What Does Jesus Mean ‘My Sheep Know My Voice’?

The sheep recognize the voice of the shepherd, the one who feeds them, guides them, and protects them. The sheep have learned to trust the shepherd. As a shepherd ensures the safety of his sheep, Jesus shields his people from everlasting damage.

Sheep in the Highlands of Scotland

In this passage of Scripture, Jesus has walked into the temple in Solomon’s Colonnade. The religious leaders surround him and begin to question him.

John 10:22-42 happens a couple of months after the debate depicted in chapter nine through the first portion of chapter ten. Here, Jesus is cornered, in clear danger, by the extremely strict religious leaders that he has been rebuking for quite a long time.

He repeats the allegories of sheep and the shepherd that he utilized after giving sight to a visually impaired man. Jesus brings up that his lessons and supernatural occurrences are generally steady with expectations of the Messiah, yet these men will not acknowledge him.

This comes full circle in one more endeavor on Jesus' life, which he in some way or another evades. This addresses the last time Jesus will openly preach before he is torturously hung on the cross.

Asking for Messianic Proof

Many individuals requesting verification do as such for some unacceptable reasons. A substantial portion of these individuals with questions would not follow Jesus in the manner that he wanted to lead them.

They had trusted that he would proclaim himself as the Messiah for one of two reasons. In the first place, they, alongside the supporters and every other person in the Jewish country, would have been pleased if he had driven out the Romans.

In any case, large numbers of them did not feel that he would do just that. These skeptics trusted that he would recognize himself so they could blame him for lying as the Pharisees had done (John 8:13).

The Significance of Sheep

Verse 27 proceeds with Jesus' reiteration of an example that he made earlier, in the wake of healing a man blind from birth (John 9). There, he called attention to the point that sheep will perceive the voice of their specific shepherd, the people who do not pay attention to the witness of Jesus are demonstrating that they are not a part of his flock.

The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them (John 10:3-6).

In another example, Jesus expressed that he was the only method for salvation (John 10:7-9), isolating all individuals into two fundamental gatherings: saved and unsaved. By definition, the individuals who will not come to Christ are from the portion of those dominated by Satan (John 8:42-47).

Jesus offers this expression under desperate conditions. His faultfinders have caught him in at the edge of the sanctuary (John 10:24). They are trying to get him to rehash his cases and are evidently ready for brutality (John 10:31).

Jesus reacts with the daring truth, yet he additionally proceeds, as displayed in the accompanying verses (John 10:28-29), coming full circle in an explanation that appears to be intentionally expected to madden his faultfinders (John 10:30).

1. “My sheep hear my voice.” The sheep recognize the voice of the shepherd, the one who feeds them, guides them, and protects them. The sheep have learned to trust the shepherd. How do we know if someone is saved or not, if they are a Christian or not?

We know when we see them obey the Word of the Lord. “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ” (Romans 10:17).

2. “I know them.” Are we not happy when we know that someone knows us? There are times that we may be misunderstood by some people, and we may have difficulty explaining ourselves to others.

But we never have to explain ourselves to the Lord. He knows our hearts and our intent (Psalm 37:4). He knows the number of hairs on our heads (Luke 12:7). He knows our days are numbered (Job 14:5; Psalm 139:16). God knows us.

3. “And they follow me.” I have faith and believe in the everlasting security of the believer and in the instability and insecurity of the non-believer.

Assuming a shepherd strolled into a field containing 500 sheep and called out to the sheep, but they did not follow, then he began strolling once again into another neighboring field and 100 sheep continued to follow him, I would reason that those 100 were without a doubt his sheep and that the excess sheep were not his.

Safety of the Sheep

Similarly, as a shepherd ensures the safety of his sheep, Jesus shields his people from everlasting damage. While believers can anticipate experiencing some type of suffering while on this earth, Satan cannot hurt their spirits, nor can he remove their everlasting existence with God.

There are many motivations to be apprehensive while here on this mortal soil. However, assuming that we decide to follow Jesus, he will give us never-ending security. Here in verse 28, Jesus states that he gives the sheep eternal life and that they will never perish. The sheep did not earn it, nor did they work for it. Eternal life was given. Eternal life means forever.

The sheep may wander, put themselves in danger, and they may backslide. But they will never perish. The sheep might walkabout and meander into a pigpen, but it does not stay in the pigpen because it is not a pig. Likewise, no man or creature can remove the sheep from the hands of the Shepherd. 

Christ’s Divine Nature

This is the clearest assertion of Jesus' divine nature that he made. His case to be God was indisputable. The strict religious leaders wanted to kill him for it, in light of the fact that their laws said that anybody professing to be God must die. Nothing could convince them that Jesus' case was valid.

The Jewish leaders endeavored to complete the course found in Leviticus 24:16 with respect to any individuals who profess to be God. They expected to stone Jesus.

Jesus alludes to Psalm 82:6 where the Israelite judges are likened to divine beings (Exodus 4:16, 7:1). Since God alluded to the Israelite judges as gods because they were God's representatives of his will and revelation, how was it that it could be impiety to the Pharisees for Jesus to call himself the Son of God?

Jesus was reprimanding them since he is the Son of God in an exceptional, unrivaled relationship of unity with the Father. "The scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:35) is a reasonable assertion of the reality of the Bible. Assuming that we acknowledge Christ as Lord, we additionally acknowledge his affirmation of the Bible as God's Word.

For further reading:

What Did Jesus Mean When He Said, ‘Take Care of My Sheep’?

What Does it Mean That Jesus Is Our Shepherd Today?

In the Parable of the Lost Sheep, What Does it Mean That Jesus Leaves the Ninety-Nine?

What Is the Reckless of Love of God?

Why Was Jesus Called the Good Shepherd?

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Bene_A


Chris SwansonChris Swanson answered the call into the ministry over 20 years ago. He has served as a Sunday School teacher, a youth director along with his wife, a music director, an associate pastor, and an interim pastor. Chris is a retired Navy Chief Hospital Corpsman with over 30 years of combined active and reserve service. During his service, he received numerous awards and citations. Chris holds a Doctor of Ministry, an M.B.A., and a B.S. in health administration. Chris and his wife Vicki of 24 years reside in Madison, Alabama. If you are interested in having Chris deliver God's Word at your place of worship, you can reach him here.