by Pastor David Groendyk
In the Lord’s good providence, before reading Psalm 118, I was busy preparing for our weekly youth group lesson from John 10:7–10 in which Jesus calls himself “the door of the sheep”. The providential part is that many commentators actually point back to Psalm 118:20 as some of the background for Jesus’ claim that he is the door: “This is the gate of the Lord; the righteous shall enter through it.” Verse 22 is also cited multiple times in the New Testament as a reference to Jesus (Matt. 21:42; 1 Pet. 2:4). Additionally, verse 26 is what the crowds cry out when Jesus enters into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday just days before he is killed on the cross (Matt. 21:9). It’s not hard to see the direct link from this psalm to Jesus being its fulfillment. Psalm 118 is filled with praise and thanksgiving to God for his unending steadfast love to his people (vv. 1–4), personal testimony of the Lord’s deliverance and rescue (vv. 5–18), and a festive liturgy of worship for the people of God to follow (vv. 19–29). Let’s look at how Jesus fulfills this psalm for the Christian.
Jesus is the only way of salvation into God’s people. There is only one gate, one door, for people to enter through to reach God (v. 20). The psalmist has in mind the gate that leads into the temple. Jesus in John 10 has in mind a door that leads into the sheepfold of his people. The lesson is the same in both instances: the only way to enter God’s presence and become part of the privileged and protected people of God is through trusting in Christ alone to be your righteousness and salvation. God must be the one to save. Recall that when Jesus does call himself “the door” he’s speaking to the Pharisees who relied solely on their own law-keeping and rigorous religious activity as the reason God loved them and accepted them. They kept all 613 Old Testament laws, they tithed even their spices, but they were whitewashed tombs, good-looking on the outside and dead on the inside. To be part of the people of God who get to enter into God’s presence does not mean we’re a bunch of law-keepers and rule-followers and moral people. It means we’re people who rest in salvation coming from someone outside of ourselves. Our salvation must come from God.
Jesus also promises to keep us safe. Gates let people in, but gates also keep people out. In John 10, Jesus says that thieves and robbers try to break in and steal the sheep away, but he doesn’t let them. When Jesus is the gate you enter through, he promises that you as his sheep will be able to “go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:9). That means we have utter safety and security and that we get to have full, abundant life (John 10:10). No more fending for ourselves, acting like lone wolves, scavenging and looking over our shoulders to see if we’re being hunted down. Jesus promises us green pastures, still waters, a restored soul, his own presence, and his rod and his staff to comfort us (see Psalm 23). There are no other saviors but Jesus. It’s tempting for us to put our trust in man and in princes to be the ones who will make everything right and be the ones who will save the church and give us eternal security. Sometimes that person is a president. Sometimes that person is a pastor. Be warned: if you put your trust in princes, you are no longer putting your trust in Jesus, and you forfeit the security you have in him. Jesus is the only way to God and attaining the tremendous privilege of being his people.