always had that effect upon Jesus. When He looked at people’s faces—faces that were sometimes cold and hostile or blank and indifferent—His X-ray vision probed deeply into the secret agonies and anxieties of their hearts and His own great loving heart went out to them in sympathy and compassion. Whatever Jesus did for people—whether to restore their sight or cleanse them from leprosy, or bring their dead back to life—He did because He loved them and had compassion on them.
One of the most impressive statues of Christ ever sculpted is that by Thorvaldsen which stands behind the altar of the great Protestant Cathedral in Copenhagen, Denmark. Thorvaldsen worked on it for months before he was satisfied—a Christ with strong arms outstretched, raised high in a gesture of command, and the fine-shaped head thrown back in triumph. The artist dubbed it “The Proud Majestic Christ.” Thorvaldsen then left the statue for several days to let the clay harden. When he returned and opened the door, he stared in horror and disbelief. There had been a storm and dampness had seeped into the studio, altering the statue. No longer were the arms outstretched; now they fell low. The moisture had caused the once proud head to bend forward and down. The great physique had drooped. Gone was the appearance of triumph and majesty. The sculptor was reduced to tears of bitterness. Some days passed before he could bring himself to return to the studio—but when he did he was amazed at what he saw. Bathed in the soft light of late afternoon, the statue took on a different character. The lowered arms no longer depicted defeat—instead they reached out with the compassion of God, sympathetic arms encircling the sick, the sinful, and the sorrowing. The head no longer seemed to droop—rather it bowed low as if to say “I understand your pain and you travail.” In that moment, Thorvaldsen saw in his statue what he would call “The Compassionate Christ.”
This is the Jesus who even now comes to the sick as healer, to the bereaved as comforter, to the hard-pressed as helper, and to the lonely as companion and friend. He opens the door to the practice of compassion and anyone who enters that door will be saved.
Then thirdly, Jesus is the door to the gift of forgiveness.
I saw a cartoon about a woman who came home from the store with a very expensive new dress. Her husband asked why she had been so extravagant. She replied: “The devil made me do it.” The husband said: “Well, why didn’t you say ‘get thee behind me, satan’?” “Oh I did,” said the wife, “but he said the dress looked just as good in the back as it did in the front, so I bought it!”
That’s a trite treatment of a serious subject. You see, in life, we have free will. We can make choices—and the truth is that sometimes we choose poorly. But you know, when we do that we have a tendency to find excuses, to blame the devil or anyone else, to cover up with a scapegoat. But the Gospel declares that we don’t need a scapegoat because we have a Savior!
You see, Jesus did for people what only God could do. He forgave their sins. He did not merely repair and recondition them—He killed them as the children of Adam and resurrected them as the children of God. To a man paralyzed by guilt He said: “My son, your sins are forgiven.” To a woman accused of adultery he said: “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.” To a dishonest tax collector He said: “Today salvation has come to this house.” To a repentant thief on the cross He said: “Today you shall be with me in Paradise.”
I read not long ago about a man who had served 20 years of a life sentence in prison. He has painted hundreds of portraits of Jesus, all with one striking feature—they show the Saviour with a bright, beaming smile. He gives the paintings away—they go all over the world. This is the story he tells. “One night in prison,” he says, “I leveled with God about my life. I dared Him to give me a chance to do something worthy. I didn’t ask for anything particular. I left that up to Him. Then suddenly in my mind’s eye,” he continues, “I saw what I believe to be the face of Jesus smiling broadly and saying to me, ‘you’re sins are forgiven.’ Since then I have been compelled by the desire to paint that forgiving smile. I do not know what is going to happen to me, but I believe that the Lord is merciful to anyone who levels with Him. He sure gave us a break on Calvary.”
Well, Jesus still makes us ashamed of our failure, our pretense, and our hypocrisy, but if we level with Him, if we fall on our knees in repentance, we shall hear His gracious words, “Your sins are forgiven”—and we shall know that they are the words of God. Jesus opened the door to the gift of forgiveness and anyone who enters that door will be saved.
Billy Graham has often commented that “Our God is such a gentleman that He will never batter down the door of your heart. You must let Him in from the inside.” Jesus is the door. And anyone who enters by that door will be saved and will gain the secret of joyous abundant living, both here and hereafter.
The door is there. It is open. Will you enter?