Many people resorted to Jesus near the shore of Galilee. He fed them with five loaves and two fish; an amazing miracle! The multitude wanted to make Him a king. No wonder, He possessed power to address all manner of human need. But the crowd didn’t reckon the deeper need of the spirit. Jesus rejected their effort and departed from that place. There were those who searched after Him. Boarding some boats which came from Tiberius they went to Capernaum. And when they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, “Rabbi, when did You come here?” Jesus answered them and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.” 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 6:25-29)
The signs which Jesus performed were given so we might pay attention. They are evidence of God’s power in Jesus. As we look back upon that scene we can say; “If this One created bread and fish, I should listen to Him.” But it all rests upon the desire of our heart. If the heart says; “I want Jesus to give me food,” then there is no listening. If we say in our heart; “I can learn about God from Jesus,” we are ready to listen. This is acceptance of the Word, the beginning of faith. Thus the work of God is to believe on Jesus. However, to just accept His existence, and to believe on that basis, would be like believing there is a moon, or a sky full of stars, or a pebble. It would just be an exercise in identification; adding another word to our vocabulary with some background information so we can speak intelligently on a given subject. It would have no real bearing on what Jesus wanted when He said; “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.” Obviously the people knew the power of God was in Jesus. (“This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.” ~ John.6:14)
However, that did not equate with belief, at least in the sense of Jesus’ words. To them He was just a supercharged grocery store. Well, what do we want? “I want salvation.” “I want eternal life.” “I want to go to heaven.” Are these expressions the same as saying “I want more loaves,” or are they genuine tokens of belief?
Let’s go to the car wash. I believe there is a car wash. My neighbor told me of its location. I’m going to find it. I followed my neighbor’s direction and there it is. I am fully satisfied that it is real. I am happy with this reality because I can get my car conveniently cleaned. Happy day! Now my car should shine. As you can see, this is not getting the car washed. It is only discovery. There are procedures which must be engaged in order to get the car clean. A little box needs some money, etc. Just standing outside in the realm of discovery and proclaiming success is foolish. Discovery is valuable but it is not completion.
Discovering Jesus is not the same thing as believing in Him. If we want to do the work of believing we must listen to His teaching and do His commandments. (“Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.” ~ Rev.22:14) If we could superimpose that day of multiplying bread and fish and make it our day today, what would we want to do? Wouldn’t it be the right thing to learn from Him, to wait on Him, to do whatever He tells us, rather than to expect Him to do something else for us? To equate the discovery of Jesus with salvation seems to be making a magic charm out of Him, a superstition. If there is faith, our confession (or declaration) of Jesus’ name will be based upon the fact that we know something about Him; His will and His promises. (“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life.” ~ John 6:47) Such a confession is an engagement with the Messiah.
An event occurred to me back in the 70’s. I was walking down Massachusetts Street in Lawrence, Kansas. An eager young man came to me and asked, “Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God?” I said yes. He said; “Praise God” and went on his way. Little did he know that my mind was shredded with LSD and my soul wasted with sinful living. I had a concept of Jesus. I believed on that basis, but I had no idea why this guy was rejoicing. (I don’t think he did either.) I wasn’t happy. I was praying to Mary as much as I prayed to the heavenly Father. My confession of Jesus was the vain confession of a lost man. It was like confessing faith in a statue or a portrait of some face with soulful eyes and a beard. If my life had not been spared, I would have died in my sins all the while telling people that I believed in Jesus. I was lost. But when I read the Bible in hope of a better day and when I made active comparisons between my life and the words of Jesus, my awareness began to shift. “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Rom.10:17) I am not in the position to declare my righteousness, but I can declare that Jesus’ teaching can bring us to a new resolve in life; a resolve to follow Him on the basis of His terms, His words, the things written in the new covenant. Thus a confession can emerge from our mouths which is based on conviction by the power of God.
Nearly two thousand years ago there were people who expressed their guilt in the crucifixion of Jesus, they said; “Men and brethren what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37) They were convicted that Jesus of Nazareth was indeed the Christ, the Son of God. Yet, can anyone reasonably say those people were rejoicing? No doubt they were afraid. They had accepted, yet more was required. They needed an answer to the question “. . .what shall we do?” They needed it for faith. And they heard it. A command was given to them; directions for their submission to Jesus. Though it is not stated in the record of scripture, it does no injustice to the text to perceive that upon the lips of each one who yielded to Christ, a confession was made, a confession welling up from the joy of faith, a confession made unto salvation.