Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). For many of us, the force of this analogy loses its punch because we do not live among a shepherding culture. At least that was true for me. But recently Jesus’s words became much more clear when I observed how my newborn son knows and tracks his mother’s movements by simply hearing her voice.
When a baby is born, he knows the sound of his mother’s voice. He knows her heartbeat. He knows her. When a mom carries two souls in her body, one that belongs to her and one that lives within her womb, she creates a special bond with that soul.
And despite the fact that newly born infants lack the capacity to see clearly and define objects, they can still recognize their mothers by hearing their voice. It takes a number of months for their eyesight to bloom. But they can hear. And they can track people with their developing eyesight and acute hearing.
I observed this recently when my son (who was about 4 weeks old) tracked his mom as she moved around a room and talked. His eyes followed her everywhere she went. He knew exactly where she was because he knew her voice. Although his eyes probably could not distinguish her at a distance, he knew where she was because she was talking.
When mom speaks, he knows. He needs and loves her. He relies on her for life. Without her, he has no food, no nourishment. Without her, he has no comfort. He knows her voice and rests in her presence.
I may not understand shepherding. But I understand that my son hears and knows his mother’s voice. If he could, he’d likely follow her everywhere.
This everyday experience of rearing a young child gave me insight into what Jesus meant by the words: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27).
And like a mother feeds her child with life-giving milk, so does Jesus nourish us with eternal life: “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:28).