"Then they said to Him, 'What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?' Jesus answered and said to them, 'This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.'" John 6:28-29
Like the rich young ruler who came to Jesus and asked Him, "What good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?" (Matt. 19:16), the people asked Jesus, "What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?"
And people ask the same question today: "What must I do to get into heaven?"
The problem was and still is that there is nothing we can do to measure up to the requirements of God's law because God's holy law requires perfect obedience in thoughts, desires, words, and deeds. The Bible tells us: "You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, which if a man does, he shall live by them: I am the Lord" (Lev. 18:5); and "Cursed is the one who does not confirm all the words of this law by observing them" (Deut. 27:26).
The Bible also teaches us that "there is not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin" (Eccl. 7:20) and that "the soul who sins shall die" (Ezek. 18:20).
How did Jesus answer those who came to Him? "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent."
What does God demand of you? In the words of Paul and Silas to the Philippian jailer when he asked, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"(Acts 16:30): "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household" (Acts 16:31).
That is what God desired of those who followed after Jesus when He fed them with the five loaves and the two fish. That is what God desires of you. He doesn't demand that we keep the whole law of God perfectly so that we might be saved -- we've all failed miserably at that already and stand condemned by His law. He desires that we place our faith and trust in the One He sent into the world to die in our stead and redeem us from sins' guilt and punishment. He desires that we trust in Jesus, His only-begotten Son in human flesh, for pardon, forgiveness, and eternal life!
The familiar words of John 3:16 say it so well: "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
And, when we do trust in Jesus, God's Son, who died on the cross for us and rose again, even that work is the result of God's gracious working in us through His Word. As we read in Ephesians 2:8-9, "By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. ..."
O gracious Father, grant that we not trust in our own keeping of Your commandments but hear Your Word and place our faith in the One whom You sent into this world to keep the commandments in our stead and atone for all our sins. We pray in the name of Christ Jesus, Your Son, and our Savior. Amen.
[Scripture is taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Devotion is by Randy Moll. He may be contacted by email at [email protected]. More of Moll's devotional writings are freely available at https://mercifulsaviorlutheran.net. Opinions expressed are those of the author.]