Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”
Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”
Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” (verses 26-29)
“What must we do to do the works God requires?”
What a wonderful question. You can’t get much nearer to the heart of things than this. Their desire, at least on the surface of the statement, is to live life focused on the very things that God himself requires of us. It seems right in line with the greatest commandment, to love the Lord our God with all.
The members of this crowd seem to be tracking. They’ve picked up this theme from Jesus himself, who’s just told them not to spend time and energy labouring for things that simply spoil and fade and rot. Why do that?, Jesus says. Instead, put your energies into the things that endure into eternal life. Elsewhere, he says the same thing: “Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:20).
So, the crowd catches the point. They’re processing what he’s said. They ask their question. It’s a good one. “What must we do to do the works God requires?”
Jesus responds with the answer. It’s incredibly simple. But it will take the whole of life to work it.
“The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent” (verse 29).
This, of course, is the very thing over which this crowd struggles. They will soon grumble at his claim to have come down from heaven. They will be deeply offended at his talk of eating his flesh and drinking his blood, not understanding he is speaking of the salvation that comes through his death on the cross. Ultimately, many of them “turned back and no longer followed him” (John 6:66). They simply could not believe.
But Jesus’ answer stands. The key thing the Father requires of us is to “believe in the one he has sent.” That’s it. We’re called to believe in Jesus.
This is true for entering into the Kingdom in the first place. You enter salvation purely and simply by placing faith in Jesus. Saying “yes” to the salvation he won for us by dying on the cross. There is nothing more we can do to earn our own salvation – “the work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” Pure and simple. (If you’ve never taken that step, it’s as simple as that. You can enter in right now.)
But, it’s also true for the whole of life thereafter. Simply believing in Jesus is always the key issue. Jesus makes it clear again as he gives his disciples final instructions on the night before he died. “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father” (John 14:12, NASB).
This is our calling. The statement contains a lifetime of faith-stretching discovery. We will likely never plumb its depths. But do you notice that the ongoing works of the Kingdom continually start with simply believing in Jesus? It’s always that basic. It’s always that relational. It never moves beyond that grounding. But neither is it static. It requires us to keep pressing into that posture of believing.
“The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” May it be.
Lord Jesus, strengthen me to step more fully, again and again, into the deep simplicity of believing in you. Stretch me into greater faith. Let me revel in this work the Father calls me into. Praise your name.
Pray: Quietly take time to commit yourself afresh to this posture of believing. Ask the Lord to give you opportunities today to stretch. Watch for them. Choose to step in.