What are the greater works Jesus promised we would do?

“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.” (John 14:12)

Notice that Jesus’ promise applies to all Christians.  Jesus said, “Whoever believes in me.”

This promise is not just for the apostles, or missionaries, or pastors.

Whatever Jesus was referring to is normal Christianity.

Obviously, this becomes ludicrous if we think, like some people do, that Jesus promised that Christians would do the same, and even greater, miracles than him.

  • Jesus turned water into wine (John 2).
  • Jesus knew the background of the Samarian woman (John 4).
  • Jesus healed the official’s son (John 4).
  • Jesus healed the man crippled for 38 years (John 5).
  • Jesus fed the crowd of more than 5000 with a boy’s lunch (John 5).
  • Jesus walked on water (John 6).
  • Jesus healed a man born blind (John 9).
  • Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead after four days (John 11).

Do people really think Christians could do the same, and greater, miracles than the infinite Son of God?1

More significantly, Jesus’ (and the Apostles’) miracles were done precisely to demonstrate that they were unique.

Jesus’ miracles or “signs” demonstrated that he was and is God’s (unique) promised King who spoke and acted on God’s behalf. As John tells us in John 20:30-31,

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

The Apostles’ miracles demonstrated that they were Jesus’ commissioned spokesmen, who spoke with Christ’s authority, and laid the church’s (unique) foundation.  See 2 Corinthians 12:12,

The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works”

and Ephesians 2:20, “…built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone”. 

The focus in John 14:8-12 is on the purpose of the works, not the nature of the works.

Whatever the specific works were that Jesus had in mind for Christians, what defines them is that they are pointers to Jesus, to help people believe in him.

Christians continue the witness-bearing works of Jesus

The key is to see that these “works” were a signpost, along with Jesus words, that bore witness to the truth of Jesus – that he was indeed God’s promised King.

The works we do, as Christians, are the good things that are part of the normal Christian life that bear witness to the truth of Jesus.

We continue the work, mission and witness of Jesus as we do good works that point people to Jesus.

Jesus said, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Mathew 15:16)

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.  (Ephesians 2:8-10)

As we speak words about Jesus and do good works that point people to Jesus – like loving people, being kind, helping in sacrificial ways, putting others before ourselves and forgiving those who offend us – our words and works bear witness to Jesus.

Jesus has not stopped working.  He now works through his people.

Of course, God can and still does miracles, healings and extraordinary things.  But it is God who does it, not us. We can ask God to do these things, but it’s up to God if he decides to do them or not.

Christians do even greater works than Jesus

Notice that Jesus connects the fact that we will do greater works than him with the fact that he is going to the Father. (John 14:12)

After Jesus was enthroned in heaven, he sent his Holy Spirit to empower his people to bear witness to him by their words and works.

The very thing we are called by Jesus to do, is the thing that the Spirit empowers us to do – bearing witness or pointing people to Christ by word and works.

Greater in Perspective 

Our works are greater than Jesus’ earthly miracles, because the truth that we bear witness to is already accomplished by Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Jesus’ own words and works were in anticipation of his death-defeating death and life-guaranteeing resurrection.

This has happened. Jesus died.  And rose from the dead.

Therefore, we are now living in the final era of world history, the age of the Spirit has come upon us.

The long-awaited gospel era is not something we’re still, like all the Old Testament believers, anticipating or waiting for.  It’s already here.

Our works of witness are greater because the thing we are witnessing to, has happened.

Greater in extent

On the day of Pentecost, when Jesus poured out his Holy Spirit, more people believed in Jesus on that one day than in Jesus entire earthly ministry.

Jesus was one man – with 12 disciples – bearing witness.

Now, because Jesus has gone to heaven and given us his Holy Spirit, millions upon millions of Christians are bearing witness to Jesus all around the world.

Even in countries where Christians are imprisoned and killed for bearing witness to Jesus, they keep bearing witness to Jesus.

Throughout all the centuries, faithful Christians have borne witness to the truth of the Christ who died and rose again.

Many were killed, burned, tortured and beheaded, but they kept bearing witness.

If you’re a Christian, it’s because someone bore witness to you about Jesus2.

As you live a life of good works and speak good words about Jesus, you also continue the long chain of witness-bearing – the greater works that Jesus promised.

 

  1. Admittedly, there have been times when I have tried to turn water into Beyerskloof Pinotage or KWV Roodeberg, but it just hasn’t worked!
  2.  For God, to move a person from eternal death to eternal life is greater than raising someone, like Lazarus, from the dead only for them to die of old age.