We have been doing our What in the World Part 2
series on Sunday mornings, where we are answering your questions about certain things in the Bible. There were some questions you asked that were not long enough to make a whole sermon out of, so we are answering them, calling them “shorts,” and posting them to our blog. This is the next “What in the World?” question we received: John 14:12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.” What in the World?
First off, it is always a good rule to read the Bible in context, so let’s take a step back and see what comes right before John 14:12. Before the verse in question, Jesus talks about us having trouble in the world, going to be with Him, and Jesus Himself being the only way to salvation. Jesus then says the following, starting in John 14:10-11: “Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves
Jesus says there are 3 things we must see if you want to realize who He is: What are His words (
What did Jesus teach and instruct…What are Jesus’ works
(How did He live)…and What are His miracles
(What evidence is there of God’s works and miracles in Christ).
So, His words, work, and His miracles…that’s how we investigate Jesus.
Then Jesus gets to the verse in question:… “whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do.”
These verses are ones that have been widely abused in our day, but what does Jesus actually
say His followers will do? Words, works, and miracles.
So, what did Jesus do? Taught, loved, fed, and helped others. The word “Christian” was once a way for people to make fun of followers of Jesus (like “Jesus freak”); they would say, “Oh, you think you are a little Christ.”
Christians took the saying and said, “Well, yes, I am trying to show Jesus’ work, words, and miracles to the world,” and decided to take upon themselves the moniker “Christian.” When Jesus says, “Greater works than these will he do,”
He was not saying that people will be greater than Him. He was saying that we, as a body of redeemed people, will do more, in terms of scope, than He did.
It means that Jesus, in his incarnation, humbled Himself and could only be at one place at one time, but after the resurrection, the Spirit
of God was poured out on the children
of God. This means the multitude
of what we collectively do can be greater (not the magnitude). We have more hands, feet, lives, and tongues, and can do the things He was doing but with greater multitude. We have the great honor of being invited into His continuing work in the world, which brings about the miracle of new life and redemption.
Some people have wrongly taught we are to be greater than Jesus, like Jesus was JV and we are varsity. We are not greater than Jesus. No one
is greater than Jesus. We will not meet Jesus face to face and say, “You lived, died, rose from the grave, atoned for sin, and reconciled the world to God the Father, but you’re not better than me.” It is why Jesus continues from there (to more verses that are widely misunderstood) and says, “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”
Jesus is not saying that God is a piñata and we get to whack Him with this thing called “faith” to get all the things we want. He is teaching that God will answer prayers, but in context of what He has been speaking about—mission. So, what types of prayers does Jesus answer in context of the verses? Those that glorify the Father. Prayers that glorify the Father are a far cry from the types of prayers we normally pray. Most of our prayers are about self-glorification (make me wealthy, make me tall, make me thin, make me smart, make me good-looking, etc.). Jesus says, “If you want to pray, pray for things that honor God. Make it about His glory, honor, and hope in the world.”
In all, the answer to the question is that we will do greater works in terms of multitude…but WHY will we do greater works? Jesus said, “…because I am going to the Father.” Because Jesus ascended to the Father, we have hope. We get to speak Jesus’ words, do Jesus’ works, and in the end, see the great miracle of restoration and redemption. This is what we should be praying for, that God would use us for His glory and the world’s joy.