Summary: Belief in Jesus in an Action, not an idea
"Then they asked him, "What must we do to do the works God requires?" Jesus answered, "the work of God is this: to believe in the One he has sent."
Almost anyone who has been through a college course will tell you one of the greatest innovations in higher education is a class syllabus. This beautiful list given at the beginning of the semester detailing what will be discussed each day, when assignments will be due and exactly what is expected of the student is a blessing. It’s comforting to have all of your duties and challenges laid out in a nice organized way. When the disciples asked Jesus what works God was expecting of them, they were asking for a syllabus. But the Christian life is not so easy and the course outline only contains one sentence. "Believe in the One he has sent," Jesus said. Oddly enough, something that simple will take a lifetime of fulfillment.
Our rabbi’s answer illustrates the word "belief" is an action verb. The disciples asked for a work - a job - and the word Jesus gives them is "believe". On the surface it may seem like an easy task. It’s not hard to believe in Jesus. Evidence of his life, death, and resurrection are everywhere. But the part you have to work for is the evidence in your heart of his relationship with you.
When your adolescent daughter lets her math grades plummet just to show you she isn’t happy with her curfew, you have to believe the fact Jesus is alive makes a difference. You have to remember what Jesus taught about grace as you deal with your disappointment and frustration. You have to put aside your desire to hurt back and live his instructions to treat one another with love. It will be an effort. When another member of your church doesn’t agree with your opinion and you think his or her actions are wrong, you have to believe Jesus when he said, "do not judge." You have to trust Jesus to show this person the way in a caring environment. God may use your example to do it, but you must be mindful the lessons God teaches through humans are carried out in love, not in condemnation.
It isn’t enough to believe Jesus exists. Your belief must change your life, your church and your world. If we as a body worked on our belief in the One God has sent our world would change. When you are out in the world, can people tell you are a Christian by your acceptance and faith or do you exclude and gripe like everyone else? You can’t tell by a person’s actions what is in their heart, but you can see a person’s heart in their actions. How does Jesus change the way you live? Frequently ask yourself these questions: How does a person who does not believe in Jesus respond to this situation? How do I respond to this situation? Are the responses different? If not, work to see the changes of Christ more fully in your life.
The other effort to believe in our rabbi comes with the ability to accept what you cannot understand. The Christian journey is complex and there will always be some mystery and confusion along the way. You will not be given all the explanations. You will have to develop faith. It’s hard to fathom that the Lord of all the universe hears your daily woes and joys. The One who raised Lazarus from the dead is the same one who cared enough to provide lunch for hungry followers and wine for a wedding. "I don’t know how it happened," we say about the minor miracles we encounter in daily life. Such as:
"I don’t know how it happened, but I got the very appointment I needed."
"It was amazing, but I ran into a friend at the grocery store and it turns out she can baby-sit for me tonight."
"I didn’t know how I would make it this month but then out of nowhere my ex-husband decided to pay extra in his child support check because he got a raise."
But you do know how it happened and it wasn’t out of nowhere. Why is it we can believe Jesus rose from the dead, but we have a hard time believing an omnipotent creator can hear the common prayers we lift in everyday life? "Oh the God of Creation doesn’t care about that kind of stuff", we say with a scoff. What does our rabbi respond? "Believe in the One he has sent."
"Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with stone laid across the entrance. "Take away the stone," he said.
"But, Lord," said Martha, the sister of the dead man, "by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days."