Sermon for 4th Sunday of Easter, Year A
Based on Jn. 10:1-10
By Pastor Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson
"Jesus the Door"
DOORS…All of us open, close and knock on doors. Today, in our gospel passage, Jesus uses the following metaphor to speak of himself: he says, "I am the door." The Greek word for door is often translated as gate, but I prefer door. This is a very Jewish metaphor. Many rabbis referred to God's Word as a door. They also spoke of heaven as the door, which opened up eternity.
This metaphor of Jesus as the door is one among several "I am" sayings of Jesus. In each of these "I am" sayings, Jesus gives us a wider, clearer picture of himself. The words "I am" are very important, since they remind us of how God also spoke of God's Self in the Hebrew Bible. We remember that when Moses asked who God was, God replied: "I am who I am," or "I am what I am," or again, "I am that I am."
So, in John's Gospel, when Jesus speaks of himself as "I am," it is clear that he wants to emphasize his identity as being synonymous with God's identity. Jesus and God are one, therefore, in both Testaments of the Bible, they refer to their identity as: "I am." For me, Jesus's words "I am the door" are loaded with meaning and most suggestive. Let's explore a little what Jesus meant when he spoke the words: "I am the door."
First, we focus on the metaphor of a closed door. As we all know, there is a negative aspect to a closed or locked door. A closed or locked door often prevents people from entering a building. This, in some cases, may be a matter of life and death. For example, we often hear about some people who want a closed-door or even locked-door immigration policy. Such people don't want more immigrants in our country because they are too different than us. They find these differences of immigrants threatening to their own way of life. They are often fearful of the unknown. This sort of fear is one of the leading causes of prejudices and racism.
What they fail to realize is that by closing or locking our doors to these immigrants often means that the immigrants return to their homeland to face: persecution, torture, rape, starvation, imprisonment, and even death. So, in this case, a closed or locked door is a hostile and unloving way to respond to others. In this negative sense, a closed and locked door may also refer to people who have closed or locked minds; people who are stuck in the tragic rut of their negative thinking; people who have hardened their hearts; people whose hearts are made of stone.
However, there is also a positive side to a closed or locked door. For example, when it's minus forty degrees below zero, in the dead of a winter blizzard, a closed door is a very good idea--it may very well be necessary for our survival! A closed or locked door makes us feel more safe and secure. We can live with a sense of peace; we can relax and be ourselves; we can enjoy the comforts of being behind closed, locked doors, which protect us and provide us with a safe place--especially our homes. Closed, locked doors give us privacy to be with our loved ones in very intimate ways. They can and do keep "the criminal element" at bay. In this sense, when Jesus says, "I am the door," he is the one who closes us in or locks us in to protect us from the thief or bandit who "comes only to steal and kill and destroy." As the closed, locked door, Jesus protects us by providing safety, security and comfort from all danger and harm.
The second metaphor is that of knocking on the door. This is perhaps one of the most dramatic metaphors because it always has an element of surprise, expectation, excitement, curiosity and wonder. For some of us, this is a very meaningful metaphor because it reminds us of that popular picture of Jesus standing at the door and knocking--based on the passage of scripture: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock."
In the following parable, in his book, Journey Continued: An Autobiography, South African author Alan Paton spells out the dramatic nature of knocking on the door. "I went to my brother (and sister) and said, 'Brother (sister) a (person) is knocking at the door.' My brother (sister) said, 'Is (the person) a friend or an enemy?' 'I have asked (the person)', I said, 'but (the person) replies that you will not know until you have opened the door.'"
"'There you are, my (sister and) brother. You will never know if the (person) outside is a friend or an enemy until you open the door. But if you do not open the door, you can be sure what (the person) will be.'"
I like this parable because, for me, the unknown person knocking on the door symbolizes Jesus himself. Jesus as the one knocking on the door--or, even Jesus as the knocking door; is a symbol of all those people who are victimized by the evils and injustices of this world. Whether it be the innocent victims of violence or abuse, the unemployed, the third-world peoples, the widow or orphan, or a host of other marginalized peoples--Jesus stands at the door and knocks; Jesus himself is the knocking door, bidding the church and society to open their doors to these people.
This leads us to our third metaphor. We say the door of opportunity is knocking--in order to benefit from the opportunity, it is necessary to have an open door. Jesus is an open door. He has opened up the way to God for us. All of the dividing walls; all of the closed, locked, knocking doors have become open. Through Jesus Christ the open door, we are given access to God, to heaven, to--as Jesus calls it in verse 10 of our gospel--abundant life.
As Albert Stauderman has pointed out: "Many doors have four panels, two small upper panels and two larger lower panels. They form in relief a cross-shaped pattern. This style of doorway is no accident. It way fashioned intentionally by the carpenters' guilds of the Middle Ages, before the powers of the industrial age beguiled people into believing that they could make their own heaven. Those medieval carpenters took as their motto the words of Jesus, "I am the door." They deliberately wrought into every doorway the sign of the cross, marking it as the way to a fuller, larger, more abundant life."
In Jesus Christ the open door, we are able to live the abundant life, a life lived to the very fullest. The Greek word used here in verse 10 for abundance means superabundance--that which is so great, so full that it cannot even be measured! That's why the second century theologian Irenaeus could say: "The Glory of God is a human being who is fully alive!"
Jesus the open door gives us the full, abundant life now, already. We experience in part what heaven shall be like. For those of you who have seen Babette's Feast, you will be able to identify with what the word full or abundant means! The generosity of God is like that lavish banquet feast, which Babette lovingly prepares and shares with the community.
As the open door, Jesus fills every moment of our lives with graced opportunities. The abundant, full life is one of high adventure and constant discovery. Jesus, the open door opens our whole life; our mind, our heart, our spirit/soul, our body--with all of the senses, to countless opportunities which each day presents us.
As Ralph Seager put it: " More sky than we can see,/More seas than we can sail, / More sun than we can bear to watch, /More stars than we can scale. /More breath than we can breathe, /More yield than we can sow, /More grace than we can comprehend, /More love than we can know."
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