A “Gospel Minutes” Question
The Gospel Minutes, is a monthly religious paper that is put out by Clem Thurman and his nephew David Thurman. They typically devote the majority of each edition to a bible lesson on the front and middle pages, and then the back page is devoted to answering questions that readers have submitted. Here’s one of the questions that was recently submitted and answered..
“Dear David: Will you please explain what Jesus meant by “greater works” in John 14:12? What greater works could be done than the miracles Jesus did?”
And here’s how David Thurman begins his answer..
“Let me put this verse in it’s full context; (and he quotes the words of Jesus, from verses 11 & 12) “Believe Me, that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me. But if not, believe in Me because of the works themselves. 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.”
Now these two verses are all that we need from this section of scripture, to use toward answering the question, but David went ahead and quoted verses 13 thru 15 also. Here’s what those verses say..
“Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it. If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”
Since these last three verses really don’t have any bearing on the answer to the question, we’ll deal with those verses later. And so let’s look at verses 11 & 12 once again, to see what we can learn about the “greater works” that Jesus refers to.
John 14, verses 11 & 12; “Believe in Me, that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me. But if not, believe in Me because of the works themselves. 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.”
In other words, if you won’t believe in Me because of the words that I am saying, then believe in me because of the works that I have already done. Actions speak louder than words, don’t they? And that’s what Jesus is saying. If you can’t have faith in Me because of what I say, then have faith because of what I do. “Believe in Me because of the works themselves.”
What Greater Works ?
And remember, the question was; “What greater works could be done than the miracles Jesus did?” Now listen to the answer that David gives.. “If you read closely, you will see no mention of miracles, only of works. These works were the same behaviors and actions that they had seen in Jesus.” So in other words, David is saying that Jesus is not referring to His miracles, when He speaks of His works. He’s only referring to His everyday love and compassion that He showed to everyone, everyday.
And the reason that David has concluded that, is because of the fact that Jesus had said; “He who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also..” And so since we obviously cannot perform the miracles that Jesus performed, the works that Jesus is referring to, must be the everyday behavior of Jesus, which of course everyone in that day could witness with their own eyes.
Now that makes sense doesn’t it? We can’t do the miracles that Jesus did, and so how could Jesus have been referring to His miracles, when He said that the works that I do, you will do also. Well, David has a good point there, but he’s overlooking something.
But I have to question something if that’s the case. Jesus said to believe in Him, because of the works that He does. In other words, the very works that Jesus had done, and continued to do, were supposed to be the evidence, and the proof, that Jesus was indeed, the Christ, the Son of God. Here’s the exact words of Jesus; “Believe in Me, that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me.” Now isn’t that pretty much the same as saying; Believe that I am God, or at least that I am the Son of God? I think it’s basically the same thing.
But I have to ask myself; Without considering any of the miracles that Jesus did, was the everyday behavior of Jesus, enough to generate the faith, that He was who He claimed that He was? I mean, were not the miracles that Jesus did, the very thing that was meant to prove that He indeed was from God, That he had God within Him; And were those miracles not for the express written purpose, of establishing His word as being the truth from God”
I’d have to say that that WAS the very purpose of the miracles that Jesus did. An without the miracles, how could anyone come to have faith, that Jesus is the Christ? Here’s the words of the apostle John, on this very subject, from John 20, verses 30 & 31; “Many other signs (that means miracles) did Jesus, in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written, that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing, you may have life in His name.”
That’s pretty clear. The very purpose of the miracles, was to confirm and to prove, the words of Jesus, so as to produce faith in Jesus. Without the miracles, where’s the proof? And without the proof, how is there any undeniable faith?
Two Good Points
And so although David has a very good point, that there’s no possible way, for us to do the works that Jesus did, if those works refers to His miracles. But it’s just as valid of a point, that if the works don’t refer to the miracles that Jesus did, then how could His everyday behavior, in and by itself, prove what Jesus was asking the people to believe? So it would almost seem that we’re kind of stuck here. What’s the answer?
Well, I don’t think that we’re “stuck” at all. And I think that there’s a very easy answer to the question, and it’s the only answer that can make all things work together and be true. And the answer is, that Jesus was referring to the miraculous works that He did, and, of specific importance, is to recognize that Jesus was speaking only to His apostles, and not to all believers who would come after them. And this is the case with many of the things that Jesus said to His apostles. Much of what Jesus said, applied to them alone, and not to anyone else. It was the apostles who had been given the same powers, to perform the same miracles, that Jesus performed when He was alive. They had the power to heal the sick, and to even to raise the dead!
But let me give you an example of how some of the instructions, and commands of Jesus, were given specifically to His apostles, and not to everyone who would come later. In Mathew 28, verse 19, Jesus gives what is commonly referred to as “the great commission”. Here’s the literal wording of the first part of that verse; “Having gone therefore, disciple all the nations..” In other words, ‘Having gone INTO all the nations..”
And Mark 16, verse 15 says; “Go therefore into all the world, and preach the gospel to the whole creation..” In other words, preach the gospel in every nation, and to every person. Those two commands were given specifically to the apostles. They were the ones who were commissioned to go into all the know world. We do not have that responsibility laid upon us, to go to every nation that there is. But the apostles had that command given to them, and the bible says that they fulfilled that command!
Now we should all surely take those words to heart, each one of us individually, and preach the gospel to everyone we can. But the specific commands were given only to the apostles of Jesus.
It’s just like John 14, verse 26. Here’s another verse, that applies only to the apostles, and not to all of mankind. It’s the promise of Jesus, to send the Holy Spirit, to guide the apostles, after Jesus returned to heaven. Here’s what he said; “But the comforter, even the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said unto you.” That doesn’t directly teach us, like He directly taught the apostles. And the Holy Spirit isn’t going to bring to our remembrance, everything that Jesus taught. But He did do that for the apostles.
Greater In What Way ?
Now let’s look at John 14, verse 12 again, and see why Jesus said that His apostles, would do even greater works that Jesus Himself did, while He was with them.
Verse 12 says; “.. the works that I do, he will do also, and greater works than these, he will do, because I go to the Father.” The reason that the apostles would do “greater works” than Jesus, was because Jesus was going to leave them, and g to the Father. That is what Jesus said. That’s the reason that Jesus gave, for the fact that His apostles, would do even greater works than He. The apostles were charged with carrying on, and actually finishing the work that Jesus had begun. And that work was in teaching and preaching the word of God, and in proving that their words were actually God’s words, through the attesting miracles which would accompany their preaching.
That’s the precise purpose for the miracles that Jesus performed.. to attest to the fact that He and His words, came from God. And the apostles were charged with the exact same work. But Jesus is saying, that when the apostles would perform those miracles, that it would be even greater than when He did them. Why? Why did Jesus say that?
I can think of two ways in which the miraculous works done by the apostles, might be considered to be “greater” than Christ’s works. One way would be that the apostle’s works, would go on for a “greater” length of time. The ministry of Jesus, lasted for only about three years. But the works of the apostles would continue for decades.
And another way in which the apostle’s works might be considered to be “greater” is in regards to the sheer number of people who would witness the works. The scope of ministry of Jesus, was actually very limited. His geographical area of impact, was basically the area of Judea and Samaria. But, the geographical area in which the apostles would be preaching the word, and performing their “attesting miracles” would be the entire know world! Quite a difference. And so, although the bible doesn’t specify exactly HOW the apostles would do even greater works, than Jesus Himself, I think these two factors alone, carry considerable weight.
Now maybe you can think of other ways, in which we might say that the apostle’s works would be even greater, and it would be interesting to hear some of your ideas on that. So, maybe give that some thought, and share it with us some time.
Ask And Ye Shall Receive
And now I just want to say a little something about the next three verses; Verses 13 thru 15. Let me read them again; “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it. If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”
Now we know that “in My name”, means “by My authority”, and so Jesus is promising that if He has given us His authority to pray for something, then that something would be granted to us, thereby glorifying the Father. And John adds to that idea, in 1 John 5:14, with these words; “And this is the boldness which we have toward Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, he heareth us; And if we know He heareth us whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions which we have asked for.”
And so I really believe that we have to put these things together, and conclude that in order to be assured that God will grant us what we ask, we first must ask by His authority, and then we need to make sure that our asking is according to His will. I don’t think that we can take the words of John 14, verse 14, separate from the words of 1 John 5, verse 14.
And then of course Jesus concludes the thought of asking “in My name” with His words in verse 15, which says; “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”
And so maybe we need to take all three things into consideration when asking for something; Ask by Jesus authority, and ask according to His will, and then make sure that even before you ask, that you are indeed, keeping His commandments.
So, a lot to think about there, in those few short verses. And a lot to learn, and a lot to understand.