TODAY’S READING: John 6
Biblically missions has one supreme end goal: The glory of Jesus through disciples made from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation. Everything else is a means to that end. When feeding programs or social action in missionary activity become ends in themselves or equated in value with the disciple making among every unreached people, then the missionary train comes off the biblical rails. John 6 is a classic foundation for understanding missions rightly.
Bluntly, Jesus is not into feeding programs here on earth, not if they become the end and distract from the last day, saved souls, and eternal life. Jesus is into giving eternal life to all the peoples of the world; He makes this point over and over (see John 6:33, 40, 51). In opposition to the idea that the feeding happens here and now, Jesus continued harping on “the last day” (vv. 39, 40, 44, 54). John 6 is clear; Jesus is focused on the last day, eternal life, and all nations, and anything we do on earth must serve that purpose.
Miracles don’t mean political power. When Jesus made extra food, the politically motivated believers saw the ability to feed an army. An army fed can defeat ruling oppressors, so naturally they wanted to make Jesus king. They wanted to leverage social power for political ends, and Jesus would have none of it, departing to the mountains by Himself (v. 15). Jesus isn’t into big social programs, especially the politically motivated kind. Miracles also don’t mean physical guarantees. Jesus is not our genie; He’s more concerned about our eternal joy than if our smiles and satisfaction on earth (vv. 26–27). Jesus is not unconcerned about our physical needs; He’s just more concerned about our eternal life. Jesus uses people and programs to feed the hungry but knows these are stopgap measures.
If you want to use John 6 as a missionary model for feeding the poor, then by all means pray over your lunch and believe for miracles. But the point is neither a feeding program nor a provisional miracle. The point is eternal life. The point is that only Jesus can give eternal life. The point is that we must be laser-focused on “the last day.”
Does this offend you? To prove the point, Jesus asks what we would think if He ascends to heaven (v. 62). Why does He ask this? Because we are so fixated on spiritual things and on this present life that He has to physically demonstrate an ascension into glory to show us that our attention must be on the saving of souls, the last day, and eternal life. And only the Spirit (not the feeding program) gives this type of life, for the flesh profits nothing and the words that Jesus speaks are spirit and life (v. 63).
Only Jesus has the words of eternal life (v. 68), so in missions let’s be sure we disburse that food.