Looking for food
The Work of God
When you consider the answers Jesus gives, you begin to understand something of the nature of the hearers. ie This is a rather low bunch.
We have a fondness for the idea that seeing one miracle would make us instantly into super-saints. This is not the case (think how much the ancient Israelites saw, and how little they believed), and here is another example. This group has seen the miracle of the loaves and the fishes, so they follow Jesus around—but not for the miracle, or the hope of another miracle. They like being fed.
Like so many of us, they are seeking the tame god. The tame god is a very popular one. He sits in your closet until you have a problem—then you take him out, he solves your problem, soothes your fears and quietly goes back into the closet, demanding nothing further of you. A very useful god, that. The only problem is that this is not the one true God. It is this idea that Jesus is attempting to correct.
He begins with a concept they understand: work. It's perfectly reasonable in their minds that the tame god would want them to do something in return; in fact, it's common to try to bargain with him. The usual bargain runs something like, "I'll give up this or that bad habit if you'll do this." So Christ takes as his starting point the idea that God wants you to work. They think so, and so does Jesus. But their conception of that work is very different.
· You can see their conception in their question: "what must.." They are looking for a list of good deeds to perform.
· Christ takes them back a step: why are you working at all, if the rewards are not eternal?
· Then he makes the breathtaking leap: the work of God is to believe.
To believe, of course, is not merely intellectual assent. It is trust. Whom should you trust? The one God has sent, the one on whom he has put his seal of approval—Jesus, the Christ.
The utter simplicity of the concept stuns them. That's it? No long list of rules and regulations—just trust the One, and act on that trust? No rabbinical debates about how far we can walk? St. Augustine rephrased this point by saying: "Love God—and do as you please." For if you truly love him, you will please him; you can't help it. This is the real work of God: to love, trust and obey the one He sent: Jesus, the Christ.