Which of us is not drawn by the desire to be fully alive? To experience life to the full? Not to be missing out on the best that life has to offer?
We all want it. It’s why people party. Take exotic holidays. Climb to the top of the mountain. Swim to the bottom of the ocean. We all want life, with a capital L.
For our combined services we’ve started looking together at one chapter of the Bible, John chapter 17. We only join together like this 4 times a year, and I think we’ll be in this chapter for some time.
Recap: Verse 3
Last time, we read the same 5 verses we heard today, and we focussed on verse 3.
“Now this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” “Now this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”
If you weren’t here in July, or if your memory is hazy, let me remind you. We made two points. Firstly, the way to be fully alive is to know God. Real life, deep life, meaningful life, full life is found in a personal relationship with God. That may surprise you. It may not at times feel like what you thought the fullest life possible ought to feel like. But it’s true.
The second thing we said is that life with a capital L is not just about knowing any old “god”. Pick a deity of your choice and follow him. This is not about finding your path, finding your own sense of fulfilment. “Now this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” There’s only one true God, and life is all about knowing him. And he’s the God who has Jesus Christ as his Son. Life is also about knowing that Jesus.
That was last time. Verse 3. “Now this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” If you want to be fully alive, the only way is to have a personal relationship with the one true God, and with Jesus his son.
How do we know God?
The next question we ask is how we get there? How do you get to know the one true God? To many people, God seems distant. It’s hard to know anything about him for certain. Never mind actually knowing him.
Well that’s our question for today. And to answer it, we’re going to look at verses 2 and 4.
This first part of Jesus’ prayer is symmetrical. Verses 1 and 5 have a lot in common. Verses 2 and 4 have a lot in common. And then the centrepiece is verse 3. So we’re going to work our way out: Verse 3 last time. Verses 2 and 4 today. Verses 1 and 5 next time.
Verse 3: If we want to live life to the full, we need to know God. Today, verses 2 and 4: How do we come to know God?
The answer is that we come to Jesus and ask him for it. Eternal life is something he gives. A relationship with God is something he gives. It’s a free gift, and it comes from him. So we need to ask him for it.
How do we do that, you’re wondering? Well you can talk to him and ask him. He can hear you. He’s the Son of God. He hears everything. And you can hear him speak to you, too, when you read the Bible. The Bible is Jesus speaking to us today.
Jesus is the one who gives out eternal life.
And I want to show you that this is what Jesus is saying in verses 2 and 4. If we want eternal life, we need to come to him. He says it in both verses 2 and 4, but he gives us a different reason why this is so in each of those verses.
Jesus Gives Eternal Life By His Father’s Authority.
Firstly, let’s look at verse 2. Jesus gives eternal life – by his Father’s authority. Jesus gives eternal life – by his Father’s authority.
Let me read verse 2: “For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.”
Who granted who authority?
Look at verse 1. Jesus is praying to God the Father. He’s praying about himself, speaking in the third person. “Glorify your Son”. Which tells us what’s going on in verse 2. I’ll read it again: “For you (God the Father), granted him (Jesus the Son) authority over all people, that he (Jesus) might give eternal life to all you (the Father) have given him (that is, Jesus).”
God the Father has given Jesus authority over all people, so that Jesus might be the one to give out the gift of eternal life. Jesus gives eternal life – by his Father’s authority.
Many Christians find the idea of the Trinity hard to understand. That’s OK. We’re talking about God, and I think we’re allowed to find bits of God hard to understand. He’d be a pretty useless God otherwise.
Sometimes you just can’t avoid the Trinity. Here’s one of those places. We have God the Father and we have God the Son. Both are fully God. They’re not the same person. Because Jesus, God the Son, is talking to the Father. Here are two distinct persons having a conversation. God the Father is not God the Son. They’re two persons.
Yet there are not two Gods. There is only one true God. And, no, I haven’t forgotten God the Holy Spirit – I’m just focussing on what we have in the verses in front of us.
This passage tells us one really important thing about the relationship between God the Father and God the Son. It might surprise you, but once you’ve seen it in one place you see it popping up everywhere. God the Son is under God the Father’s authority. They’re both God. Jesus is no less God than the Father. But there is an order to their relationship. They aren’t two brothers, they’re Father and Son. Jesus has authority over every human being because God the Father has given him that authority.
And that authority was given so that Jesus might be the one to give out the gift of eternal life. Jesus gives eternal life – by his Father’s authority.
It’s bonus time at the firm you work for in the City of London. The CEO of your firm has given a senior partner the job of allocating each employee their annual bonus, and then telling them what their bonus will be. If you want to receive your bonus, this is the person you need to go and see when you’re asked for. They’re the one with the authority for handing out the bonuses this year.
There’s a new show on at in the West End. Up until now, you’ve only had the tiniest roles in the panto at the Stag, but you’d like to get a part however small on the big stage. The producer and director have appointed a casting director. The casting director has been given the authority to decide everyone who will be in the show, from the lead roles to the walk-on parts. If you want to be in, it’s them you need to persuade.
You’re a newly recruited Able Rate on a ship in the Royal Navy. You’ve been at sea for 6 weeks, and your ship pulls into a European port to restock. You’ll only be there for the 10 hours that takes, and then the ship sails. Half the crew have to stay on board, while half will be given leave to go ashore. The Commander has given one of his Lieutenants the job of handing out the leave slips. It’s first come first served, but if you want to go ashore you need to see the Lieutenant.
Eternal life consists in having a personal relationship with God, Father Son and Spirit. God the Father is in charge, and he has given his Son authority to be the one who gives life, who gives the gift of a living relationship with the Living God. If you want to know God for yourself, Jesus is the one you must go to.
Jesus gives eternal life – by his Father’s authority.
Jesus Gives Eternal Life Because Of His Finished Work
That’s verse 2. Now let’s look at verse 4. Jesus gives eternal life – because of his finished work. Jesus gives eternal life – because of his finished work.
Let me read verse 4: “I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.”
The astronaut on the space station goes on a spacewalk. There’s a sensor that needs replacing. After all the preparations and safety checks, out he goes. He replaces the sensor. Job done. It’s time to come back in.
Jesus was sent to earth to do a job. He’s finished the job, and he’s coming home.
What was the job he was given to do? Well we simply need to read through verses 2 to 4. Verse 2: God the Father has given him authority to give out eternal life. Verse 3: This is eternal life, to know God. Verse 4: I’ve finished the work you gave me to do.
Jesus has done everything that needs to be done to give eternal life to each person who asks for it.
The question is: What has he done?
The simple answer is: Everything he did in his time on the earth.
That includes his death, and it includes his coming back to life again. Now, sure, those things haven’t quite yet happened at this point. Jesus prayed the prayer in John chapter 17 the night before he died.
But Jesus is so nearly done, so soon to leave this world and return to the Father, that he speaks as though those final moments have already happened. So, for example, glance down to verse 12. Jesus says: “While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe.” What does he mean, “was with them”? He still is. But he’s speaking as though he’s the other side of leaving.
So he’s done all he needed to do to bring eternal life to everyone who’s going to have it. And that includes dying on the cross. And it includes coming to life again. In fact, it especially includes those things.
Let me read you some verses from elsewhere in John’s gospel. Verses that say quite clearly how it is specifically the death of Jesus that makes it possible for us to be given eternal life.
John chapter 3, verses 14 and 15: “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”
John chapter 6, verse 51: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live for ever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
John chapter 12, verses 24 and 32: “Very truly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. … And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
If we are to know God, our sin has to be removed. Our sin, our selfishness, our pride – is a massive barrier between us and God. As long as that sin is there, we cannot know God.
When Jesus died on the cross, he took on himself all the sin of everyone who will ever trust him. He took that sin, and he carried it. He bore it. He was punished in our place. And so our sin was removed, and it became possible to know God again.
Jesus has done everything that needs to be done for us to know God. He died on the cross. He rose to life again. He’d finished his work on earth, and he could come home. Jesus gives eternal life – because of his finished work.
The church craft group have knitted a huge quantity of hats, mitts and scarves. Hedvika has made a large number of bars of handmade soap. If you’re putting together a shoebox this Christmas, you’re welcome to put those things in your box. You just have to go and ask Jane or Hedvika. They’ve done all that needs to be done for you to include those items in your shoebox. Unless you’re too late and they’re all gone.
Jesus has done all that needs to be done for you to have eternal life, for you to have a relationship with the God who made you. You just have to go and ask him. The supply is limitless. Nobody comes to Jesus and finds he’s run out of love and forgiveness. You just have to ask.
Jesus gives eternal life – because of his finished work.
Nobody wants to miss out .Nobody wants to miss out on the fullest life that it’s possible to live.
That is found in knowing, personally, the one true God, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
And that life, that relationship, is a gift. A gift that only Jesus can give you.
The question is: Is this something you have received from him? Or are you one of the ones who is missing out?