28 Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?”
29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”
Despite all the theological debates, despite the heartfelt divisions between clergy of different denominations, despite all the trappings laid onto worship and church services, the gospel message of Christ really is simple. It is summed up in each of the four Gospels in different ways, often in Jesus’ first sermon:
14 Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
Short and to the point, Jesus told us simply to repent of our sins and to believe in the good news – namely, that the Son of God was come to bring salvation. But in our passage today, the message is cast a little differently. When His followers ask about doing great things for God, our Lord responds that there is just ONE thing they must do: BELIEVE.
Is the gospel really that simple? Yes, it is. And yet, that also means it is quite difficult. After all, believing in the bodily resurrection of someone we haven’t seen is not an easy task. Believing that God offers that same resurrection to us is equally hard, especially if we understand and acknowledge our own sinfulness. And in this day and age of science and reason, believing in spiritual things is counter to the culture in which we have been raised. It takes a lot of “work” in our hearts and minds to have true faith, and yet that, Jesus tells us, is the very “work of God” that we ought to be doing.
Of course, there is a side-effect of finding such faith: once you hold fast to the hope of Christ, your heart is changed. You experience the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and before long, you are reaching out to others and doing things you were not capable of before. The fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) is the inevitable result of a living faith in Christ. In short, once you have done the work OF God in accepting His Son as Lord and Savior, you start doing great works FOR God. You become nourished by the Bread of Life which is Christ Jesus, and works simply follow. But it all starts with the simple and yet difficult step of believing in Christ.
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.