They replied, “We want to perform God’s works, too. What should we do?” Jesus told them, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent” (John 6:28-29, NLT).
The first question the multitude asked Jesus revealed their materialism. The second question exposed their self sufficiency. When the crowd asked about the kind of works they could do to receive the seal of God’s approval, in so many words they were expressing their desire to possess a dynamic faith minus a functional Savior. It was as if they were saying, “Jesus, we don’t need you. We believe we can gain God’s approval on our own.” They were looking for works to do, as though favor from God could be earned by completing a secret formula. Jesus’ response was and remains clear. It’s not about works that we can do (cf. Titus 3:5). In fact, there’s only one work that can be done, that being the work of belief.
It’s interesting to me how human nature prefers the works of self effort to the simple work of belief. That preference transcends all cultures and is witnessed in both genders among people of every age category. Even those in an Eastern culture that antedates the industrial revolution had a “pull myself up by my own bootstraps” kind of thing going for them. Their esteem for Jesus was so marginal they actually believed that if He could do it, so could they. How grossly underestimated was that?!
Those who desire to get to God on their own without Christ have two things at work. One, they overestimate their own goodness. But the other thing, which I think is more troubling, is that they underestimate the surpassing value of Jesus, including all that He is and all that He has done. And its not just those outside of faith. The same challenge can torment those who have been in faith, even for a long time. Some things never change, but the changeless truth of the gospel is that we enter through belief. Tomorrow I’ll conclude this theme and finish with the next question, which is really more of an accusation. Thanks for following along with me this week!