Saying things that sounded peculiar or counterintuitive to human nature was one of the hallmarks of Jesus’ interactions, especially with His adversaries. After hearing one of his characteristic comments, it was probably commonplace for some in His audience to pause and say, “Wait… What???” That kind of reaction may have followed Jesus’ response to a question He was asked shortly after that miraculous feast He provided for more than 5,000 people. (John 6:1-14)
An Unexpected Answer ~
Jesus addressed a crowd that had come to Capernaum looking for Him and suggested that they were only following Him because they wanted more free food. Then, possibly to attach a more legitimate motivation for their hanging around Him, someone asked a question. It was one of those rhetorical questions which normally would have prompted a generalized monologue about religious responsibilities and ministerial obligations, but Jesus didn’t respond with anything like that. Instead of a rambling recitation of how to earn approval from God and to be worthy of involvement in His work, the exchange went this way:
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 (NKJV)
“Is that it?” someone almost surely must have asked. “That sounds way too easy.” Maybe they wondered what part of His answer could have actually been constituted as “work.” And what practical results could be achieved by simply “believing?” The self-righteous Pharisees they were familiar with would have produced an endless list of rituals and sacrifices to be made for the privilege of being involved in God’s “work.” In contrast, Jesus’ answer was far too simplistic and easy. The scene reminds me of an experience in our day with a car I once owned. Though it’s completely out of context, it may be enlightening nonetheless.
Talking to Inanimate Objects ~
Ever since I began driving, I’ve always changed my own oil and filter. In most cases, it was a task that could easily be done in a few minutes with commonplace tools. That wasn’t the case with one of the cars we owned recently. All things considered, it was a great car, and it served us well, but the job of changing the oil filter was a different matter. What should have been a simple process turned out to be an ordeal that illustrated why people occasionally talk out loud to inanimate objects and sometimes express their feelings in language some would call “colorful.” Though I didn’t employ any of the questionable language, my opinion about the engineer who designed the filter’s placement was less than complimentary. People who weren’t contortionists could hardly even see it, and the one glimpse you could get of it only added to the frustration because getting to it with an ordinary filter wrench was impossible.
The “good old days” when engine components were easy to get to are gone forever, but modern digital ingenuity has given us the glorious miracle of YouTube. I knew that YouTube could hook me up with a step-by-step visual demonstration of how to do anything from breeding skunks to do-it-yourself brain surgery. Sure enough, when I asked how to get to my inaccessible oil filter, a smiling mechanic popped up on the screen who said, “Easy peasy–nothin’ to it.” My immediate excitement quickly faded as the screen transitioned to him standing next to a car engine hanging by itself on a chain. Then the smiling mechanic quipped, “First, you remove the hood and pull the engine out…”
Easy Peasy Stuff ~
The mechanic’s response was sarcastic, but it was nonetheless true. If the entire engine was out of the car and hanging there right in front of you, changing the oil filter would be like the mechanic said . . . “Easy peasy.” But obviously, there was a lot more involved in that first step than his simple directive revealed. And so it is with Jesus’ description of what it takes to do the work of God.
Some might have construed that doing God’s work must be pretty easy if all it takes is believing. But the truth is that believing in Jesus is an all-inclusive first step, and it involves more than simply offering verbal assent to some creedal statement about Him. Really believing in Jesus is the end result of a deeply personal confrontation with Him. Believing in Him involves an honest “true or false” response to everything He said about who He is and why He came. Either Jesus is God incarnate as He claimed to be or He is nothing more than a clever con man whose Kingdom never materialized, whose apparent miracles gained Him no personal benefits, and whose eloquent messages about love and peace only led to eventual public rejection and a horrible death on a cross meant for someone else.
It’s Not Just about Him ~
Believing in Jesus involves more than coming to grips with the truth about Him. It includes believing the truth He revealed about us. Belief in Him comes with the realization that without Him we are hopelessly lost. We face judgment by a holy God who has recorded not just everything we ever did, but every sinful thought or attitude we ever had. Facing our total inability to meet God’s standard is hard. Coming to faith in Jesus isn’t a negotiation where we attempt to strike an acceptable compromise to retain those parts of our rebellious nature that we enjoy. Believing in Him means surrendering all that we have to His sovereignty, and that is hard to do.
The good news is that believing in Him is a wrestling match where losing means we win. When we surrender all that stuff we can’t hang onto anyway, we inherit victory over every fear that has ever haunted us. We are born into heaven’s royalty, made a part of God’s forever family, and have a place eternally secured at His table. Beyond that, we become His personal representatives and active participants in His overall plan. Believing in Him doesn’t mean that struggles won’t come our way anymore, or that our eyes will never again feel the sting of tears, or that our hearts become unbreakable. Faith sometimes demands hard things and “easy peasy” won’t apply to everything He calls us to do, but believing in Jesus makes His work our work, and our work His.
Another comment Jesus made might leave us thinking, “Wait… What???”
Most assuredly, 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 My Father. John 14:12 (NKJV)
“TWEETABLES” ~ Click to Tweet & Share from the pull quotes below. Each quote links directly back to this article through Twitter.
- “Either Jesus is God incarnate as He claimed to be or He is nothing more than a clever con man whose Kingdom never materialized, whose apparent miracles gained Him no personal benefits, and whose eloquent messages about love and peace only led to eventual public rejection and a horrible death on a cross meant for someone else.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “Coming to faith in Jesus isn’t a negotiation where we attempt to strike an acceptable compromise to retain those parts of our rebellious nature that we enjoy. Believing in Him means surrendering all that we have to His sovereignty.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “When we surrender all that stuff we can’t hang onto anyway, we inherit victory over every fear that has ever haunted us. We are born into heaven’s royalty, made a part of God’s forever family, and have a place eternally secured at His table.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
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” . . . but believing in Jesus makes His work our work, and our work His.”
Just love this line, Ron! Thanks once again for another inspiring message.
Thanks again, Martha, and it is, indeed, sobering and tremendously encouraging that He has invited us to be a direct, integral part of the greatest work going on anywhere in the world. I hear young people from time to time say something like this about their career choices, “I just want to make a difference.” Nothing in a person’s life has as much potential to make a difference as coming to grips with who Jesus is, and what He’s done for us. I’m glad to have a co-worker with your spiritual maturity and your obvious commitment to the mission. God bless you for staying in touch. It means more than I can adequately communicate.
Well said sir. As for those oil changes; having grown up in daddy’s Texaco station, I’ve always preferred doing it myself. I still maintain all my farm equipment; mostly because I can still work on it and things are mostly accessible. I gave up my automobiles two years ago. By the time I paid for the oil and filter (not to mention the six different filter wrenches I have hanging in my shop), I can pay to have someone else do it using the same quality of motor oil two or three times. Factor my time, skinned knuckles, and sore back and shoulders, and it became a “no brainer” for me. Thanks for this post; as always, I enjoyed it greatly.
Big smiley-face, J.D. I always appreciate your personal notes and insights, and I am very close to making the same decision you did re. the do-it-yourself oil changes. I suspect the fact that I continue to do it says more about stubbornness than economic benefit. Hopefully, the end of the struggle is in sight because the little voice in my head keeps asking why in the world I’m still doing it and assorted body parts would hire their own legal representation and file suit against the rest of me if they could. In any case, we can rejoice that God provides what’s needed one way or another. Again, thank you, Brother, for your faithful and courageous witness and for the ministry God has given you.