‘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. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.’
We get used to people saying hyperbole but not literally believing it. The speaker usually doesn’t believe it, or mean it, but uses it as a means of emphasis. Mother’s say to children, “I’ve told you a million times.” A compere might introduce a run of the mill comedian with, “Ladies and Gentlemen give a big hand for one of the funniest comedians of all time.” Is that the sort of thing Jesus was doing when he said, ‘whoever believes in me will also do the works I do.’ v12 He didn’t stop there, he went on to say believers would do even greater works than him.
Let us consider the sort of works he did. He walked on water, he calmed a storm with a word, he caused the blind to see, he raised the dead, he healed those with leprosy. The Acts of the Apostles does record some similar events in terms of healing and Peter raised Tabitha from the dead. Acts 9.40 There are not the same type of miracles demonstrating power over natural forces like a storm. Although there are many miracles recorded in Acts there are not same volume of healings. Records of many miracles have continued since biblical times into the modern day. Clearly disciples are enabled to pray and miracles occur as signs to the truth of the gospel. Is it fair to say they are greater than those Jesus performed?
In one sense certainly not. No disciple has the power to raise themselves from the dead eternally. Neither can a disciple ascend to heaven by their own will. No disciple can atone for their own sins or the sins of others. No disciple can bring into being the universe. John 1.3
What then could these greater things be? To understand that we need to look to the commission Jesus gave his disciples prior to his ascension. The fulfilment of this were to be the greater things. ‘But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.’ Acts 1.8 Jesus left behind about 120 disciples who gathered together to pray when the Holy Spirit descended on them at Pentecost and in one day around 3000 more disciples were added to their number.
The greater things were the spread of the gospel and growth of the church. Numbers though are far from the whole story, it is about changed lives as the Spirit of God transforms people. It is about people with no certainty of their future grasping the hope of eternal life with Jesus. It is how the gospel has radically impacted society over history. The miraculous in terms of dramatic supernatural events still occur as God responds to prayer but they are not the ultimate objective, simply steps on the way to complete the great commission.
The promise Jesus made to do whatever is asked in his name so the Father will be glorified, ought to have a handle with care label. Prayer in the name of Jesus is not simply an incantation. It is prayer in the same terms as an ambassador represents the will of the government. They are only authorized to speak according to the government’s policy and will. So it is with praying in the name of Jesus. We then as disciples need to spend time aligning our heart and mind with his, crucially by becoming biblically informed and having our own character sanctified by him.
How might you be involved in evangelism, discipleship or the ministry of the local church?
Welcome Holy Spirit