Knockin' On Heaven's Door
Today is Good Shepherd Sunday, but this particular text is not about Jesus the Good Shepherd but Jesus the Door or Gate. Jesus emphatically says 2 times, "I am the Door." Bob Dylan wrote a song about knocking on heaven's door. It's about a lawman dying. Well aren't we all knocking on heaven's door in the sense that death is before us all? So the question becomes: is the door to heaven we're knockin' on the right one?
There are many doors before you. Imagine a stadium. You're standing in the middle surrounded by doors. Unlike the story of the Lady and the Tiger, there are not just 3 doors before you, with 2 having tigers and one having a woman. No, there are countless doors before you only one of which leads to heaven. All the others lead to hell.
There are doors of doing, working, trying your hardest, doing your best. These doors promise heaven if you do this, achieve that or at least give your all. Knock on any of these doors, and they'll open up to a whole world of activity. Do, do, do; work, work, work; try; try; try. Stay behind such doors long enough and you'll come to believe that if anyone deserves heaven, you do. But the only one who goes to heaven by doing is the one who does everything perfectly. The only one who goes to heaven by working is the one who does absolutely perfect work. The only one who goes to heaven by trying is the one who tries and succeeds. So the doors of doing, working, trying that you thought lead to heaven only take imperfect sinners to hell.
What about that door over there? Let's knock on this door. It's the door of believing. Surely, since the Bible teaches we are saved by faith and that believers go to heaven, this door must lead to heaven. But the door of faith doesn't save. If it did, the Muslims would certainly be saved. Their religion is all about believing in Allah and Mohammed his prophet. You can barely turn a page in the Koran without reading a passage about what believing does. If you knock on the door of believing, it opens you to the world of positive thinking. It promises heaven to those who believe hard, long, sure. Heaven is not promised based on what you believe but on how much.
Did Jesus ever talk about the largeness of faith? He spoke of faith the size of mustard seeds not coconuts. His pet name for His disciples was, "O ye of little faith," not, "O ye of much faith." Go ahead; knock on that door marked believing. Start confidently striding toward heaven based on how much you believe, and Satan will make you sure you go to hell in time and maybe in eternity with just one question, "Do you really believe enough?"
What about this shining, gold door over here? If ever a door begged to be knocked on, it's this one. This door ought to have an American Flag on it. It's the Ollie, Ollie Oxen Free Door. Everyone goes to heaven by this door just like when you play hide and seek. At some point, the call goes out, "Ollie, Ollie oxen free" and everyone comes in. In America, everyone goes to heaven. No matter what your belief, no matter how you disdained the Church in life by not going, no matter what sins you defend as right, in America you go to heaven. Everyone who dies has a right to a Christian funeral, is in a better place, happier now, looking down on earth not up. Walk through this door now and you'll be happy, relieved, and accepted in this life, but when you die there will be hell to pay.
See the dizzying array of doors before you. The scene is like the movie "Monsters Inc." Doors above you, below you, moving this way and that. Only one door is the door to heaven. But the problem is not just the number of doors; it's you. According to Scripture, you can only chose the wrong door. I Corinthians 2 says that you must have spiritual eyes to see spiritual things. We come into the world spiritually blind. There's no way we can see the right door. More than that, Scripture teaches that we come into this world dead in our sins. Put a dead man in a room full of doors, and he won't move to a door, will he?. Poke him, prod him, beg him to choose a door, and he won't. He's dead. Being spiritually dead before God is bad, but it's worse to be His enemy. And Romans 8 says that our sinful mind is only hostile to God. It says, "I want nothing to do with a door that leads to God."
So I have no spiritual capacity to make the right choice faced with the myriad of doors before me. I'll just knock on this fine looking door, the one with the most tracks leading up to it. I'll knock on the door to heaven that is most used. Jesus speaks about this too. He says broad is the path that leads to destruction and many there are on it. A stock feature of horror movies is the "good" guy finding something beautiful, innocent, and harmless, only for it to morph into something hideous, evil, and deadly. Go ahead knock on the door that looks the best and is the most popular. It doesn't feel hot, smell like sulphur, and you don't hear screams coming from it, but then what would you expect a door to be like that leads to the father of lies?
Here you stand with door after door whirling by. How are you to choose the right door? Is it this one..No, that one. No this one. No...Agggg. You know what this is called? Cognitive dissonance. You are faced with a choice you can't make. You know what happens to rats in an experiment when they have to choose the smaller of 2 platforms or get a shock for choosing wrongly or not choosing? They remain on the starting platform having a rat nervous breakdown while being continually shocked. I have told you: Scripture says you can't but choose wrongly and Scripture says there's only one correct choice. Feel the shocks running through your soul.
The only way you can be saved is by Jesus. He's the Door that leads to the fold where the Good Shepherd leads His sheep to green pastures, still waters and the house of the Lord forever. But since we're naturally blind, dead, and enemies of God, it's not like we're capable of seeing, choosing, or even wanting God's salvation in Jesus. The only solution is if the Door chooses you, if the Door talks to you, if the Door reveals Himself to you by opening.
Did you read or watch those Harry Potter stories? In them you find things like talking doors. Jesus is a talking Door in our text. Chapter 9 is the story of the man born blind whom Jesus healed. First Jesus healed his physical blindness and then returned and healed His spiritual blindness by telling him He was the Savior. The Door of heaven talked to this man. He chose him for salvation. As doors beyond number flew by, suddenly one opened to this man. He entered and was saved.
The Door Jesus has chosen you for eternal salvation. How do I know that? Because whom the Lord Jesus chooses for salvation He speaks to. What about all those laws that must be kept before you can go to heaven? There are countless gottas, have to's, and musts. You hear them in your head all the time, don't you? Well, God the Son took on flesh and blood in the womb of the Virgin Mary and took upon Himself all the obligations of the Law. Jesus did what all your doing, working and trying could never do. The gottas, have to's, and musts are done, and Jesus has sent me to tell you that today.
But there was still hell to pay for your sins. Eternal hell with all the burning, torturing, and pain that you can't imagine had to be paid. And Jesus did that too. Long before you were born. Long before you ever knew or even thought about it, Jesus suffered all the pangs of hell in your place. He drained the cup of God's wrath against sinners. God raised Him from the dead, and the resurrected Jesus is present in these words from my lips to tell you that.
The Door speaks. He says, "Come unto Me all you who are burden and heavy laden, and I will give you rest." He says, "If you confess your sins, I am faithful and just and will forgive them." He says, "Though your sins are scarlet, I have made them white as snow." He says, "I am knocking on your door. I want to come in and eat with you."
The doors are flying by you. Only one is the Door to heaven. Suddenly one of the doors jumps open and says, "Be baptized and wash away your sins. As the waters of Baptism removed the scales from Paul's eyes, they will remove your blindness."
"Oh but there are so very many things I've done wrong. Shameful, serious, bad things! Things God should hate me for, be my enemy for life for." But Jesus the Door opens and says, "He who hears my pastor; hears Me." And what did you just hear me saying? "I forgive you." God says He reconciled Himself to the whole world by Jesus dying on the cross. You get the forgiveness Jesus won in the Absolution. So consider yourself friends with God from this day forward for Jesus' sake.
How do you really know someone is reconciled to you? When they eat with you. Revelation 3 pictures Jesus knocking on our door asking to come in and eat with us. In Communion, Jesus returns to earth to eat with sinners. He comes to this table in His Flesh and Blood. Do you normally eat with enemies? Neither does Jesus. When Jesus says again this morning, "Take eat My Body; take drink My Blood," for forgiveness, know that He wants to forgive your sins more than you want them forgiven. He wants to be friends with you more than you want to be with Him.
We're all knocking on heaven's door in the sense that none of us is any farther away from death then a heartbeat that doesn't happen. But don't picture you standing there pounding on a closed door. No, Scripture says that Jesus is not only the Door to heaven; He's the ever open Door. So Come on in, the Water, the Food, and the Conversation are just fine. Amen.
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Fourth Sunday of Easter (4-17-05); John 10: 1-10