A friend of mine once told me a story about his father, Bill, who was a farmer in Pennsylvania. On the farm, they had many animals, some of whom were sheep. Bill took good care of his farm, including the sheep who would follow him around wherever he went.
One spring, Bill became severely ill and had to spend a number of weeks in bed for recovery, on into the early Fall. During that time, others took care of the farming responsibilities, both with the crops and the animals.
As Fall rolled around, Bill was near the end of his recovery. Some friends stopped by one day in order to check in on Bill and to see what help he might need. Bill decided he would venture out into the yard in order to meet with these friends. It was the first time he had done so since the Spring. As he was talking in the yard something interesting happened.
The sheep, who were out to pasture on the other side of a hill suddenly started streaming over the hill to where Bill stood, talking with his friends. Unbelievably, the sheep heard the voice of their shepherd, Bill, and had come over to be around him. They knew his voice and – even over a great distance and separation over a great amount of time – knew the care and leading they would receive from him.
Jesus is not only the good shepherd who lays down His life, but He is also the good shepherd who knows His own. He says, “I am the good shepherd; I known my sheep and my sheep know me” (John 10:14).
The relationship between the shepherd and the sheep is characterized by knowing. They each know who the other is. Jesus highlights this sort of relational knowing in describing Himself as the good shepherd.
Earlier in this passage in verse 3, Jesus tells of how the sheep “listen to the shepherd’s voice” and how the shepherd “calls His own sheep by name and leads them out” (10:3).
You see, the nature of our relationship with Jesus is that He speaks to us and we listen to Him. He calls us by name and He leads us out.