Today’s passage: John 17:1–19
Focus verse: “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (John 17:3)
With the time of his arrest drawing near and having given his final teaching to his disciples, Jesus prays. This isn’t a quick, God-help-me prayer. It’s an intentional and fervent outpouring of his heart to his Father in heaven.
This prayer is by far the longest prayer of Jesus recorded in the Bible. As such his words are worthy of our focus. Each phrase is noteworthy, but the key one is eternal life—his reason for coming to earth in the first place.
After Jesus confirms that his purpose is to give people eternal life, he explains what this life everlasting is. Eternal life is knowing his Papa, the one and only true God.
It’s also about knowing Jesus, the Messiah, whom God sent. Since Jesus and the Father are one, knowing God the Father and God the Son produces the same result. It’s a relationship with the God seen throughout Scripture.
This explanation of eternal life may not be the clarification we want, but it aligns with John’s poetic writing style. It’s noteworthy that John mentions eternal life more than any other biblical writer, with nineteen mentions in John and six more in 1 John.
Eternal life has two phases.
The part of life eternal that we gravitate to most is our forever future with Jesus in heaven. By believing in Jesus and following him here on earth, we secure a future reality for us with him in heaven when our body dies. Our spirit will live on in eternity with Jesus.
In this idyllic afterlife, there will be no more tears. The threat of death will end. We will not mourn, or cry, or suffer pain. Our memories from earth will fade from our mind (Revelation 21:4).
But eternal life isn’t only about our future. It also addresses our present. To better grasp this, consider what Jesus says about the kingdom of God (kingdom of heaven).
When we say yes to Jesus, eternal life begins at that moment. Though we may not realize it, we live today in the reality of a life eternal. Yes, our experience of eternal life will get better after we die, but we must remember that we’ve already started that journey.
Day by day we move toward perfection through Jesus. That is, God sanctifies us (John 17:19 and 1 Thessalonians 5:23) and perfects us (Hebrews 10:14). This moves us into a fuller realization of eternal life with Jesus (John 4:13–14).
Jesus came to give us eternal life, starting now.
- How often do you have an intentional, fervent outpouring to God, like Jesus did in today’s reading?
- What can you do to better know God the Father and God the Son?
- How well do you do at accepting that eternal life begins here on earth?
- What are you doing today to make the most of Jesus’s eternal life?
- What can you do to point others to Jesus?
Read more in Peter’s new book, Living Water: 40 Reflections on Jesus’s Life and Love from the Gospel of John, available everywhere in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.