Yesterday at our prayer meeting, after prayer (and some pie and coffee!) we took a brief look at John 17:1-5. This is the beginning of the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus, with which he concluded his final Passover meal with his disciples before his arrest that night.
When I preached from this passage some years ago, I came across a story about the Scottish Reformer John Knox. The details of the story differ from telling to telling; what follows is the version I had read. In 1572, as Knox lay on his death bed, he said to his wife: “Go, read where I cast my first anchor.” His wife opened the Scriptures to John 17 and read these verses:
Thou hast given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as Thou hast given Him; and this is life eternal, that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou has sent. (John 17:2, 3)
Hours after hearing these words, Knox breathed his last and entered into the presence of his Savior.
This story tells us a couple of things about these verses. First, God had used these opening words of Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer to bring John Knox to faith in Christ. Upon these words the future father of Presbyterianism “cast [his] first anchor.” The Holy Spirit brought Knox from death to life as he caused him to see that eternal life is in knowing “the only true God” by faith, faith in “Jesus Christ whom Thou has sent.” The gospel is the power of God for salvation! Until his dying day, Knox never forgot the life-giving words of John 17.
Second, these words not only brought Knox from death to life, spiritually, but they were his comfort and hope as he prepared to pass from life to death, physically. For any believer in Christ, like Knox, these words of our Savior should be heaven-sent music to our ears in the dark hour of death. To know God by faith in Jesus is not just life, but eternal life – life that begins now but extends into eternity and glory, life that is greater than death.
To know Christ is not only the key to living well, it is also the key to dying well. With Christ we die in hope, knowing that for us death is not the end of life but the transition to that life in heavenly glory that our Father has prepared for us. Like Knox, let us cast our anchors into the solid ground of Christ our Savior! He alone has “the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).
Soli Deo Gloria!