John 10:1, 10 NASB:

Truly, truly I say to you, the one who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbs up some other way, he is a thief and a robber...The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came so that they would have life, and have it abundantly.

What is the "other way" Jesus is referring to? If Jesus is referring to the fact that He is the only way to salvation (verse 9), what does the analogy of the thief coming to steal represent? The passage seems to focus on two distinct topics:

  1. The fact that Jesus is the door of the sheep (where the emphasis is on the sheep being safe/saved)

  2. A thief that wants to come into the fold apart from the door to steal, kill, and destroy.

How do these two aspects intertwine?


The passage here in John 10:1, 11, 14 is a direct reference to Jesus as LORD and Shepherd of His people in Psalm 23. Peter also refers to this in 1 Peter 5:4 where he calls Jesus, "The Great Shepherd" and the elders of the church are thus, by extension, the under-shepherds of the people.

Note the explanation of the Pulpit commentary on John 10:1 -

He that entereth not by the door The Oriental sheepfolds are commonly walled or palisaded, with one door or gate. Into one of these enclosures several shepherds drive their flocks, leaving them in charge of an under-shepherd or porter, who fastens the door securely inside, and remains with the sheep all night. In the morning the shepherds come to the door, the porter opens to them, and each calls away his own sheep.

Jesus then expanded the metaphor in V7-9 -

“Truly, truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before Me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. If anyone enters through Me, he will be saved. He will come in and go out and find pasture.

Jesus is uttering here well-known truths:

  • That the only way to enter the kingdom of God is via the gate/door of Jesus - all other ways of entering the "sheep pen" are invalid
  • The sheep (= Christians) inside the sheep pen are safe while even Jesus is the door because intruders are kept out - that is, Jesus protects His people

This aspect is an allusion to the way ancient oriental shepherds worked. Small stone enclosures capable of holding a normal flock were scattered over the countryside. At evening the shepherd would seek one of these, usher the sheep inside and then sleep in the doorway/opening to protect the sheep while he slept.

Thus, Jesus cast himself as caring for and protecting His people.

  • 1
    @HoldToTheRod - thanks for fixing the typos.
    – Dottard
    Jul 2 '21 at 0:11

There is only one way by which all must enter. The “other way” is any way that is not through the door.

The immediate context of this parable is Jesus’ healing of the man born blind, which infuriated the Pharisees (Jn 9:13-34). They used the fact that he healed on the Sabbath day to discredit Jesus. They were also excommunicating “anyone who confessed him to be Christ” so that many were afraid (Jn 9:22), but the healing and the testimony of the blind man frustrated their efforts.

  • Therefore some of the Pharisees were saying, “This man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath.” But others were saying, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And there was dissension among them. – Jn 9:16

  • The man answered and said to them, “Well, here is the amazing thing, that you do not know where He is from, and yet He opened my eyes! 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners; but if someone is God-fearing and does His will, He listens to him. 32 Since the beginning of time it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, He could do nothing.” – Jn 9:30-33

Amidst this contentious debate about who Jesus is and whether he is from God, Jesus tells the parable of the good shepherd (Jn 10:1-18). He begins, however, by speaking about thieves and robbers who do not enter by the door. Jesus is clearly referring to the Pharisees and the others who were working against him. Jesus is the door through which they refused to enter.

  • “Truly, truly I say to you, the one who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbs up some other way, he is a thief and a robber. – v. 1

  • I am the door of the sheep. 8 All those who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. – vv. 7-8

They themselves do not enter the door of salvation. But more than that, they stand in the way of others so that they cannot enter. Like thieves who rob others of the opportunity for salvation, they steal and destroy.

  • “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut the kingdom of heaven in front of people; for you do not enter it yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. – Mt 23:13

In contrast, the good shepherd is everything that they are not. Instead of stealing, he came to give life to the sheep (v. 10). Instead of destroying, he lays down his life for the sheep (v. 11). Unlike them, he cares for the sheep (v. 13).

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