What Is The Meaning of John 17:3? 


The Gospel of John is different than the rest of the synoptic Gospels.  The books of Matthew, Mark, and Luke recount the story of Jesus using practically the same stories themed according to the Holy Spirit and the author’s original intended audience.  The book of John is different.  Instead of recounting the same stories, it focuses on seven signs that reveal Jesus is the Son of God.  Within each sign lies key elements of the identity of Jesus and life according to his name.  

Behind The Gospel of John 

The Gospel itself was written much later than the other three Gospel accounts.  By the time of its origination, many of the original eyewitnesses to Jesus had died off, and there was a vital need to tell the story of Jesus to those who would never see him face to face.  The Gospel seeks to answer one vital question (among many), how would people know Jesus if they never have seen him?

For the purpose, the writer of the Gospel remains anonymously hidden behind the title “the beloved disciple”.  This is not an attempt to raise conspiracy on Jesus discipleship favoritism, but merely an invitation to become apart of the beloved family.  By believing that Jesus is the Son of God, one steps onto the path of discovering life through His name.  

“Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:30-31)

The writer through the power of the Holy Spirit directly connects the readers of the Gospel to the mission of Jesus.  He died and lived so that we would believe and have eternal life, and by believing we would have life in His name.  

The Meaning of Eternal Life 

Throughout the Gospel, the phrase “eternal life” is strategically positioned by Jesus to define what knowing God truly means. Mentioned seventeen times, Jesus uses the words often as a way to reveal the power of one’s belief in him.  

“..that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” (John 3:15)

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

“but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14)

“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.” (John 5:24)

“Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life.” (John 6:47)

Today, though many view eternal life as a distant reality, Yeshua did not (although this is included in his definition).  Instead, he revealed that eternal life is an immediate result of one’s belief.  Belief, then, is not a static response to Jesus, but a lifestyle connected to the Word.  Those who live connected to His Word, live an eternally present life. 

Yeshua says, simply, “the one who believes has eternal life” (John 6:47). Notice the present tense.  What is important for us to understand, from Yeshua’s perspective, is that our relationship with God and eternal life should impact the way we believe and live life in the present moment.  

Jesus intercepts our perception of enteral life being something that is shoved off in the distance, without any implication on the way we live life on a daily basis. Instead, he offers a present reality to the meaning of eternal life and asks the question, what does it mean to have enteral life?  What will it tangible feel like?  He answers this question in John 17:3. 

“And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:3)

Jesus tells us exactly what eternal life is.  It is, quite simply, to know God.  Now, in our present context, knowing someone falls more on the lines of knowing things about them.  In our social media age, to know somebody means you are connected with them on Facebook or Instagram. You “know” that they have “five” kids or a nice house or that they work at a certain place.  Essentially, you know things about the person, but you don’t know them intimately.  

Knowing God is the opposite.  It’s an intimate personal relationship.  For this reason, the writer could justifiably label himself as the “disciple whom Jesus loved”, because he had an intimate relationship with Jesus (see John 13:23).  This invitation to know God personally is extended through Jesus.  

John 17:3 Meaning: To Know God  

“And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:3)

Knowing Jesus and knowing God is one and of the same because they are the same.  

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” (John 1:1-4)

“ And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

In the beginning, the Word was with God and the Word was God.  The Word became flesh and lived a life among men full of grace and truth.  Jesus is the very Word of God, living, breathing among men.  

To know God is to know the Word and to know the Word is to know God.  They are one and of the same (the true God and Jesus).  This was the personal mission of Lord Jesus, to make known the very nature of God and to give eternal life to those who believe (see John 3:16).  

Jesus extends this personal invitation to know the true God and eternal life by knowing him through the Word of God.  This is the direct context of John 17, known as the Priestly Prayer, in which he prays for the present disciples and the future disciples to know God personally.  Jesus defines what a disciple’s life looks like that knows God.  They can be broken down into the following categories: 

  • They Know His Word  - “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.  Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.” (John 17:6-8)
  • They Know His Name - “And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me.” (John 17:11,12)
  • They Know His Love - “O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” (John 17:25,26)

In the Gospel of John, Yeshua does not mention the phrase “kingdom on heaven”, instead he translates what life in the kingdom is like.  It is the ability to know God personally through His Word, His Name and His Love.  This is eternal life and the meaning of John 17:3. 

Today, the invitation to know God personally is extended to us as yearners of Yeshua.  If you are ready to take your relationship with God to the next level, start here.  In reverence, obedience, honor, and gratitude, we have packaged important discipleship materials that are designed to build a solid foundation of faith in your life.  

Written by
Kyle Echols