Prepared by John E. Marshall
Each verse in our text casts light on the plan of salvation, on how a person can become a Christ-follower.
John 6:28 (Holman) AWhat can we do to perform the works of God?@ they asked.
This crowd asked the right question. This was a genuinely humble, serious question. They wanted to Aperform the works of God,@ to do deeds pleasing to God.
Their question is still the question of all humanity. People believe in God. Hence, they are apprehensive over how to please Him. Humans are mentally agitated until convinced they are pleasing God.
John 6:29 Jesus replied, AThis is the work of God: that you believe in the One He has sent.@
Having asked the right question, the crowd received the right answer. Jesus answered them straightforwardly. They had requested in plural form (works), but Jesus responded in the singular (work). Only one act was needful B faith, a personal one-on-one relationship with Jesus based on believing in Him.
These seekers were meticulous about many religious details, but Christ directed them to one work which includes and supercedes all. In salvation, when there is faith in Christ, there is everything; where there is no faith in Christ, there is nothing.
In true belief lies every form of holiness, as a forest may be in an acorn. In faith, full godliness may be microscopic in form, but it only awaits development. Believing in Jesus is the highest and greatest work, for by it a person gives their essence, and a free being can do nothing more valuable than give their very self.
God wants us. If we do this one work, belief in Jesus, God will automatically receive our other works from us. Faith is where all Christian living begins. People generally want to think they can do deeds of merit to earn salvation, but we cannot drive a bargain with God. Only faith, not works, can suffice.
John 6:30 AWhat sign then are You going to do so we may see and believe You?@ they asked. AWhat are You going to perform?@
The crowd asked the right question, and heard the right answer, but made the wrong response. Rather than obey, they asked Jesus to prove Himself. People still ask the right question, and the right answer has never changed, but too often the wrong response is made. People want to create their own methods to go to Heaven.
Folks are often repulsed at the idea of having to put their trust in Another for salvation. Doing this would mean admitting they believe something is lacking in themselves.
In our text, the crowd had not yet reached the first stage of Christian faith, which is a profound dissatisfaction with our own spiritual condition. Rather than speak negatively of themselves, they spoke negatively of Christ.
This crowd would have gladly received Jesus as King, but to accept Him as Savior presented difficulties. It is easy to exalt Jesus as a great person. Accepting Him as Savior requires confession of sin and guilt. This is difficult to do.
We hate to admit the ugliness of our sins. Our sins possess to an astonishing degree the ability to hide from us their own deformity. But no matter how innocent they appear, we cannot stay in willful sin and become a believer.
We can be saved only from sin, not in sin. The Greek word for Abelieve@ is based on the concept of oneness. We cannot be one with God while one with sin. Cherished sin hinders salvation. We cannot be tied to a sinful past and run away from it at the same time. If we remain bound to our sin, we cannot escape it.
We may love our sin, but uneasiness keeps gnawing at our heart. Something is wrong and we know it. Something is lacking, and it bothers us. We will never have inner peace as long as we have uncommitted, unsacrificial religion.
The sacrifice of Jesus on the cross universally tests pride most severely. Looking back at Calvary has too often become glamorized. What sifts hearers is when they hear they are to share the suffering of Jesus= cross today.
Many more would eagerly embrace the Gospel if it were empty of the bitterness of the cross and only brought selfish delights. But this cannot be.
Some absolutely refuse to give in to the call of the cross, but still want a form of godliness. They fabricate all kinds of counterfeit substitutes.
They try religious ceremony. When this does not satisfy they try good deeds, giving to charities, and becoming involved in civic endeavors.
When they acknowledge moral problems in their lives, they try to refrain from sin. They might even weep over their sins. If there is still no peace, some turn to meritorious abstinence, self-mortification, giving up innocent enjoyments.
Some even delude themselves into thinking they have been punished enough in this life. They see their suffering in this world as payment for their sin.
Near death, profligate Louis XIV asked a priest to absolve him of all his sins. The priest asked if he was suffering much. The King replied, ANo, that=s what troubles me. I would like to suffer more, for the expiation of my sins.@
Conscious of guilt and a need for atonement, he thought he could suffer to pay for his sins. Only Jesus= blood, not our suffering, can pay for our sin.
All efforts at self-help are fabrications, unholy hunches, counterfeits. There is only one way to be saved. It has never changed. What must we do? Believe on Jesus, the One the Father sent. Any other method is absolutely the wrong response.
John 6:31 AOur fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, just as it is written: He gave them bread from heaven to eat.@
The crowd asked the right question, heard the right answer, made the wrong response, and spoke in the wrong tense. They wanted to bind God today to what He had done yesterday.
This crowd was determined to have salvation on their own terms, not God=s. They experienced one of history=s greatest miracles, but it did not satisfy them. They dared to impose on God the sign they wanted done before they would believe. They believed Messiah would duplicate exactly Moses= miracle of manna.
They wanted an exact replication of Athe good old days.@ Jesus had fed 5000 once; but Moses fed a nation for 40 years. Jesus used ordinary bread, but Moses= supply came from heaven. These people preferred the wilderness feeding of Israel above all the miracles of Christ.
Under the guise of magnifying the miracle of Moses, they brazenly under-valued this miracle of Christ, and evaded its significance. There are none so blind as they that will not see.
The past easily becomes an opiate of the people. We often slight and overlook the appearance of God=s power and grace in our own times, while we pretend to admire the wonders of which our fathers told us. However, Athe good old days@ usually are not all they=re cracked up to be.
This crowd magnified the manna episode, but Atheir fathers@ had slighted it as much as they themselves were now under-rating the barley loaves. Their fathers called it Awretched food@ (Numbers 21:5), and continued rebelling against Moses.
Some of us have precious memories of God=s dealings in the past. We feast on them. Even some lost people have hazy recollections of good old times at church and let them suffice for salvation.
If more people spent as much time praying as they do reminiscing, revival would fall like fire out of heaven. Always speak in the right tense. We cannot please God yesterday. We have to carve out our role to fulfill today.
Let=s ask the right question and receive the right answer. May we also make the right response, faith in Christ, and ever live in the right tense, now.