“I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing.
He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” John 14:12
Jesus spoke these words to his disciples on the night before he was executed. They are words that are meant to be comforting to the disciples. Jesus was saying, “even thought I am going away, don’t worry! The things I have been doing are the things you will now do – in fact – anyone who has faith in me will do these things. And even more, because all who have faith in me will do even greater works than what I have been doing.”
These have been puzzling words for many Christian people. Many have wondered: “what exactly does Jesus mean?” Particularly when he says that we will do greater works than what he has done. It makes us wonder – what can we do in Jesus’ absence that is greater than what he did before the cross?
It troubles us because what Jesus did before the cross was amazing! He turned water into wine; He healed the sick; He saw a crowd of over five thousand people who were hungry and He fed them; He walked on water; He brought Lazarus back to life again and … I could go on. It is an impressive list. And yet here in John 14:12, Jesus says that anyone who has faith in him will do even greater things. What does Jesus mean? None of us [I take it] have walked on water, or raised a dead man back to life again or fed over five thousand people with a couple of fish and a few loaves of bread – and these are just the smaller things – Jesus said we would even do greater things. You might be thinking: “I can’t even do the smaller things, let alone the greater – what is Jesus on about, what are these greater things?”
The key to Jesus’ words come at the end of the sentence: “because I am going to the Father”. There is something Jesus couldn’t do because he had not yet been to the Father, but when he goes to the Father then he says we will be able to do these “greater things”. What are they? In John chapter 20, Jesus spoke to his disciples after he had been raised from the dead and he told them what these things were. We read in John 20:19-23:
“On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” John 20:19-23
Here in John 20:19-23, Jesus had already gone to the cross; he had been raised from the dead; he had just paid for the sins of the world and he was about to go the the Father. Things had changed dramatically – and very significantly from the point of view of the forgiveness of sins. Jesus tells his disciples that now [see verse 23] forgiveness of sins can be declared with absolute certainty for those sinners who repent – for their sins have been completely paid for in his death and resurrection. Jesus was revealing what it was that couldn’t be done because he had not yet been to the Father. And he says we can now do these things – we can now declare the forgiveness of sins through the death and resurrection of Jesus.
This is the greater work. The ability to declare with certainty that those who trust in Jesus have their sins forgiven. This is what is now possible because Jesus has gone to the Father.
Do you feel a little disappointed that this is not any greater than the things Jesus was doing before his death and resurrection? You might be thinking that you would rather be able to walk on water or raise the dead than be able to declare with certainty the forgiveness of sins for those who repent! Do you consider that raising someone from the dead is the greatest thing? Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead – who can do a miracle greater than that?
Well, let me assure you – people who preach the gospel of the forgiveness of sins can do greater things than raising someone from the dead!
Sure, it was amazing that Lazarus came back from to life again, but he still died again later. However, when you preach the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ who died and rose again, and the Spirit of God comes into your words and into the hearts of the people who hear the message and they are born again, the truth is that now they are truly alive, resurrected for eternity, with the assurance of eternal life in heaven forever!
Walking on water, raising the dead, feeding the five thousand – these things are nothing compared to bringing someone out of hell and seeing them enter heaven. That really is a miracle – an enormous miracle, but only if you have the eyes to see for what it is – an eternal, permanent miracle.
The crippled people that Jesus healed got up and walk around for a few years but they still died. The person who hears the gospel of the Jesus Christ and comes to new life – that person now lives forever – and that is a healing far beyond fixing bad legs.
This easter, and for the rest your life, please give yourself to doing these greater works – proclaiming forgiveness of sins, and recognise the salvation of others for what it really is – an amazing miracle.