Can We Really Do Greater Works than Jesus?
John 14:12-14 | November 10, 2019 | Matt Timmons
"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. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it."
There have always been a few things that really boggle my mind. One of them is the size of the national debt. Just this past week we sped past 23 trillion dollars. That is such a preposterous number, that I cannot even begin to imagine it. If you've ever gone to the website that has the "national debt calculator" you'll see that thing just zinging along. To tell you the truth, I cannot imagine 1 trillion dollars, let alone 23 of them.
I’ve also been mystified by Bill Gate’s net worth. Years ago, I remember using it as a sermon illustration. I tried to find that illustration, but couldn’t. What I did find is that since that sermon illustration (about 6 years ago) Gate’s has increased his net worth by about 30 billion dollars. He now stands at 108 billion dollars. That is to say, he could give everyone in this world 15 bucks each, and he would still have about 500 million left in his pocket.
Gates, though, wouldn’t come close to clearing the national debt.
There’s been another thing that has always bewildered me, and that is what we find in this text this morning. Jesus tells us that whoever believes in him will do the works that he did. Not just the same works, but we’ll be able to do greater works than he did.
When I hear this, I can’t help but think that this would be like waking up one morning to find that Bill Gates had died and left all of his money to me.
You may be like me and, after having read this, you may think that it seems a little far fetched. But since it is in Scripture, we know that it is the gospel truth. There’s no errors in the Scripture and Jesus didn’t lie. We are given a promise here and assured that this wonderful power is readily ours.
And my hope is that I can help to demystify this a bit for you today. And what I want to do is talk about the works that Jesus says we will do. Then I’d like to talk about how exactly we can do greater works than Jesus.
I. WHAT WILL BE DONE?
Some believe that this refers to the miracles that Jesus performed. And the reason is because the prior verse talks about the works that the Father did in and through Jesus. Jesus told the apostles to believe that he and the Father were one and the evidence that would confirm this was the works that he did. The miracles were evidence that Jesus had divine power and had the authority of the Father.
Once you take this view, you have to go in either of two directions. Either you go in a Pentecostal direction or you limit the extent of the miracles.
Pentecostals typically take the view that the works that Jesus did and the works that we will do are miracles and we are all supposed to do even greater miracles than Jesus. And if you cannot do them, it is because you don’t have faith. If you had faith (like Jesus said), then you’d be able to move mountains and do even greater miracles than Jesus.
This doesn’t help your faith any though. You start falling into despair when you don’t see miracles happening. It’s a sign you don’t have faith or don’t have enough faith (and that’s pretty discouraging). And if we went this route, we’d have to say that most people don’t have faith because we don’t see a lot of miracles happening in the world today!
This is why others have taken a different perspective. There have been some who say that Jesus was talking to the disciples and they were the ones who were to do the miracles.
And this may have some validity. They did do a lot more miracles and had a wider response to their miracles. That is to say, Jesus didn’t come to have a great following. But the disciples had thousands of converts come to faith through their ministries.
There’s another way to take it though. It doesn’t have to mean miracles. After all, if you think about it, it’s pretty hard to have greater miracles than Jesus. He fed 5000 with a couple loaves of bread. He walked on water. He raised the dead (as a matter of fact, He raised one man who had been dead for 4 days!). We don’t have any record that the disciples did anything greater than that.
So, maybe this isn’t talking about miracles at all. Maybe there’s a different way to understand the works that Jesus is talking about. And maybe there’s a better way to think about greatness.
I don’t think that it’s too far fetched to say that the Lord’s understanding of greatness is often different than ours. When Samuel was looking through Jesse’s sons, he looked at the outward appearance and thought the tall, studly stature of the first born was a clear indication of God’s anointed. But You know that wasn’t the case. God found greatness not in the muscle or physic, but in the heart. God had chosen the youngest of the family.
Add to that the fact that what Jesus said to his disciples. You may remember that during his lifetime Jesus sent his disciples out into Israel. They went on a short term mission trip and he gave them power to cast out demons, to heal, and do various other signs. And the disciples came back and marveled at what they had accomplished. They said, “Even the demons submit to us!”
And do you remember how Jesus responded? He said, “Do not rejoice in that, but rejoice in the fact that your names are written in the book of life.” In other words, what is greater: that you can do miracles or that you’ve been saved from sin and death?
It’s true that we have to re-evaluate our human understanding of greatness. God’s definition is typically different than ours. We like to focus on the razzle dazzle. God’s focus is more on the heart and things pertaining to redemption.
So we have to ask, what does Jesus really mean by doing greater works? And I think we’ll understand when we ask ourselves this question: What is it that Jesus came to do? You know the answer to that question is right in this passage. He came to reveal the Father and the way to the Father.
Jesus said right here in this context, “No one comes to the Father except through me.” And then he says to Philip: If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.
Now you can throw the miracles into that. Let’s think about miracles for a second. They are amazing things, but what do they really show? The miracles of Jesus were signs that God was in their midst. They showed that the Father was working in and through Christ. Most of all, they showed redemption. They signified that there’s a God who is restoring what sin has destroyed.
So the miracles were a way of revealing the Father: they revealed his love for mankind, his interest in fellowship with them.
That’s what I think Jesus is really talking about. We can do the same works that Jesus did in that we too can reveal who God the Father is and the way to have fellowship with him.
But if that was the work that Jesus did, how is it that we can do greater works? That’s what Jesus says. We will not just do the works that Jesus did, but he said we will do “greater works” than these.
II. HOW CAN WE DO GREATER WORKS?
I actually believe there are two ways you can take this.
For one, we have the ability to have a greater impact. Again, Jesus may have had followings of great numbers at certain points, but most of them deserted him. Of those who followed him, there were not all that many who stayed faithful. Scripture tells us that there were about 120 in Jerusalem who stuck by him after he died. There may have been some more in Galilee. But really, it’s just a handful of people when you think about it.
But Christianity has been growing by leaps and bounds ever since the time of Christ. As a matter of fact, I saw a recent article that projected, based on growth rates, that by 2050 one in every three people in the world will be a Christian.
That’s just with typical trends, that’s not counting special movements of the Spirit where there could be significant numbers of converts added by means of revival.
We are seeing greater works than anything that Jesus could do when it comes to revealing the Father. Christianity is flooding the African continent (6 of the 10 largest Christian countries are now in Africa). It is rolling through the Asian countries like a wild fire. For instance, Afghanistan (of all places) is the place where evangelical Christianity is said to be growing the fastest. There are also reports of Christianity growing in rapid fashion in the Middle East. Places like Iran are seeing a strong uptick in conversions.
Today we are seeing the kingdoms of this world becoming the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ. The nations are streaming to him and the people of God are being used to reveal the Father in every corner. These are, no doubt, a greater works than Christ did.
But there’s another way we can take this. The spreading of the gospel is a significant work; but we should not forget that we have a greater gospel than what Jesus had.
Let me say that again, we have a greater gospel to spread. We are able to do greater works than Jesus because we have the full gospel to tell.
When Jesus lived he told people to believe in him. He preached the good news and tell about the kingdom of God, just as we do. But he was never able to preach the whole gospel because he had not yet died and been resurrected. Only after he had gone to the Father did the Apostles begin to proclaim the resurrection and the life that comes through it.
Anyone who says to another poor sinner, “Jesus Christ is risen from the dead; Though him we can have the forgiveness of sins and life with the Father,” that person is, in a very real sense, doing a greater work than what Christ was able to do. We are able to reveal the way to the Father in a clearer, more definite way because we can talk about the atoning sacrifice and the victory over the grave that was given us in Christ’s death and resurrection.
So you are going to say to me, “All it boils down to is the preaching of the gospel?” That sounds a little bland, don’t you think? That’s not the razzle dazzle that I was really expecting.
And that’s probably true. And that simply shows us how we don’t really know the real significance of the gospel. But Scripture everywhere testifies to the fact that the gospel is the power of God for salvation for those who believe.
Let’s say that you can feed 5000 people. You know what I say? Big whoop-tie do! Those people will get hungry again. Let’s say you can raise the dead. Let’s say you upped Jesus. Three was someone who was dead 5 days instead of 4. Guess what? That person will die again.
But the preaching of the gospel can impart a radical resurrection of the inward man; it produces life that is eternal. It’s just as Jesus said to the Woman at the Well, “Whoever drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I give him will never thirst.”
So what I’m getting at is this: Don’t underestimate the insane power and the absolute thunder of the gospel. It is shaking the world and turning it upside down. It is causing the heavens to be flooded with redeemed souls and bringing new life to people around the globe.
We have the chance to replicate the work of Christ and reveal the way to the Father.
And this leads me to the last section, verses 13-14. Yes, we can do the works of Christ (by revealing the way to the Father) and we can do even greater works (by preaching the whole gospel), but the question becomes how do we do it? And that is answered in verses 13-14. In these verses Jesus tells us of the primary means to our accomplishing these greater works: It is through prayer.
III. HOW WILL IT BE DONE? Through prayer!
Jesus says, “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”
You should hear in this an echo of what we read in James, “You have not, because you ask not.” Do you understand that anything you ask in the name of Christ, it will be granted to you. If you want, then pray. Your prayers will be heard and they will be answered.
Now, there’s a senses in which this is generally applied. If you ask anything in the name of Christ, He will do it. This doesn’t mean he will do anything you ask. But he will do anything you ask, “In his name.”
What is it to ask in the name of Christ? Part of this means asking for things agreeable to his commands and making our petitions based on his promises. And here the context is that of revealing the Father and the way to the Father.
For what does Christ wants you to be praying? He wants you to pray for opportunities to reveal the Father. For chances to speak with your neighbors and coworkers. For random opportunities that pop up with people who come you way. He wants you to be praying that the Lord will open doors in the schools for the gospel. Opportunities to have the gospel come to govern in places of government. For hardened drug addicts and criminals to be exposed to the truth.
This includes your own life and changes you may need to make to reveal the father. Praying that you would be bolder with your testimony, wise with your words, humble in your demeanor. Praying for your actions that you in your daily walk and carriage would be so pure and righteous that your very conduct would reveal the Father.
That’s what the Lord is calling you to pray for. And you understand the need to pray; you understand the need for divine intervention in these things: because it is all impossible without Christ. How else can the gospel have any chance of touching politicians? The political world is so filled with corruption that its almost unfeasible that it can break in to those circles.
Schools work double time to keep the things of God out of that environment.
Let’s not even talk about the drug addict and the hardened criminal, let’s talk about our own hearts and how difficult it is to be oriented towards the things of God.
That’s why Jesus says, “pray!” Ask anything in my name and I will do it. They say that prayer “moves the hand that moves the world.”
And if we know that Jesus will do whatever we ask in his name, let’s be sure to bring our supplications to him.