What Jesus Says in the Gospel of John About Reaching the Lost in Every Nation
All Christians should give to missions in one form or another. Why?
What does Jesus say about why he came to earth to be among the people he created? To answer that, there’s no better place to look than the gospel of John, which centers on the person and divinity of Jesus more than any other book in the Bible. And as you’re about to see, the book of John reveals that Jesus came to reach the lost – people from every nation who recognize their need for a savior and turn to follow him.
In the gospel of John, Jesus makes a number of statements that begin with “I am.” That harkens back to Exodus when God revealed himself to Moses with that phrase to represent his name. But in John, there is much more to it.
Here are five verses in the book of John where Jesus explicitly states that he came to reach lost people from every nation. For this article, we’re using the New American Standard translation.
John 6:51 – Living Bread
I am the living bread that came down out of heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever, and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.
Here, Jesus calls himself the bread from heaven, and says that anyone who eats this bread lives forever. While this commonly gets used to reference communion, notice who it says the bread of life is for.
Jesus came to give himself, his body, “for the life of the world.”
So, Jesus came to save the whole world – that’s every nation, tribe, and tongue across the globe. Every culture, every political system, every race, every caste, every language. Every person can be saved from sin and eternal separation from God if he or she accepts Jesus as the way to salvation.
John 8:12 – Light of the World
I am the light of the world. He who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.
This famous verse says it right up front. Jesus isn’t the light for just Israel, or just America, or just particular people who look or talk a certain way. No, Jesus brings the light of truth and salvation to the entire world – for everyone. No one who turns to him in faith will be excluded or rejected. No one will walk in darkness when they seek him and follow him.
Elsewhere, in the sermon on the mount in Matthew 5:14, Jesus also says that you are the light of the world, as his follower.
So, the same phrase gets used to describe himself AND the people he saves and appoints to bring the message of salvation and repentance across the world. Why? Because you have been saved and know the truth, and that means you can be a light to the rest of the world that still lives in darkness.
The phrase ‘light of the world’ thus describes Jesus’ heart for the nations, and our call to reach the nations. We are the method Jesus uses to spread his light throughout the world.
John 10:16 – Other Sheep
I have other sheep which are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will hear my voice, and they will become one flock with one shepherd.
This verse is a little less direct, but it comes in the context of another ‘I am’ verse, where Jesus calls himself the “good shepherd.”
Who are the other sheep? He’s referring to the Gentiles, meaning any people from any nation other than Israel. Jesus thus declares himself to be the good shepherd over all the nations, people from every country who turn to him and follow him. And when people from the rest of the nations combine with the ‘sheep’ from Israel, we will form “one flock,” all being led by the same shepherd – Jesus.
John 11:25-26 – Resurrection and Life
I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.
Jesus speaks this right before raising Lazarus from the dead. Why? Because he wanted everyone there – and all of us – to know that he possesses the keys to eternal life. He has the power to raise the dead on earth, which he proves by raising Lazarus. But that means he also has the power to raise us all from the dead for eternity. How do we know this? Because verse 26 says so.
Everyone who believes in him will “never die.” And the key word to focus on for this article is “everyone.” That means, once again, people from every nation, tribe, language, people group, ethnicity, caste, education level, economic background, political system, and any other human method of dividing and categorizing people, can receive eternal life through Jesus alone, because he is the source of life and the power behind it.
John 17:2 – All Authority
Even as you gave me authority over all flesh, that to all whom you have given me, I may give eternal life.
This verse comes at the beginning of Jesus’ prayer in the garden of Gethsemane, right before Judas hands him over. The whole of chapter 17 reveals part of his prayer as he waited to be arrested. This prayer thus represents some of his deepest and most heartfelt longings – both as a man and as God the Son.
The start of Jesus’ prayer is reminiscent of the great commission in Matthew 28. Jesus prays to the Father and restates that he has been given “authority over all flesh.” And what does Jesus do with that authority? He gives eternal life to the ones who are saved.
But note once again that his authority is over “all.” Jesus wants to save people from every place on earth, and he has authority to do so.
How Should You Respond to Jesus in the Gospel of John?
How much do you think about reaching the lost – people who don’t know God – from other nations?
Of course, only some are called to go to other nations. But every Christian is called to be a light to the world and to seek God’s kingdom, putting it before our own needs, as Matthew 6:33 says. So whether you go to the nations in person, or support missionaries and other work being done there, reaching the lost from every nation is what Jesus came to do.
It is His mission, and therefore it must be our mission too if we want to be like him and follow him.
What are you doing now to help reach the nations? Here are a few ways to respond:
- Pray continually – ask God how he wants to use you to reach the lost in other nations
- Pray and ask God to grow your heart for the nations to be more like his – see 5 verses revealing God’s heart for all nations
- Study your bible and get better at explaining the gospel so you’re ready if called upon. Here is a simple illustration video of how I share the gospel with others. The tool is simple and invites the other person to have a relational conversation. We also teach this in iBAM to all of our entrepreneurs in training. Practice it a few times, and you can use this, too.
- Give to missionaries or to organizations that do global missions work – see why all Christians should give to missions
- Get involved with a mission organization that does global missions. Here is a best-in-class way to expose yourself to the world of mission agencies. The options are endless. I served with Pioneers.org for several decades. But there are many others. iBAM serves some of these too.
- Start something in your church – get a group together and pray as a group from the start. iBAM partners with groups that practice approaches similar to what you will at our Alliance Partners website. Check out the training section.
God leads people who are moving, not those who are standing still. Once you start moving, He will guide and direct you to places you would never have imagined. But you have to start moving toward where He is and already wants to go.
We hope this article encouraged and inspired you to start moving along with God’s mission.
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