And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.
Occasionally at a funeral I will hear the officiant say of the one who has died, he/she has now entered into “eternal life”. When I hear that, I think of how eternal life can happen to us right now. Right now, the Father wants us to enter into new life. Right now He wants us to experience the peace, joy, and love that come from being close to His heart. “And this is eternal life, that they may know you”.
Along with many Bible commentators, William Barclay rightly points out that in the language of Jesus’ day, eternal life “has to do not so much with duration of life…its main meaning is quality of life”. When Jesus promises believers eternal life, He is talking about far more than a life unending. Jesus is talking about a quality of life rather than a quantity of life. Here is life qualitatively different from anything we have ever imagined or called ‘life’.
Jesus says in today’s text that eternal life comes in knowing “the only true God, and Jesus Christ”. I often tell people the difference that knowing my wife Rita has made in my life. I am changed by knowing her and being loved by her. How much more different, how much more life-giving and transforming it is to know God, and His Son Jesus! This is eternal life now!
When Jesus says that eternal life comes in knowing the Father and Him, He uses a Greek word (ginosko) that denotes experiential knowledge of a person. It is a knowing that is far more than knowing right facts about God, or having a right theology of Him. It is a knowing that speaks of relationship and intimacy. It is to know Him in the way that a lover knows the beloved. When you know God personally and walk with Him, each day can be an adventure. Each day you can participate in the quality of life that is God’s! It is a life unending, because it will take us forever to know God in all His glory and grace.
Eternal life is a personal relationship with both the Father and the Son. It is an eternal, unending relationship with God that can be yours today. It is because of Jesus, who brings us close to the Father’s heart. “But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and through believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31).
What are there in Jesus’ words today to know; to feel; to do?