In John 6:28, the disciples ask, “Jesus, what must we do to perform the works of God?”
Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God: that you believe in him whom he has sent.”
This question and answer are rich with profound truth.
It is notable that just prior to this question, Jesus had fed the 5,000 and had walked across the Sea of Galilee.
Now he is being asked: “What must we do to perform the works of God?” His answer is perplexing. He says that the work of God is to believe. But believing hardly seems like working. Indeed, I have often thought that I believed and so I worked. But it seems as if the real work is believing.
In my own life it seems as though the less I believe the more I work “out of my own strength.”
Somehow it seems as though the more I get engaged in the work of believing, the more I find that everything else takes care of itself.
Most of us have thought of believing as working. There’s a truth in here that is rich with meaning. Shortly after these words, Jesus tells those people that he is the bread of life. He tells them that they must eat his flesh and drink his blood. These words do not make sense on this common intellectual level. Here again he is confounding rational thinking with trans-rational truth.
He says, “No one can come to me unless they are drawn by the father.” So we must be drawn and when we are drawn it is our work – our primary work – to believe. If this occurs we can understand these strange statements of Jesus. He says in v. 63 that “it is Spirit that gives life, the flesh is useless.”
Jesus stresses that the words that he has spoken are “spirit” and “life.” This is his reply to those who say the teaching is difficult.
He says, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the father.”
John tells us that “because of this, many of his disciples turned back” (v. 66).
In v. 61, the scripture tells us that the disciples were complaining about his words, and Jesus said, “Does this offend you?”
So then these words are spirit in life, and they cannot be understood except by those who a) are being drawn by the father and b) are working to believe.