For generations Christians have argued about the reality of miracles; some accept that Jesus and the first apostles could do them, but reject any modern manifestations; others embrace the miraculous as a modern day reality, sometimes being accused of deception or some other dark art. There are all sorts of arguments, but let’s focus on one of Jesus’ most extraordinary statements which is found in John 14:12; He seems to be saying that anyone who believes in Him can in fact do even greater works than Him, and let’s face it, the raising of Lazarus, turning water into wine and walking on water will take some beating. So just how are those of us in the 21st century supposed to understand this?
I think the main problem with this verse is, that at face value it seems so ridiculously radical and completely over the top; I mean to say, even greater works…? Let’s have a look at the context and some of the key words to see if we can understand what Jesus is driving at.
I tell you the solemn truth, the person who believes in me will perform the miraculous deeds that I am doing, and will perform greater deeds than these, because I am going to the Father. John 14:12 NET
I tell you the solemn truth – or amen and amen, or truly truly; this phrase, however it is translated is an attention getter, it means that Jesus is about to say something unexpected and important and He wasn’t kidding.
The person – that means anyone who meets the requirement of believing.
Who believes – specifically this means believe in what Jesus has just said; if we go back a few verses we see Jesus declaring Himself to be the way, the truth and the life, He says no one gets to the Father except through Him, He explains that He is in the Father and the Father is in Him, and finally that if we see Jesus we see the Father. This is all a huge declaration of His divinity and Messiahship, and the qualification for the greater deeds.
Greater deeds – this is the one can cause some problems. Perhaps we try to imagine miracles that are even more miraculous, amazing and jaw dropping than those we know that Jesus did; we can even get the idea of ourselves as working at a higher level of the miraculous than Jesus Himself. Another way of viewing this has been that ‘greater’ is the volume of miracles, Jesus was one man in one place, whereas we, the body of Christ, are all over the world. Then again, at the other end of the interpretation spectrum, some folk explain ‘greater’ as the fact that today people get saved, which is something they say, that Jesus couldn’t do; but neither the context nor the reality of Jesus’ ministry allow for this (Luke 23:43).
The explanation I go with is that the miraculous deeds Jesus promises are ‘greater’ because Jesus has gone to the Father, new creation has started, Jesus is glorified, death is defeated and the power of God has moved beyond the old boundaries of Israel and onto a global scale. It is similar to Jesus saying that the least in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than John the Baptist, even though no one else prepared the way for Jesus; our greatness is the Kingdom we now live in, as opposed to John being in the old covenant. (Matthew 11:11) If we go with this idea, it allows for the miraculous as a part of Kingdom life, but keeps Jesus very much in charge.
I am going to the Father – here is where it all comes together; Jesus said it wasn’t Him doing the works, but the Father in Him (John 14:10), in the same way no believer does the works, instead it is Jesus in them. We could say, that now Jesus has risen and ascended, He is able do greater works through His kingdom people, than He used to do before He went to the cross.
What should we do with this?
To my mind, there seems to be a responsibility on the church to allow Jesus to continue His miraculous works through us as He builds His church around the world. I understand that people are often concerned about wrong motives and desires when we ask God for miraculous works, but this is not a good enough reason not to ask, in fact if we are not careful it can become an excuse for unbelief. It is high time we came to terms with who Jesus really is and start to ask for the impossible; no matter where we live in the world, our evangelism needs the power and works of the Holy Spirit just as much today as ever. The problem I think is not with God’s unwillingness to move in power, but instead, our unbelief and misunderstanding of the Gospel.
God’s original plan was for a world lovingly ruled by His image bearers, multiplying throughout the earth; His plan hasn’t changed and His desire is still to reach into communities and families through the love, service and power that we see modelled in the Lord Jesus.
Can we do the greater works? In a word – yes!
Anyone ready for a change?
Go well my friends 😀
If this has been a help, please click share – thanks.