08 Sep Do Greater Things Than Jesus… Really?
One of the puzzling verses in the Bible is the one where Jesus said His believers can do greater things than Him. The natural thought that comes to the human mind after reading this will be: “Really? Are you sure? How can mere humans accomplish the incredible feats of Christ?”
Let’s look at (Jn 14:12-17), Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. “If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.”
What do “greater things” mean?
I think when we read these verses, the curious question on our minds will be, what is meant by “greater things”? We know Jesus had done many amazing things and performed many humanly impossible miracles. He had cast out demons, brought dead people back to life, healed the blind and paralyzed, calmed the storm, walked on water, and many more. These are already incredible deeds, what other works can surpass them? And does it mean that every Christian must and should be able to perform all these miracles? Do “greater things” refer to grander miracles of higher power?
1) “Greater” does not refer to grander and more powerful miracles than those of Jesus’s.
We must know that not all Christians are able to perform miracles. The Bible tells us that the gift of healing and the working of miracles are gifts of the Holy Spirit (1 Co 12:9-10). Not everyone can heal and perform miracles (1 Co 12:29-30). Even if some can, their miracles will not be as grand as Jesus’s. So the “greater” here does not imply grander and more powerful miracles than what Jesus had done.
2) In fact, our “greater” works are based upon the finished work of Christ.
Before Jesus went up to the cross, died and resurrected, all His works only pointed people to anticipate God’s promise of redemption. However, once Jesus completed His sacrifice on the cross, after Jesus died and came back to life, conquering the power of death and sin, then those who believe in Him not just can anticipate salvation, but they truly find the promise of salvation fulfilled in Christ. Thus, whatever we can do today is built on the foundation of Christ’s finished work of atonement. Since Christ had already finished the work of redemption, the “greater thing” we can do is to lead people to believe in Christ’s finished (not merely promised) atonement.
3) “Greater” means more far-reaching extent of works than Jesus’s.
While Jesus’s ministry on earth was mainly confined to the land of Israel, His disciples and we New Testament believers have brought the gospel out of Israel to many parts of the world. The spread of the gospel is thus more far-reaching than during Jesus’s time. Also, the number of believers won over by His disciples and modern day Christians is greater than the number Jesus converted while He was physically on earth. In that sense, whoever believes in Jesus will do greater things than His works. And notice the Bible says “whoever believes in Jesus”, rather than only pastors, church leaders and church staff, can do greater things than Jesus. So all of us who believe in Jesus can do greater things than Him.
But importantly, we must know that we can do greater things only with the help of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus clearly said that the reason why His believers could do greater things than Him was “because He was going to the Father” (Jn 14:12). He added that, “But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” (Jn 16:7)
That is to say that because Jesus had to go to the Father, the Holy Spirit will then come (Jn 16:7) to help believers (Jn 14:16), that’s why believers can have the power to do greater things than Jesus. Thus, it is not by our own strength that we can do greater things. Therefore, we have no reason to boast. Neither do we need to feel feeble, for no matter how weak we are, as long as we believe in Christ, the Holy Spirit will dwell in us and empower us to do the things God wants us to do. For example, when we lack the ability to serve God and His people, the Holy Spirit can distribute to us the appropriate gifts we need, by His will and for the common good (1 Co 12:4-11). When we cannot love God and men, the Holy Spirit can also help us bear the fruit of love (Gal 5:22). When we forget God and stray from Him, the Holy Spirit will remind us of the Lord’s word (Jn 14:26), so that we can remember God’s truth and overcome the devil’s lies. The Holy Spirit will help us do greater things than Jesus.
We can do greater things by praying in the name of Jesus.
This was what Jesus told His disciples immediately after He told them that they would do greater things than Him. Hence, believers’ ability to do greater things is much related to their prayers. And notice it is prayer in whose name? In the name of Jesus, that is, by the power of Christ, not our own strength. Jesus also said He will answer prayers so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. Today, Christ has given His believers the privilege to pray in His name. Thus, even if the mission God entrusts us seems big, we need not feel intimidated to do greater things than the works of Jesus. If we have the heart to seek the glory of God, He can use our lives to accomplish great things in the Lord.
Though we are small, Jesus said that we who believe in Him can do greater works than Him, because He already finished His work on the cross and He has given us the Holy Spirit to help us. Furthermore, whenever we pray in His name with the aim to glorify God, He will answer us and empower us to do great things. With that, pray that we are willing to let God use our lives to fulfil His grand purpose.