“And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” John 17:3
It’s been more than twenty years since I first noticed our focus text, and it continues to be one of my favorite texts.
It’s one of those text that would be easy to just plow through and miss if you’re not being slow and thoughtful as you read it.
I can’t take any credit for discovery of this text; I believe it was first brought to my attention while I was reading a book by Ty Gibson.
Let’s start unpacking the text by thinking about the first phrase, “this is eternal life.” We usually think of eternal life primarily in terms of its length. It’s life that never ends; it goes on eternally. And while that’s true it’s not how Jesus goes on to define it.
How does Jesus define eternal life?
“That they may know You.” As we continue slowly making our way through this text we next notice that eternally life is defined by knowing. It occurs to me that death came to humanity at the same time as we gained the knowing of good and evil. Now eternal life returns to us as we come to know God once again.
Knowledge of God, the same as knowledge of any complex person, refers to a perpetual process. You never suddenly know someone, neither can you ever completely know anyone. Knowing another person implies a relationship in which you are growing in your knowledge and understanding of one another, day by day, year by year.
In this case the relationship is with God. We’ll never fully comprehend God. He’s eternal. His wisdom and thoughts are as high above ours as the heavens are above the earth. Yet he invites us to come close to him and enter into a relationship with him and to come to know him.
In knowing Him the first thing we’re called to notice is that he’s the only true God. This shouldn’t be a surprise to us; it’s the message of the first of the Ten Commandments, and the reason why we should have no other God’s. Only he is truly God, and it is he who has given us life. Death came when he separated ourselves from that relationship where we were perpetually growing in our knowledge of him, and he calls us back to that relationship so that we can once again know him and have life.
The next thing we notice is that it’s in knowing the Son, Jesus Christ, that we come to know the Father. Look to Jesus and know him. Look to Jesus and understand him better. Look to Jesus and accept a relationship with God once again. Look to Jesus and find life, eternal life.