Eternal Life is Knowing God

Understanding the Red Letters   Part 14

“When Jesus had spoken these words, He lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said, ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son that the Son may glorify You, since You have given Him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom You have given Him.  And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent’ ” (John 17:1-3).

John chapter 17 is a beautiful prayer of Jesus.  It is a benediction in a way, a closure to Jesus’ time on the earth.  But it is also forward-looking.  It is a conversation from the Son to the Father in which Jesus prays for the future of the disciples and the church they will lead.  His prayer is for His first century followers who are in the upper room with Jesus and for those of us who will come later to the family.  “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word” (John 17:20).  This is you and me!

Looking at these three verses, Jesus acknowledges that “the hour has come”.  The time for Jesus to be revealed and die as the Messiah has arrived.  Jesus used the same language back in John chapter 12 as He began His journey to the cross, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” (John 12:23).  Jesus will be glorified through His death, burial, and resurrection.  And it will be a shared glory between the Father and the Son.

Jesus exercises His glory by giving eternal life to all whom the Father has “given Him”.  Because the disciples had believed in the One whom the Father had sent, they were given eternal life (John 6:29, 40).  Now Jesus defines eternal life as not only believing, but actually knowing “the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom He had sent” (John 17:3).

What makes life eternal is more than just its length.  Eternal life also has a quality; the quality of actually knowing God.  And it is knowing Jesus whom God has sent.  In the context of John chapter 17, Jesus is referring to God sending Him to the earth.  But in our context, it could just as easy be God sending Jesus to us, to live His resurrected life in us.  This is eternal life; knowing God and knowing the Christ who lives in us.  What sets eternal life apart from temporal life is not just its longevity, but its intimate connection to God Himself.

For us, eternal life began the hour we believed.  This is one reason we believe that once we embrace the gospel message of Christ, our standing as a child of God cannot be revoked.  Our eternal life – the promise that came from our believing in Jesus – has already begun.  And its greatest quality is that we can know, really know, God the Father and the Son whom He has sent.