They pursued Him not because of who He was, but because of how they had benefited from what He did. They were among the more than five thousand fed on the other side of the Sea of Galilee. Those who had gut-busted (“eaten as much as they wanted”) on fresh bread and fine fish. Those who, when they woke next day from their food induced comas and realized Jesus was gone, went after Him. But Jesus, knowing their hearts, called them out: You’re not seeking Me, but the sign. And that, because you were stuffed.
So, the One they called Rabbi schooled them:
“Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on Him God the Father has set His seal.” ~ Jesus
(John 6:27 ESV)
And while they weren’t totally picking up what Jesus was laying down, they understood enough to get that, while the bread and fish of yesterday was really good, the idea of food forever sounded even better. And it led to a probing question. And it resulted in an unexpected answer.
Then they said to Him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”
(John 6:28-29 ESV)
They needed to do the cost/benefit analysis. They were willing to cross the sea in order to get more of the bread and fish, what would they need to do in order to get some forever food? And the work required, said Jesus, the deed needed, the effort to be put forth, the business needing to be occupied with, was to believe.
That’s it? Just believe? Yup! That’s it.
And, as I chew on it, though we may not think of believing as work in the classic sense, I’m realizing it’s a full-time job.
Believing in the Son of Man isn’t a once-and-done deal. Sure, we may have once believed and received eternal life, but think about how much we are called on to continue to “walk by faith, and not by sight” (2Cor. 5:7) as we make our way home.
When we feel like we’ve stalled and stagnated, that we are no longer growing in Christ, we need to work at believing that it really was God who began a good work in us and that He really will bring it to completion (Php. 1:6). When we seem to be in a constant battle with the same old temptation(s) and wonder, “What’s the use?” we need to remind ourselves that there really is no temptation we’re up against that “is not common to man” and that God is, in fact, faithful and will not let us be tempted beyond our ability (1Cor. 10:13). And then, when we do get tripped up in sin and falter and fall for the umpteenth time, we need to labor at believing that if we confess our sin . . . AGAIN . . . that He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin . . . AGAIN . . . and that the blood shed on the cross really is sufficient to cleanse us from all unrighteousness . . . AGAIN (1John 1:9).
And the “work” list goes on. Believing that, somehow, His strength really will be made manifest in our weakness (2Cor. 12:9). That pursuit of this world really doesn’t yield any lasting benefit, but that investing now in the kingdom of heaven really is laying up treasure in heaven (Lk. 18:22, 1Tim. 6:17-19). That all things really do work together for God’s good purposes (Rom. 8:28).
“This is the work of God, that you believe . . .
Reminded this morning that faith is the enduring food of eternal life.
And so, says Jesus, work to believe. And that’s gonna be a full-time job.
By His grace. For His glory.