What does John 17:3 really mean?

3 And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.


Setting the Scene for John 17:3

In John chapter 17, we find Jesus praying to God in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night before His crucifixion. The scene is set in the quiet darkness of the garden, with ancient olive trees casting long shadows on the ground. Jesus is surrounded by His disciples, who have accompanied Him to this place after sharing the Last Supper together.

The disciples, including Peter, James, and John, are gathered around Jesus as He pours out His heart in prayer to the Father. They are weary from the events of the day, but they are also filled with a sense of anticipation and foreboding as they sense that something momentous is about to happen. The atmosphere is heavy with emotion, as Jesus speaks of His impending suffering and asks for strength to endure what lies ahead.

As Jesus prays, His words are filled with love and intimacy as He expresses His deep connection to the Father. The disciples listen intently, their hearts heavy with the weight of what is to come. In this sacred moment, Jesus reveals His true purpose and the eternal life that comes from knowing God. The scene is one of profound significance, as Jesus prepares Himself and His disciples for the ultimate sacrifice that will soon take place.

What is John 17:3 about?

Christ highlights what true eternal life means in John 17:3. It is not just about living forever in a religious sense, but it is about having a deep, personal, and intimate relationship with God and Jesus Christ. Knowing God and Jesus enables us to experience a life filled with significance, purpose, and meaning. This verse emphasizes the importance of seeking a genuine connection with the divine, rather than simply going through the motions of religious rituals.

Have you ever pondered on what it truly means to have eternal life? It’s not just a distant promise of a future afterlife, but an invitation to experience the presence and love of God in our lives here and now. This verse challenges us to reflect on the quality of our relationship with God and Jesus – are we truly seeking to know them on a personal level, to understand their teachings, and to follow their example? We secure our place in eternity and transform our present existence into a meaningful and fulfilling journey guided by divine wisdom and love.

Think about how knowing God and Jesus can impact your life. It’s not just about accumulating knowledge or adhering to a set of rules, but about cultivating a deep spiritual connection that shapes your values, actions, and relationships. Meditate on this verse to deepen your understanding and relationship with God and Jesus, bringing a sense of purpose, peace, and joy to your life. Eternal life begins now, in the knowing, loving, and following of God and Jesus Christ.

Understanding what John 17:3 really means

Context and Structure

To provide a comprehensive understanding of John 17:3, let’s break down the commentary into the following sections: Context, Key Phrases, Biblical Correlations, Relevance Today, and Personal Reflection.


John 17 is a part of what is often called Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer. This chapter captures Jesus praying for Himself, His disciples, and all future believers just before His arrest and crucifixion. Verse 3 is pivotal because it defines eternal life in a profoundly relational manner, emphasizing knowing God and Jesus Christ.

Key Phrases

Let’s focus on phrases like “eternal life” and “know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” “Eternal life” here is not just about immortality but about a quality of life rooted in a relationship with God. “Know you” implies an intimate, personal relationship, not just intellectual knowledge. This intimacy is the essence of eternal life.

Biblical Correlations

This concept of knowing God is echoed throughout Scripture. God states in Hosea 6:6 that He desires steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” Similarly, in Philippians 3:10, Paul expresses his desire to “know Christ and the power of his resurrection.” These passages reinforce that true life is found in a relationship with God, not in religious rituals or mere intellectual assent.

Relevance Today

Why is this relevant today? This verse calls us to seek a deeper, more meaningful relationship with God in a world often driven by materialism and superficial connections. It’s a reminder that eternal life starts now through knowing God. It’s a call to prioritize our spiritual relationship over worldly pursuits.

Personal Reflection

Imagine you’re building a friendship. It’s not enough to know facts about your friend; you need to spend time together, sharing experiences and growing in understanding. Our relationship with God is similar. Knowing God and Jesus Christ involves prayer, reading Scripture, and living out our faith daily.

One of my parishioners once shared how their life changed when they shifted from merely attending church to actively seeking a personal relationship with God. Their struggles didn’t vanish, but they found a profound sense of peace and purpose that they hadn’t experienced before. This is the essence of eternal life that Jesus speaks of—a transformative relationship that starts now and lasts forever.


John 17:3 encapsulates the heart of Christian faith: eternal life through knowing God and Jesus Christ. It challenges us to move beyond surface-level faith and seek a deep, personal relationship with our Creator. Reflect on your own life—are you truly knowing God, or just knowing about Him? This verse invites you into a transformative journey, one that promises not just life after death but a rich, fulfilling life here and now.

How can we come to know God personally?

We can come to know God personally by understanding that eternal life is found in knowing Him. This means having a personal, intimate relationship with Him. To know God is to have a deep understanding of His character, His love, and His will for our lives. It involves spending time in His presence, seeking Him in prayer, studying His Word, and allowing His Spirit to work in our hearts.

Through this personal relationship with God, we can experience His love, His guidance, and His peace in our lives. It is through knowing God that we can find true fulfillment and purpose. He reveals Himself to us in ways that transform our hearts and minds as we seek to know Him more intimately, drawing us closer to Him and deepening our faith. Knowing God personally is not just about having knowledge of Him, but about experiencing His presence and power in our lives on a daily basis.


Think of God as the ultimate mentor in your life’s journey. In John 17:3, you’re invited to understand Him more deeply, just like you’d seek to know a close family member or a trusted colleague. Dive into prayer, read His Word, and live by His teachings. Take action today to strengthen that connection. Are you ready to invest in the most important relationship of your life?