17:1 "Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, 2 as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. 4 I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. 5 And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was."
Religion has made the goal or the end result about a reward. For Muslim terrorists they speak of heaven and 70 virgins. Christians speak of streets of gold. There certainly is a place in the heavens where we will go to be with God but that is by far not the sum of what eternal life is.
Here Jesus prays passionately in front of His 11. It's a shame that the English can't convey the full meaning because of our limited verb tenses. I'll do my best to flesh it out.
First the request to be glorified so that God can be glorified is a request to make God's character known to the world by demonstrating it Himself. The purpose for showing His character is to give humanity eternal life. Already it's clear that eternal life is tightly tied to God's character. Then to remove all doubt Jesus defines what eternal life is: "that they might know You..."
That simple phrase "know You" has two key components that the English does not overtly convey. One is that the knowing is a progressive verb. It means a process of coming to know. When two people fall in love and the love grows you will hear them say things later in life like "I love you more now than when I first loved you." It conveys a story of deepening love as their lives became increasingly intimate and intertwined over time. Jesus is defining eternal life as a process of knowing God more and more.
The second idea which I'd clear in the Greek but largely lost in translation is the idea that this knowledge is not book knowledge or theoretical knowledge or knowledge that can be obtained second hand in any form. It is a personal knowing. It's a knowledge that can only be gained through personal contact. We have an expression or saying I grew up hearing "you never really know someone until you live with them." There is an intimacy created by living in close quarters with someone that can't be achieved any other way.
Jesus says that eternal life is to have an ever deepening first hand personal relationship with God that opens His full character to our view because to know Him is to love Him and trust Him.
Think about it. It was an immature incomplete knowledge of God's character that caused Adam and Eve to lose eternal life. Where love and implicit trust do not exist, neither can any meaningful relationship. Things that are eternal must have an indestructible foundation. Jesus is praying that He will successfully complete the mission He has begun, a mission to fully reveal the heart of God so that anyone who chose a to can build on the unmoving and unmovable foundation of the cross.
As we know Him more we trust Him more and the internal pressures become less, and peace increases. Doubts subside replaced by confidence and hope.
Eternal life starts here and now.