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What Does Jesus Mean by "My Sheep Know My Voice"?

Meg Bucher

Updated Jun 24, 2022
What Does Jesus Mean by "My Sheep Know My Voice"?

We are born to crave a relationship with our Creator. Designed in His image, our very being in a way senses His calling out to us. But it’s not until we acknowledge Jesus as our Savior that we come into His presence and know the sound of His voice.

“The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.” (Psalm 23:1-2)

God’s design for humanity was never to exist and suffer under the curse of sin, separated from Him. We are made in His image, and He desires a relationship with us, His children. His plan was always to rescue and redeem us through His Son, who was there with Him at the beginning. Christ came to earth to seek and to save the lost. He conquered death by carrying out the will of His Father. Jesus is the Good Shepherd. We come to the Father through Christ, by the sound of His Voice.

What Did Jesus Mean in John 10:27 by 'My Sheep Know My Voice'?

“Then came the Festival of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was in the temple courts walking in Solomon’s Colonnade.” (John 10:22-23)

Jesus taught about his status as the Good Shepherd during the Festival of Dedication, known today as Hanukkah, typically celebrated in November and December (NIV Study Bible). The festival was a commemoration of Jewish deliverance. Many surrounded Jesus at this time looking for Him to definitively claim his Messiahship, ready to claim blasphemy. Jesus turned their attention to his sheep, and the Good Shepherd who protects them. Matthew Henry explained in his commentary of the Bible, “He described the gracious disposition and happy state of his sheep; they heard and believed his word, followed him as his faithful disciples, and non of them should parish; for the Son and the Father were one.” Jesus came to earth, fully God and fully man, to achieve the will of the Father in heaven. All things and everyone lie under the sovereign reign of God.

Photo Credit: © Getty Images/Joaquin Corbalan

Why Is Jesus the Good Shepherd?

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)

Jesus proclaimed He is the good shepherd. “I am the good shepherd,” John recorded Jesus’ words, “The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep” (John 10:11). Again, Jesus proclaims, “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for my sheep” (John 10:14-15).

Christ Jesus is the Good Shepherd because His intentions reflect the will of His Father, Creator of all. “‘Good’ can just as well be translated ‘noble,’” the NIV Application Commentary explains, “The good shepherd …’owns the sheep,’ which speaks to his unique, passionate commitment to them.”

Jesus is selfless, laying down His life for His sheep. He has their best interest at heart, and is driven by the love of the Father. Among several flocks of sheep resting in the same pen, sheep can hear their particular shepherd’s voice. They will not follow a stranger. God is sovereign over His plan for His children, and their names are written in the Book of Life. Jesus knows us by name. He died on the cross for the names of the children of God.

Who Are Jesus' Sheep?

“When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.” (Mark 6:34)

We are Jesus’ Sheep, and He is our Shepherd. The original Greek word used for sheep in John 10:27 is probaton, a literal translation of the animal we are familiar with. However, the word origin is probaino, which means to go forwards or to go on. If we dig even further into the root of that word, we find two words: pro, meaning before; and basis, a stepping, walking; that with which one steps, the foot. The sheep in Jesus’ message represent more than the animals the shepherds guided. Jesus is our Shepherd, and we are the sheep.

Deuteronomy 31:8 reminds, “The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do no be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Jesus came to earth, fully God and fully man, to fulfill God’s will. His promise to go before us and behind us, and remain with us always, is fulfilled in Christ Jesus. He walks with us, and us with Him, by the power of the Holy Spirit. “There is a real similarity between the way Jesus knows his Father in heaven and the way he knows his sheep,” John Piper explains, “Jesus sees himself in the Father, and he sees himself in his disciples.”

Luke wrote Jesus came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). Luke, a gentile, undoubtably felt the full gravity of those words, and Christ’s purpose. Matthew, a tax collector whom Jesus sought out and saved, recorded Jesus’ words: “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off” (Matthew 18:12-13).

Photo Credit: © iStock/Getty Images Plus/KristiLinton

A young black man praying, Why we must choose to change

'My Sheep Know My Voice': How to Hear and Know Your Shepherd's Voice

“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

"My sheep know my voice." The life of a sheep depends on its shepherd. Lambs are born with an instinct to follow along with their flock. The mature sheep know the shepherd’s voice, and the lambs eventually learn to be familiar with it, too. “As disciple-makers, we help others learn to recognize the voice of our Savior,” wrote Carol Pipes, “The body of Christ is like that flock of sheep. We bring along non-believers and new believers, walk beside them, lead them, teach them, and always point them to Jesus.”

We are born to crave a relationship with our Creator. Designed in His image, our very being in a way senses His calling out to us. But it’s not until we acknowledge Jesus as our Savior that we come into His presence and know the sound of His voice. From the time we first believe, the Holy Spirit rushes into our souls and we are sealed and saved for eternity. We then embark on the life-long journey of sanctification, growing in Christ to be more like Christ. “Our spiritual maturity determines how quickly we recognize God in the middle of our circumstances,” Louise Tucker Jones explains, “It requires discernment, prayer, and listening intently for our Shepherd’s voice.”

The great prophet Jeremiah recorded God’s words as His people faced the reality of exile in Babylon: “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). God was faithful to remind them, in their dire straights and long-suffering, “For I know the plans I have for you,” Jeremiah recorded, “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11). But perhaps the most touching part of God’s encouragement to His wayward people was the confidence He placed in their eventual rescue and restoration: “Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you” (Jeremiah 29:12). Their exile lasted seventy years, and Jesus wouldn’t arrive on the scene yet for hundreds more. But our Messiah has come, and completed the will of His Father in heaven. Through Christ, we hear the Father’s voice, and we come to Him.


“We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

There is infinitely more to learn about who Jesus is as the Good Shepherd. God promises if we seek Him, we will find Him. Scripture is God-breathed! He applies it to our daily lives, and connects our questions and curiosities with the Truth of Scripture. “If you want to be confident you are hearing God’s voice and following His leading, the key is to know God’s word,” Lynette Kittle clarifies. “Studying Scripture equips you to recognize His voice and gives you the ability to distinguish between what is true or false.” As we grow in our faith, the voice of the Good Shepherd is further amplified.

Photo Credit: © Unsplash/J Waye Covington

Meg BucherMeg writes about everyday life within the love of Christ at megbucher.comShe is the author of “Friends with Everyone, Friendship within the Love of Christ,” “Surface, Unlocking the Gift of Sensitivity,” “Glory Up, The Everyday Pursuit of Praise,” “Home, Finding Our Identity in Christ,” and "Sent, Faith in Motion." Meg earned a Marketing/PR degree from Ashland University but stepped out of the business world to stay home and raise her two daughters …which led her to pursue her writing passion. A contributing writer for Salem Web Network since 2016, Meg is now thrilled to be a part of the editorial team at Salem Web Network. Meg loves being involved in her community and local church, leads Bible study, and serves as a youth leader for teen girls.

This article is part of our larger resource library of popular Bible verse phrases and quotes. We want to provide easy to read articles that answer your questions about the meaning, origin, and history of specific verses within Scripture's context. It is our hope that these will help you better understand the meaning and purpose of God's Word in relation to your life today.

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