In September this year, Sydney churches will take part in a media and evangelistic campaign called “Jesus. all about life”.
And the major point is this, “Lots of what Jesus had to say about LIFE really MAKES SENSE.”
Apparently research has shown Aussies aren’t particularly into ORGANISED RELIGION or CHURCHES, but they’re attracted to the person of Jesus, and what he taught. They want ideas about life that WORK. Ideas that give PURPOSE AND MEANING.
So, the campaign slogan, “Jesus. All about LIFE”
And when we come to John’s Gospel, we find Jesus saying PLENTY about LIFE. In fact, right at the beginning, we read, John 1:3-4
3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 IN HIM WAS LIFE, and that life was the light of men.
He’s the SOURCE of life. His WORDS, his LIFE, his ACTIONS.
1. This is eternal life:
And the key idea in John, the phrase that gets to the ROOT of what Jesus thought and taught about life is this one – ETERNAL LIFE. 16 times in John. And only two or three times in each of the other gospels.
Let me give you a flavour of what Jesus says.
- 3:16 you’ll know. That WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM won’t perish, but have… ETERNAL LIFE.
- And the OPPOSITE’S true. 3:36. Whoever REJECTS the Son will NOT see life
- 5:24 adds, the one who believes in the Son WON’T BE CONDEMNED; he HAS CROSSED OVER FROM TO LIFE. (5:24)
Then there’s a of images Jesus uses that seem a bit strange.
- Whoever DRINKS THE LIVING WATER JESUS GIVES will never thirst. It will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (4:14)
- Or this one: Whoever EATS JESUS’ FLESH AND DRINKS HIS has eternal life, and Jesus will raise him up at the last day. (6:54)
A bit further on (10:27-28) we find that:
- Jesus gives his sheep ETERNAL LIFE, and THEY SHALL NEVER PERISH; NO ONE CAN THEM OUT OF HIS HAND.
Plenty more we COULD quote, but you get the idea.
If you had to summarise it all, to GET eternal life, you have to RESPOND APPROPRIATELY to Jesus. Trust him, Hear his words and believe them. Or, more cryptically, drink the living water he gives, or eat his flesh and . Which boils down to the same thing. Hear what he SAYS, believe it. Trust it. And then you WON’T PERISH.
What’s more, whatever eternal life is. Once you’ve GOT it, it’s PRETTY SECURE. Jesus says no one can his sheep out of his hand.
And, here at the start of Ch 17 we get ANOTHER insight into what it’s about. (We read the whole chapter, but we’re going to focus on the first five verses.) Look at v2. Jesus talking about ETERNAL LIFE again. He’s talking to God, about himself.
2 For you granted him authority over all people THAT HE MIGHT GIVE ETERNAL LIFE TO ALL THOSE YOU HAVE GIVEN HIM.
However you GET eternal life, it’s NOT SELF-SERVICE. God grants Jesus the AUTHORITY over people/ so he can GIVE eternal life to those people God’s decided. It’s not up to US.
To hand out gifts like THAT, you’ve got to have the AUTHORITY to DO IT.
The government’s been handing out cheques to all sorts of people to stimulate the economy. Some people have got cheques, and others have missed out. It’s not up to PEOPLE to decide who gets the money. The government’s got THE AUTHORITY. And they decide who QUALIFIES. We just CASH THE CHEQUE if it arrives.
And Jesus has been authorised by God to HAND OUT ETERNAL LIFE to those God’s chosen. God is the SOURCE of eternal life. It’s not FROM US.
2. Knowing the only true God, and Jesus, whom he sent
But what IS eternal life? None of those references really get to the heart of the matter. They just talk about GETTING it.
In the next verse in Jn 17, we find the most extraordinary definition of what eternal life is (v3). And it’s the key. The key to everything Jesus has said up til now about how to GET it. And the key to what Jesus is on about in THIS PRAYER.
But it’s MORE THAN THAT. The next verse is also the key to what LIFE ITSELF is all about. Not just NOW, but once THIS LIFE is over. It’s the answer to the big questions, “What’s life all about? Why am I here? What’s the PURPOSE of life?”
That’s a big build up. Can the verse measure up? Let’s look at it. v3. Read it aloud with me.
3 Now THIS is eternal life: THAT THEY MAY KNOW YOU, the ONLY TRUE GOD, and JESUS CHRIST, whom you have sent.
What’s eternal life? It’s about KNOWING THE ONLY TRUE GOD, and the one he sent to SHOW us himself, Jesus Christ. That’s what LIFE is all about.
Eternal life. The Greek phrase literally means life OF THE AGES. Just that phrase suggests there’s more to it than just LENGTH of life. More than just what you get when you die. Life of the ages/ is life LIVED NOW with THE PERSPECTIVE OF ETERNITY. With the perspective of THE KINGDOM OF GOD.
It’s living life TRULY. FULLY. It’s MAXIMUM life.
It’s not lived serving FALSE TEMPORARY gods – lumps of wood, or things, or ideas, or philosophies. Things that rust or break or let you down. But life that achieves its POTENTIAL. Life the way it was DESIGNED to be lived.
But more than just life lived with the perspective of eternity, it’s life lived with the perspective of THE ETERNAL ONE.
It’s life lived/ in dependence on, and recognition of, the one who MADE you, and everything there is. The one who KEEPS EVERYTHING GOING. And the one who’ll bring it to an end when it’s served his purpose.
THIS is eternal life: THAT THEY MAY KNOW YOU, the ONLY TRUE GOD, and JESUS CHRIST, whom you have sent.
Jesus didn’t just come to make life LONG, but to make life RICH AND ABUNDANT. In Jn 10:10, he says
I have come that THEY MAY HAVE LIFE, and have it to the FULL.
Full, complete, maximum LIFE. Now AND in eternity.
In that sense eternal life is more about QUALITY than QUANTITY.
More about REALITY OF RELATIONSHIP than NUMBER OF YEARS.
More about KNOWLEDGE of the EVERLASTING ONE/ than LIFE that’s everlasting.
And that’s what Jesus came to BRING us. To SHOW us – how to KNOW the only true God.
But it hadn’t ALWAYS been that way. The Old Testament was characterised by knowing God PARTIALLY. At great COST. A holy God could be approached by sinful people, but only through sacrifices and careful preparation, and only by selected representatives.
But it was more about his relationship with A NATION, rather than with INDIVIDUALS.
And God longed for the day when EVERY ONE of his people would know him. In Jer 31:34 he promises a new agreement.
31 “The time is coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel… 32 It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers … “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ BECAUSE THEY WILL ALL KNOW ME, FROM THE LEAST OF THEM TO THE GREATEST,” declares the LORD. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
God longed for a time when the barriers of the OLD agreement would be removed. When sin would be dealt with once and for all. By a PERFECT, UNREPEATABLE sacrifice. When the old RE would be dealt with, when his Spirit could write his law on people’s hearts and minds. And give them new LIFE. Give them the DESIRE and the ABILITY to KEEP his law. To KNOW him TRULY. Which is what eternal life is.
And Jesus’ point here in Jn 17 is that he’s the way all that happens.
Have a look at Jesus’ words from the start.
“Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. 2 For you granted him authority over all people that HE MIGHT GIVE ETERNAL LIFE to all those you have given him. 3 Now this is eternal life: THAT THEY MAY KNOW YOU, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.
Jesus’ whole ministry is to bring people to God. Tell them what he’s like, and what he expects of them. To bridge the gap through his .
He GIVES ETERNAL LIFE as he brings people to KNOW the FATHER.
And the concept John likes to use to describe that REVEALING / is GLORY. Jesus is the GLORY of GOD. Or the one who GLORIFIES God. Right back in Ch 1:14 he sums up Jesus’ ministry like this
14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. WE HAVE SEEN HIS GLORY, THE GLORY OF THE ONE AND ONLY, WHO CAME FROM THE FATHER, full of grace and truth.
Glory, for John, means something like the VISIBLE SELF-REVELATION OF GOD. To GLORIFY God means to REVEAL THE GLORY of God. To CAUSE PEOPLE TO SEE what God is like.
And John says “We’ve seen the glory of the only one who’s come from the Father. No one else could communicate what God’s like, except someone who’s come from God. The WORD, God’s self-communication.
And there’s a whole Old Testament background to this word GLORY that’s suggested here in Ch 1:14.
When we read “The word became flesh and MADE HIS DWELLING among us”, the word for “made his dwelling” is literally “pitched his tabernacle”. Just like God did among the Israelites in the desert.
When God pitched his tent among his people, here’s what happened. Exod 40:34 Moses finishes building the tabernacle. And then v34
34 Then the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. 35 Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting because the cloud had settled upon it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.
The glory of the LORD, in the Old Testament, was a visible, shining, radiant cloud. It was the invisible God himself, choosing to reveal himself, to make himself VISIBLE to people.
The same glory cloud appeared when SOLOMON’S TEMPLE was built. And then in Ezekiel, we read about God’s glory LEAVING the temple because of the sin of the people.
And then, when Jesus, the Word, who was with God and WAS God appeared. John tells us WE HAVE SEEN HIS GLORY.
JUST LIKE THE GLORY IN THE OLD TESTAMENT, JESUS REVEALS WHO GOD IS. His VISIBLE SELF-EXPRESSION. It’s a concept that sums up his whole ministry. Even here in his prayer in Ch 17 we see it. Like v6.
6 “I have REVEALED you to those whom you gave me out of the world.
Or down in v22.
22 I have GIVEN THEM THE GLORY that you gave me,
Jesus causes God’s glory to be seen. He reveals it in his WORDS, he reveals it in his SIGNS.
But most clearly, and ultimately, Jesus reveals God’s glory AT THE CROSS.
In Ch 12 v23, Jesus has just entered Jerusalem on the donkey. The crowds have cheered, but Jesus knows it won’t last. The Jewish leaders are plotting to kill him. And Jesus says,
23 Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be GLORIFIED. 24 I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and DIES, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.
To be GLORIFIED means to have his GLORY REVEALED. To show his true majesty. And, for Jesus, that will happen WHEN HE DIES.
A few verses on, as Jesus weighs up the options, he says (v27)
27 “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’)? (the hour of his ) No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28 Father, GLORIFY your name!”
In other words, “In my cause your GLORY to be revealed. May people see how righteous and holy and loving and glorious you are in my act of obedience.”
And God answers: “I have glorified it, and WILL GLORIFY IT AGAIN.”
And so the hour of Jesus’ GLORY approaches. When he’ll REVEAL God’s glory through his sacrificial .
Which brings us back to ch 17, where we BEGAN. And where Jesus says (v1), “Father the time (the HOUR) has come. GLORIFY your Son, that your Son may GLORIFY you”
In other words, “In the events of the next hours, days and weeks. In my arrest, trial, suffering, , resurrection and ascension, CAUSE PEOPLE TO RECOGNISE THE GLORY AND MAJESTY OF YOUR SON, so that they can recognise YOUR glory and majesty in his obedient sacrifice.”
And then he goes on. It’s the GROUNDS for his request. WHY can he pray that God will glorify him? “For you granted him authority to GIVE ETERNAL LIFE, which is KNOWING YOU”.
Because God’s plan, from all eternity, was to give Jesus the authority to give eternal life to his sheep. Life that came through KNOWING HIM.
And so, Jesus can pray that his Father would glorify him, at THIS HOUR, the hour of the cross, since that had been his eternal plan – to give Jesus the authority to give life through the knowledge of
And the key to connecting all of those concepts (glory, eternal life, knowing God) is THE CROSS. The Jesus is staring in the face. The hour of his glory.
THE CROSS IS THE KEY. Jesus REVEALS GOD’S GLORY on the cross. He reveals what God is like, he MAKES HIM KNOWN.
Eternal life, which is knowing God, comes at THE CROSS. It’s WON at the cross.
And it’s where we KNOW God most intimately. Where we see him reveal himself most completely. Where we RECOGNISE HIS GLORY.
- In the cross, we see God’s HOLINESS. It’s a BIG DEAL for sinful people to approach a perfect God. It’s COSTLY.
- In the cross, we see God’s JUSTICE. Sin can’t simply be overlooked. It must be dealt with. To do otherwise wouldn’t be FAIR. So God punishes Jesus in our place.
- In the cross, we see God’s LOVE. He loved the world SO MUCH he gave his ONLY SON that whoever believes in him won’t perish but have eternal life. The cross reveals God’s LOVE.
- In the cross, we see God’s GRACE AND FORGIVENESS. It was because of ME that Jesus died. I don’t deserve it. Never have, never will. But Jesus did it WILLINGLY. GRACIOUSLY.
And God offers FORGIVENESS with that same willingness and grace.
- And over it all, in the cross we see God’s amazing PROVIDENCE, his sovereign perfect planning of history. Using the actions of wicked men to achieve his perfect plans.
That’s THE GLORY OF GOD. And it’s Jesus’ prayer here. That we might SEE it / in the hour of his glory.
He PRAYS it because plenty of people DON’T see glory here. They see the EVENTS. They see , and pain and . But they see a failed revolutionary, or a cruel vengeful God, or an example for us to follow.
But they don’t see the GLORY OF THE SON, who causes all glory to be given to the FATHER.
There’s only ONE TRUE WAY to know the ONE TRUE God. It’s Jesus, the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through him.
And we KNOW God as we focus our attention, again and again, as Jesus is GLORIFIED / on the CROSS.
Like we do/ when we gather around the Lord’s table.
3. Jesus’ desire
That’s what eternal life is. Life we begin to live NOW. Life we GROW INTO, as we know the one true God better and better.
But it’s not ALL eternal life is. Jesus has a PERSPECTIVE on it we can only begin to IMAGINE. He’s known it since before the dawn of the Universe. In v5, he prays
5 And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.
He knows ETERNITY, he knows GLORY, he knows the FATHER / FROM THE INSIDE. In the most intimate and connected way possible. And he wants to RETURN to that.
But that’s not all. Here’s the BEST bit. Jump down to the end of Jesus’ prayer. V24. And Jesus is actually praying for US. All generations of Christians who followed those first disciples. And, among other things, he’s got one end goal in mind. The RESULT of all the other things he prays for in the chapter.
If eternal life is knowing the one true God, and Jesus, whom he sent. And it’s life we BEGIN NOW. Then how much better will THIS TAKE on ETERNAL LIFE be? V24.
24 “Father, I want those you have given me to BE WITH ME where I am, and to SEE MY GLORY, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.
Eternity might be all sorts of things. But here’s the greatest treasure of all. BEING WITH Jesus. Seeing his GLORY. His MAJESTY, his righteous judgment of evil. His awesome power over every ruler. The Lion of Judah.
His humble servanthood. His gentle comforting of the broken, his laughter, his wisdom, his love. The slain lamb. Seeing his GLORY. Worshipping him. KNOWING INTIMATELY and COMPLETELY God, and his Son Jesus. THAT’S eternal life.
For anyone else to say they want people to see their glory would be egotistical. “Come and watch me play cricket, I’m glorious!” But for Jesus to say it is perfectly appropriate. Because he IS the most GLORIOUS TREASURE there is.
He wants his people to be WITH him forever, ENJOYING his glory forever. That’s the goal and the purpose of this life. It’s what this life is simply the entrée to. The support band. The cartoon before the main feature.
All eternity won’t be enough time to savour being with him. Knowing him, enjoying him. Wallowing in his love and goodness to us. Astounded at his righteous power and majesty, his humble gentleness and obedience.
And what we know NOW is only the faintest SHADOW of that. Paul says in 1 Cor 13:12 Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I SHALL KNOW FULLY, even as I am fully known.
THAT’S eternal life! Knowing God, and his Son Jesus. Work on doing THAT.