“No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

It is just after Jesus feeds the 5,000 that the now-fed crowd—who continues to follow him— asks the question, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus gently chides them because they are following him solely to receive “food that perishes.” Jesus encourages them instead to pursue eternal food, which is Jesus himself (as Jesus will state just a few verses later, “I am the bread of life.”). His answer to their question is brief and to the point, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” His answer stands in stark contrast to what the crowd surely has experienced from the religious leadership of the day. For the Pharisees and the scribes, to do the “works of God” is to follow the Law—at least the Pharisees’ interpretation of the Law—to the letter. It is to understand all the rules, including the additional ones that “explain” the Law, and to live in full accord with them. It is to carry the “heavy burdens, hard to bear” placed upon the people by those same Pharisees (as Jesus describes in Matt. 23:4). Jesus cuts through all of the Pharisees’ legal wrangling and drives home a point that not only resonates with the crowd, but that also continues to resonate in our world today. To do what God requires first means following Jesus. This is not a rejection of the “rules” (right behavior)—far from it. Rather, it is a recognition that the only way in which we draw near to God and become more like God is through Jesus Christ. In fact, Jesus addresses this very thing just a few chapters later in John when he says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

–Ricky

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