We’ve spent a good bit of time out on the Sea of Galilee and in so doing have had occasion to backfill the story with help from the other gospels. We now return to the Gospel of John and listen in on a conversation between Jesus and a large following of groupies, a beach sermon as it were: When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed 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. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”
Hmm. Busted. The prospect of tagging along behind a man who could provide lunch at the drop of a hat would definitely tempt a chap to get some religion. But the religion that was being offered was on Jesus’ terms, not theirs. They could be bought off. He could not.
“Alright then,” they thought, “if He wants to get all religious on us, then what are the terms – because that was some tasty bread and fish! What hoops would he have us jump through?” They were accustomed to hoops – hundreds of hoops. What would this man require of them to keep the kitchen open: Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus gives them an unexpected response that was both simple and surprisingly vexing: Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
Just believe. Sounds easy enough. In fact, it sounds too easy. And that is one of the great offenses of the Christian faith. Our good works do not merit the affections of heaven. Nothing makes us stand out. We are not picked for the team because of our abilities. We are chosen because we are loved – as is. Our worth is not accomplished, it’s intrinsic. We’ve not been loved like that since we were infants. And, the remembrance of that has long been sand-blasted from our spirits, or at least greatly diminished, by an exacting world that measures our worth by what we can bring to the table. There is none of that in the kingdom. We are loved. That’s what we must believe. And yet, because of the backstage view we have of ourselves, we know how undeserving we are of such a notion. Sounds too easy. It makes us suspicious. We are the quivering, stray pooch who runs in terror from the kind hand offering an unimagined abundance.