What comes to your mind when you hear the phrase “eternal life?”
Maybe you have images of angels floating around in the clouds, strumming harps, stuck in choir practice forever. Perhaps you imagine walking through pearly gates on streets of gold. Or, if you drink from a different well of imagery, perhaps you imagine the undead hordes of vampires or zombies, condemned to roam the earth forever.
Our reading for the Journey today comes from John 17:1-10. Jesus has just finished pouring his heart out to the disciples in the upper room. Now he turns his attention to God the Father and prays. He talks to God.
It is in this context that Jesus defines eternal life. Notice what he says in verse 3,
and this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
I find it curious that he did not say, “and this is how they may obtain eternal life.” Rather, he said, “this IS eternal life.”
I might be splitting hairs and making too much of this, admittedly. But, I think it is important. Eternal life is not a destination, it is a relationship. That is what we have been emphasizing all along in John 13-17. It is all about dwelling, remaining, in and with God as God dwells in and with us, so that we can dwell in and with the world.
The opening images that I mentioned–Angels and zombies–have something in common. They are stuck. The eternal state is one that does not change. It is static. I don’t think that is what God’s desire is for the universe, or for you. A relationship, on the other hand, is dynamic and ever-changing.
The Greek term translated eternal can also be translated of the ages. What if this meant “life of the ages,” or “life as it was intended to be lived.” It is an ever-growing relationship with God.
How might that change the way we think about the Christian life, Jesus, salvation, and Heaven?
My prayer is that you will know eternal life today.