Inquiring minds have asked the question, albeit worded differently, for centuries and centuries. For a while, I asked the question but I don’t think I ever used actual words. Instead, I lived the question out loud. Some will admit they have wrestled with the question while others attempt to push it out of their minds and pretend they aren’t interested.
Reading John 6:28-51, a crowd following Jesus boldly asked Him…the question. “What must we do to do the works God requires?”
There must be something we do. God must surely require us to work to earn His favor. After all, it’s how this world operates. We work, we earn. Work produces money, trophies, promotions and pats on the back.
Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
Nothing else! Nothing! Just believe in Jesus. Sounds simple yet such a struggle. It’s a struggle to lay aside pride in what we can DO. It’s hard to let go of the mindset that our good works will earn us God’s favor, mercy and grace. But if we spend honest time with ourselves, we know that there are not enough good deeds to wipe away our brokenness.
Jesus’ answer could have seemed too easy for the crowd who focused on working their way to God. But actually I think that trusting and believing Jesus is too difficult for masses of people. Regardless, too easy or too hard, the crowd in Capernaum challenged Jesus. “What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you?”
Really! Just the day before, Jesus fed 20,000 people with 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread yet this crowd cries for another miracle. Maybe their stomachs were already growling because they reminded Jesus that God miraculously sent a form of bread called manna from heaven to their forefathers who were wandering in the desert.
Perfect opportunity for a metaphor. Jesus would identify Himself as “the true bread from heaven,” “the bread of life” and “the living bread.” Bread sustains and nourishes physical life. Jesus sustains and nourishes spiritual life.
Jesus expounded, “He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.”
Jesus even further elaborated. “My Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”
Everyone! It’s an open invitation. The crowds response…they grumbled. Same response happens today. Believing is too hard for some. Perhaps it seems easier to spend a lifetime trying to be good enough and do enough good works to please God.
Personally, I’ve tried that tactic and waved the white flag of surrender.
I know this. I could train beside a world class swimmer for years. Then, we could both step into the Atlantic Ocean and begin swimming. No matter how good we are or how hard we’ve trained, neither one of us is going to make it to the other side of the ocean. It’s too vast a chasm. In the same way, I can stand beside Mother Teresa, who devoted her entire life to goodness, but neither one of us make it into God’s holy presence based upon our goodness. Belief in Jesus and His goodness is what God requires. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Questions to ponder?
The question…is it firmly answered in my spirit?
Why am I motivated to do good works?