John 6:27-29. 27 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.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”
They are the cornerstone of every religion, the path to salvation, the foundation of righteousness. Without them no one ascends to God. The Muslim’s Five Pillars. The Jew’s Ten Commandments. The Buddhist’s path to enlightenment. The Hindu’s karma, reincarnation, and moksha. Sacraments. Rituals. Traditions. They’re all meant to make us more and more like God.
Jesus’ words above from John 6 come just after he has miraculously fed the 5000 with bread and fish. The crowds will not let Jesus get away. They’ve followed him across the sea. But he knows that they are more interested in eating bread then they are in knowing him. Then Jesus speaks these words to them – Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life.
Jesus is taking them back to Exodus 16 and manna collection. Every day the Hebrews would work to gather the food that perished. It only lasted one day and then became rotten. Jesus reminds them that even more important than working for physical food is working for the food that endures to eternal life.
Wait “work for eternal life”? Yes, of course. Do good works so you can go to heaven. So far, Jesus is on track with every other religious teacher.
Naturally the people ask Jesus, “What must we DO to be DOING the WORKS of God?”
Just tell me what I need to do. Even as Christians, isn’t this what we want to hear? If the sermon doesn’t give us three application points and a nice list to check off it’s a bad sermon isn’t it? Isn’t doing our default? Don’t we all naturally assume that at the end of the day it’s really all up to us, not God? And don’t we secretly want it this way, because doing is a form of controlling our lives, our destiny?
But Jesus’ next words are the game changer – This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.
This is what separates Jesus and his gospel from everything else – the end of all working. The end of all striving. The end of all performance and achieving. The end of all controlling and mastering. The end of all merit and self-righteousness.
And when all good works are taken off the table, all that’s left for us is trust. Belief.
This is the great relief of the gospel, that we are given the bread from heaven, Jesus’ life. Eternal life is not the result of several good things that we do. It is not the next step in our spiritual progression. It is union with Christ’s life given graciously to us, leaving only one work left for us to do – trust in Jesus.
“To live is Christ” is to feast on the Bread of Life. The life of Jesus broken and poured out for us on the cross. Our lives now gloriously reduced down to the one work that remains – simple belief. Simple faith. Simple trust in our Savior’s life. This is the work of God in us today – getting us to leave behind our striving for goodness and, instead, to receive and eat the soul nourishing goodness of Jesus.
In what ways is your life more about doing than believing?
You in Christ.
In Christ the work in your life is all God’s work. How does this bring you rest to your heart today?
Christ in you.
How might the “work” of believing actually go on to produce good deeds in your life from faith?
Playlist: Bread of Life.
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