"Now this is eternal life: that they know You, the only true God ..." (John 17:3)

"Now this is eternal life: that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent." (John 17:3)

What does this part of Jesus' prayer mean? 

Jesus is continuing his prayer to the Supreme Being:
After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: (John 17:1)
Let's break it down within the context of who Jesus claimed he was and his purpose for his appearance some 2,000 years ago.*

Jesus starts off with: αὕτη δέ ἐστιν ἡ αἰώνιος ζωή - which translates directly to "This but is the eternal life" - or as the NIV puts it - "Now this is eternal life."

This statement is an identifier, represented here by the colon: The use of the word δέ - translated to "but" - can be translated to "notwithstanding" or "otherwise" - here to "now" - relates to the fact that what follows this phrase will define just what "eternal life" is.

The phrase "eternal life" comes from the two Greek words αἰώνιος (aiōnios) and ζωή (zōē). According to the lexicon, αἰώνιος (aiōnios) refers to something "without beginning and end, that which always has been and always will be."

And the word ζωή (zōē) means "the state of one who is possessed of vitality or is animate" and "every living soul" according to the lexicon.

As to ζωή (zōē) - "every living soul" and "the state of one who is possessed of vitality or is animate" is most obviously referring to our spiritual identity: The spirit-person who dwells within the physical body.

"Every living soul" means each of us does not have a "soul" - but each of us is a soul. How do we know this? Because of the descriptor "living" - also "the state of one who is possessed of vitality or is animate."

This is part of what Jesus is teaching - through this prayer. He is teaching that indeed we are not these temporary bodies but are in fact the "living soul" or spirit within the body. And as he states αἰώνιος ζωή - this "living soul" can find "eternal life."

In other words, here Jesus is identifying what is the living soul lives on after the body dies, and can be engaged in its eternal life.

What is eternal life?

ἵνα γινώσκωσιν σὲ τὸν μόνον ἀληθινὸν θεὸν = "that they know You the only true God..."

Jesus is clearly stating that "eternal life" for the living soul is defined by coming to know God. Why?

This is because each of us is from the spiritual realm, and the spiritual realm is that place where God is exchanging love and caring relationships with His children on a permanent basis. This is our home - that place we are always looking for as we search for our home and our happiness here in this temporary physical world.

Let's use an analogy:

Let's say we were walking along the pier and a flying fish jumped up onto the dock. It starts flapping and flopping around on the dock, and a few people surround it. One says, "the fish is flopping around, maybe it is hungry." Another person says, "maybe it has a broken fin." And yet another says, "maybe it needs to have a comfortable place to lie" and tries to capture the fish into a box. Are any of these people right?

No. The fish is flopping around on the dock because it needs to be returned to the water. The fish needs to find its natural habitat. The fish was made to swim in water - and it is struggling because it is temporarily out of the water.

This is our current position. We are all struggling because we are outside of our natural environment. We each struggle for survival because innately we are eternal. Why else would we struggle so hard to keep the body alive if we didn't feel innately eternal?

We also struggle for fleeting glimpses of pleasure within this temporary physical world - among its hardships and aches and pains. And yet none of these fleeting glimpses of pleasure fulfill us. We just keep looking - hoping we'll find home and happiness here. And those who finally find a nice home, family, and all the creature comforts soon find that it is all temporary. The family members start dying and/or leaving us. The great family life we dreamed of collapses into argument and nit-picking. And the homes we settle into get demolished by hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, earthquakes, floods or simply wear away with age; or get sold or foreclosed.

When we see the tears and sadness when we watch the news and see people who have just lost their houses, we can see - at that very moment - we are eternal despite the temporary nature of the physical world. No matter how many great mementos, family photos, and other memorabilia we have in that house, it is not our home. We may not realize it until it gets demolished, but eventually, we realize it. We see those who have lost their houses pick up the pieces and move on. They will leave that pile of wood that was once their house and start again. At that moment they realize it was all temporary.

This is equivalent to dying. When our body dies, we lose everything related to it. We lose our name, our money, our careers, our jobs, our houses, our family, our education - everything. Everything is gone in an instant. And as we float above our deceased body at the time of death, we realize that it was all temporary.

By vocalizing his prayer in front of his students, Jesus is clarifying that we are not these physical bodies - but are the eternal living souls within those bodies. And our eternal life is re-establishing our eternal relationship with the Supreme Being.

This is captured within the Greek word γινώσκω (ginōskō) which means "to learn to know, come to know, get a knowledge of,  perceive, feel;" "to know, understand, perceive, have knowledge of, to understand." What is this?

Jesus is describing what takes place in a relationship with someone. When a person establishes a relationship with someone, they come to understand that person. They come to have a knowledge of the person. They come to understand what pleases them and what displeases them. These issues are critical to establishing a relationship with someone.

We see this all the time when a person wants to have a relationship with someone. They will find out what that person likes, and they will find a way to give them what they like. By doing so, a person establishes a relationship, because the other person begins to open up to them as they find the person is truly interested in having a relationship, and not just interested in taking advantage of the person - whether it be for sex, position, money or otherwise.

This is a critical issue, because when a person thinks that we are reaching out to them just because we want something - a self-interest - that person will typically shut down. They won't open up to us because they won't trust us.

It is no different in the case of the Supreme Being. If a person wants to know God just so they can show off as the big preacher or guru, God will not open up to such a person. Or if a person just wants to be saved from "going to hell" - that is also a self-centered concern. And again, this will not motivate God to open Himself up His Personality to us.

Just like anyone else, God wants to know that we are reaching out to Him with sincerity. He doesn't want people to pretend to like Him just so they can use Him to achieve something else.

What does God want from us?

First, He doesn't like fakes or flakes. He wants us to be sincere with Him, and honest with ourselves.

God wants us to develop our love for Him. This means getting to know Him.

So the next question is how can a person come to know God? Most of us have some degree of self-centeredness. How can a person become sincere?

Jesus clarifies this in the next part of the statement. He says, "καὶ ὃν ἀπέστειλας Ἰησοῦν Χριστόν". What does this mean?

This Greek phrase is directly translated to "and whom You delegated Jesus Christ."

So did Jesus identify himself as the Christ within his prayer to God? And what does "Jesus Christ" even mean?

Before we delve into this, let's translate his statement more clearly: "καὶ ὃν ἀπέστειλας" refers to not only delegation but of sending. The word ἀποστέλλω (apostellō) means, according to the lexicon, "to order (one) to go to a place appointed;" "to send away, dismiss;" "to order one to depart, send off."

Consider these other statements Jesus made or written of him that also used this word ἀποστέλλω (apostellō):
"I was sent [ἀποστέλλω (apostellō)] only to the lost sheep of Israel." (Matt. 15:24)
These twelve Jesus sent [ἀποστέλλω (apostellō)] out with the following instructions: "Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans." (Matt. 10:5)
He sent [ἀποστέλλω (apostellō)] his servants to those ... (Matt. 22:3)
"Just as the living Father sent [ἀποστέλλω (apostellō)] me ..." (John 6:57)
"...the very works that I am doing--testify that the Father has sent [ἀποστέλλω (apostellō)] me." (John 5:36)

It is clear that the word ἀποστέλλω (apostellō) relates directly to being sent - as an apostle is sent by his teacher to teach to others, or in Jesus' case, as the Supreme Being has sent Jesus. But it also has a deeper meaning - hinted by the word "delegation" - one of representation:

When a disciple is sent or a person sends a messenger, that messenger or disciple becomes a representative of the sender. This is the reference in this part of Jesus' prayer. He is speaking of representing God.

And as we can see by this and other statements by Jesus, this is precisely how Jesus saw himself - as God's messenger and God's representative, being sent by God to teach us.

But what does this have to do with coming to know God - and "eternal life"?

Because Jesus is introducing his students to God. He was sent by God specifically to re-introduce certain people to the Supreme Being.

And it happens to be specifically for - as Jesus points out - "the lost sheep of Israel."

Yes, despite the glazing over these points by some teachers of today who like to stretch out Jesus' statements to broadly appeal to everyone, Jesus' teachings were specifically directed towards the Israelites of Judea, and not Gentiles and Samaritans. Why not?

This goes to the heart of Jesus' role and position, and how the Supreme Being allows those who sincerely want to know Him to be re-introduced to Him.

The Supreme Being sends His representatives - His loving servants - out to re-introduce certain individuals back to Him. Which individuals? Those who have become sincerely interested in renewing their relationship with Him.

And those who become re-introduced, should they become His loving servants, may also be sent by God to re-introduce still others to God - as they are uniquely directed by God.

Jesus was directed specifically by God to introduce the people of Judea - those who had progressed with the Jewish teachings and were ready to take that next serious step of re-establishing their loving service relationship with God. And Jesus then directed his students to carry on this mission.

But gradually, as we understand from the activities of other disciples of Jesus, and those students of Jesus' disciples - the teachings brought forward from Jesus were also passed on to others who were outside the Jewish nation - people who were Gentiles or Samaritans or otherwise. This is because the re-introduction of God to a person by God's representative is a personal thing. God is an individual, and God's representative is an individual. And each of us is an individual.

Let's think clearly about this. Jesus spoke a particular language, and understood the customs and teachings of the ancient Judaism faith. He also received mentoring from those within that lineage of Israelite teachings. This gave Jesus the unique ability to communicate intimately to those people within that society - who might have become to some degree sincere about finding God but were stifled by the empty interpretations of institutional temple priests of that time. Thus Jesus was using those skills to communicate to a certain society to serve God.

It is important that as we read about Jesus' teachings that we take them within their context, and know to whom he was speaking at each moment. But it is also important to realize that God does not just send one person to teach to all of humanity. 

That would be quite unfair, for example, to those who might be living in other parts of the world while Jesus was teaching in Judea. What happens to those who weren't around Jesus physically? Certainly, those living in other places during Jesus' lifetime were already long gone by the time church missionaries reached their part of the world.

Is God unfair to those people? 

Did He just let them fall by the wayside and "go to hell" as "heathens" - as eventually threatened by those missionaries?

No. Again, for those who are serious, God sends His loving servants to represent Him and re-introduce us to Him - where ever we may be. The Supreme Being is not limited to one messenger. He is not limited to one part of the population. He is not limited to having only one "son."

Or is God impotent? Can God only have one son? (Learn about the real translation for "son of God").

In fact, the very expression Ἰησοῦν Χριστόν - which translators propose is Jesus referring to himself as the "Christ" - as in Jesus Christ - is in fact grossly misunderstood by some institutions and their teachers.

Rather, the first word Ἰησοῦς (Iēsous) is not referring to a single individual at all. While others may have referred to Jesus in this way, the word indeed means, literally, "Jehovah is salvation" or "whose help is Jehovah" according to Thayer's lexicon. This is an ancient attribute given to a person who has surrendered their life to God.

And the word Χριστός (Christos), which is assumed to be Jesus' last name, is in fact a reference to the Hebrew word משח (mashach), which means to anoint - and the word "anointed one" - which is a synonym for "messiah". And the most literal translation of Χριστός (Christos) is to either "anointed one" or "messiah."

Consider the word משח (mashach) used in context, as spoken by God:
"Aaron's sacred garments will belong to his descendants so that they can be anointed and ordained in them." (Exodus 29:29)
"Anoint them just as you anointed their father, so they may serve Me as priests. Their anointing will be to a priesthood that will continue throughout their generations."
(Exodus 40:15)
And what is a priest's duty? As God puts it - to serve Him. Thus the word Χριστός (Christos) relates directly to the role of being God's representative - and specifically those who are "sent" by God to teach to others, and conduct His business of reintroducing others to Him.

This also means God's representative is in the role of savior, since only the Supreme Being can truly save us.

And yes, Jesus is referring to himself here, but only the role he is playing in this respect.

Just consider what a person would say if they were speaking of themselves:

They would say "me" or "myself" or "I". They wouldn't speak of themselves in the third person - as Jesus is speaking here.

Just imagine if our name was Sally Jones and we were praying to God. Would we pray:

"Can you please help Sally Jones?"

This would be ridiculous. Sally would most certainly say "Can you please help me."

We can see this given the words Jesus used. Ἰησοῦν Χριστόν refers not to a specific person, but to someone who has first given their life to God. They have thus been sent by God to save others - by representing God and re-introducing those who are sincere and serious to God.

This is Jesus' role, and certainly Jesus we understand Jesus is accepting this role. But the fact that he spoke in the third person indicates that he is also humbling himself before the Supreme Being and accepting that he is not exclusive in this role.

After all, if Jesus was exclusive in this role of re-introducing people to God why did Jesus send out his disciples to also teach to others? Why did Jesus become baptized by John the Baptist as many others did, and later teach the same teachings that John taught ("Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near"), and then say that John the Baptist was "Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist."

And why did Jesus quote Moses, Joshua, David, Solomon, Isaiah, and other teachers before him in his teachings if he did not accept that God sends others to teach about Him and re-introduce us to Him?

Yet each of the sectarian institutions professes that there is no other way but their sect, their teaching, their baptism and their version of Jesus dying on the cross.

They teach their brand of religion is the "only way" despite the fact that their priests and preachers are paid comfortable salaries for their teachings (businessmen), and are elected not by God, but by political committees of deacons and cardinals (politicians).

They claim to be the "only way" despite the fact that their teachers have been caught abusing children, or otherwise taking advantage of others. Is this the only way? By accepting "communion" from someone who may be raping young boys in the backroom after mass?

Is accepting baptism from someone who gets wealthy off the backs of poor people who make donations with their last few dollars so the preacher can live lavishly in their big house and drive around in their big car or pope mobile the "only way"?

Or perhaps the "only way" is to blow up innocent people in public places so they can assert to others that their religion is right and they will go to heaven and receive a bunch of virgins?

Or perhaps otherwise persecuting or bullying others who don't believe in the way we do is the "only way"?

Or perhaps being fanatical about our own beliefs while dismissing any other teachings or scriptures is the "only way"?

The real 'only way' is through what Jesus taught. Jesus is pointing out the real "only way" to reclaim our eternal life: By coming to know God for who He really is. It means becoming serious about our own spiritual life. And humbly and sincerely asking the Supreme Being to help us come to know Him.

The only way to real happiness is not by joining this sect or that sect. It is personally coming to know God, love God, please God and serve God. This is the only way to achieve our "eternal life" - as Jesus taught:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matt. 22:37-38)

*Here is the translation of this verse from Jesus' continuing prayer from the Lost Gospels of Jesus:
"This is eternal life: That they may know You – the only true God – and whom You have sent, Jesus, whom You Anointed. .” (John 17:3)