I’ve been a Christian for a long time. I’ve read the bible countless times. What continues to amaze me is the way that the bible is a living, breathing document that continues to speak new words to me throughout the years. I often read the Bible and come across a particular verse that blows me away.
Just today I was reading and came across John 17:3. I’m sure I’ve read it before, but today it was with fresh eyes. I said to myself, “I can’t believe I’ve never noticed this before.”
Jesus is praying for himself, his disciples, and future believers before his arrest and execution. He knows he’s about to die, and this is what he chooses to pray; pretty significant stuff. I’m sure he chose his words carefully.
“Now this is eternal life that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” John 17:3
“This is eternal life….”
This is it, a definition to help explain all the other scriptures that talk about eternal life. This is significant, because it clarifies, it defines, it illuminates.
I don’t know about you, but growing up in Sunday school I was taught eternal life, meant heaven. Pearly gates. Streets of gold. Mansions. Extra jewels in your crown. Puppy dogs, kittens, and candy canes.
Of course I’m simplifying it for dramatic effect. And yes, I do believe in heaven. But what is important for me to notice is that in this instance Jesus is defining eternal life as relationship with God the father and God the son.
Did you catch that?
Eternal life is not a time frame.
It doesn’t mean “forever.”
It doesn’t mean infinite streets of gold floating in the clouds with unending time.
Eternal life is a relationship. It is relationship now, here, beginning in this life, and continuing into the life to come.
For many years as a Christian, long before I could express it theologically, I had a problem with the idea that we need to get people to say the “sinners prayers” so that they can be saved, avoid hell, and walk on golden streets.
When I meet hurting people, it is not my goal to get them to say a prayer to avoid hell. My goal is to introduce them to life in relationship with the Father. What good is a sinner’s prayer, when it’s not followed with relationship? Nothing. It’s just empty, vacant words.
Following on the heels of Easter, our focus is on the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. But I think that we would be remiss to forget that the purpose of this is to allow for relationship with the Father. Jesus himself prays in John 17:25,26:
“Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you...and I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them, and that I myself may be in them.”
God, help me to show your love to my world. Amen.