BIBLE Q & A, 17 : What did Jesus mean by “greater works” ?
12“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. 13“Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14“If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.
The Bible quite often answers the questions it raises. I don’t want to say it always does that, lest I make a rule that isn’t supportable. There are prophecies we still haven’t figured out, and teachings over which we wrangle still. But when I am perplexed about a statement made, the first place I want to look is in other parts of Scripture.
The statement before us is a serious one. In the modern charismatic climate it becomes almost problematic, as believers are claiming to see and even do some of those “greater works” of which Jesus spoke. Stupendous miracles, far greater – they say – than anything Jesus ever did, are reportedly happening.
I tried to trace the claims of at least one of these charismatic leaders, looking for documentation. I was told that the organization could not release any information, for that would jeopardize the personal life of those to whom the miracle had happened.
Strange statement, that. I read of no Biblical persons “protected” in this way after they received their miracle.
Nevertheless, I continue to believe in miracles. Bible miracles. Happening today. Why not? Jesus promised right before the above promise that His men would be doing the same works He did. Must we limit that to the first century? I understand the “logic” behind wanting such a limitation, but is there a clear and valid Scriptural support for it?
But, we go afield. We’re not talking about similar works to Jesus, we are talking about “greater works.”
As I stated earlier, the best way to answer is to see what other Scriptures say. We have a wonderful insight into how these very men to whom Jesus spoke had the promise fulfilled in their lifetimes.
What were the “works” of Jesus to which He was (probably) referring to begin with? We assume it was the works that normally would be considered impossible for mere men to do, or He would not have made the promise. He taught. He preached. He showed compassion. He rebuked. He suffered. He died. All of these things were remarkable in their own way, but we assume He was not going there with the promise. A man can do those things without being considered supernatural.
No, we would have to look at the miraculous works, the other-worldly. The God things. Water into wine. Giving sight to the blind. Straightening crooked limbs. Stopping storms with a word. Feeding multitudes with tiny bits of food. Rebuking fevers. Long distance healing. Casting out demons. Raising the dead. Transforming Himself into the Heavenly Person that He really was and is.
Jesus promised the men before Him (and let us stick with just those men for now) that they would do these works. And they did. Blind eyes healed. Healing by a passing shadow. Lame men walk. Prison breaks. Demons controlled. Delivered from snake poison. The dead raised. Roughly the same sorts of things Jesus did.
Where is the “greater” in the Book of Acts? What did Peter do that Jesus never did? The key may be in the explanation Jesus gave right after the promise: “Because I go to the Father.” When Jesus went to the Father, He was free to release all of His power on the waiting disciples. Now the greater could commence.
Peter, filled with that Spirit, after one sermon, finds himself the pastor of 3,000 souls. Not “rice” Christians, hanging around for a meal or a miracle, as they did for Jesus, but born again sin-forgiven saints of God ready to do battle for Jesus. Jesus never did that!
Philip preaches to one man on a chariot. And history confirms that the Ethiopian church was begun and prospered through the centuries by that one encounter. Jesus was able to get the attention of whole villages, as through the woman at the well, but where dis those followers go? By Calvary He had essentially no one. Jesus never started congregations.
Not so after Pentecost. Forgiveness of sin, the preaching of repentance, brought more and more true disciples into the fold. Jesus never saw such permanence, such victory, such growth. Greater and greater the church grew until it had the attention of an Empire, and in one sense conquered that Empire.
Jesus, when here in the flesh, never did anything like this! There were miracles like His along the way, and still are, to be sure, but it seems to me that the preaching of true salvation from sin in ever-growing circles around the planet, that is, the obeying of the Great Commission, was the “greater works” of which Jesus was speaking.
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