Jesus said, “…anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12 NIVO) Immediately our minds race to all of the amazing miracles that Jesus did during His three year ministry on the earth. Turning water into wine, healing the sick, raising Lazarus from the dead…If we have faith in Jesus we will do even greater works than these? There are teachers today who won’t even flinch in saying, “Absolutely!” One of the teachers is the Pastor of Bethel Church in Redding, California. Bill Johnson has been the pastor at Bethel for many years. The church draws thousands upon thousands of people each week, thousands more listen online to Pastor Johnson’s sermons, and he is in high demand at Christian conferences all over the world. This is what Pastor Johnson wrote about what Jesus said.
Jesus’ prophecy of us doing greater works than He did has stirred the Church to look for some abstract meaning to this very simple statement. Many theologians seek to honor the works of Jesus as unattainable, which is religion, fathered by unbelief. It does not impress God to ignore what He promised under the guise of honoring the work of Jesus on the earth. Jesus’ statement is not that hard to understand. Greater means “greater.” And the works he referred to are signs and wonders. It will not be a disservice to Him to have a generation obey Him, and go beyond His own high-water mark. He showed us what one person could do who has the Spirit without measure. What could millions do? That was His point, and it became His prophecy. (Bill Johnson, When Heaven Invades Earth. pg. 185.)
There are many other teachers who agree with Bill Johnson that Jesus was referring to “signs and wonders” when He said that “…anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these…” I have been studying, praying, and digging into God’s Word all week long seeking to understand the section of Scripture from John 14. I love Jesus. I love God’s Word. I want to understand not what I think Jesus was teaching, but what Jesus truly taught. Let me explain what I mean by that statement. There have been times in my life that I’ve read a passage from God’s Word and immediately concluded what I thought God was teaching only to learn later on that I was wrong. Let me give you just one example. If you will turn with me to Jeremiah 29:11.
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11 NIVO)
When someone first shared this verse with me I absolutely loved it! What a promise from God. God’s going to bless my socks off! God says it right there. “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” This verse has been made into graduation cards, it hangs on living room walls, and has been shared with people who have struggled with what they saw as a hopeless future. Years later I learned that the verse wasn’t written to me, it was a message that was sent to an entire nation of people, God’s people, who were exiled in Babylon because of their sin. The “you” in Jeremiah 29:11 isn’t singular, it is plural. Then one day I read Jeremiah 29:10 and learned that God did have a future for his people, but it would be after they served out their 70 year sentence in exile. The future God had planned for them would be very different than the future they had hoped for in their own minds. We can’t just take a verse out of context and apply it any way we choose. I learned a valuable lesson early on and it is this: I need God to speak to me from His Word and I need to avoid reading into His Word what I want Him to say to me. The lesson I learned so many years ago has led me to approach God’s Word with caution and in much humility and prayer. It’s so easy for us to read a verse and automatically draw our conclusions.
Let’s keep the lesson I learned in mind as we continue in our study of John 14. Remember, we are still in the Upper Room with Jesus and His disciples. Jesus has made it clear that He’s preparing to leave them, but He will come back for them. They are unsure, uneasy, and unclear. Philip said, “Just show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Jesus then tried to reassure Philip and the disciples by letting them know that by their having been with Him for three years they had seen the Father. Let’s take a look at our Scripture and then we’ll see what we can learn.
10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. 12 I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. (John 14:10-14 NIVO)
This section of Scripture has led to much discussion and even division in the Body of Christ. The discussion and division centers around verses 12-14. For us to understand what Jesus was talking about in verses 12-14 we need to understand a word that appears in verses 10, 11, and 12. The word is “work.” The Greek word for “work,” is the word, “?????” (ergon) and it means, “business, that which one undertakes to do, enterprise, an act, deed, or thing done.” The word appears 169 times in the New Testament, but I want us to pay special attention to the three times Jesus uses it in John 14:10-12. In verse 10, Jesus said,
10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. (John 14:10 NIVO)
The Father is doing His work in Jesus through the words that Jesus shared with His disciples in the Upper Room and in every sentence He ever spoke in public and in private. Don’t you remember what Jesus said in John 12:49-50? Let me refresh your memory.
49 For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. 50 I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.” (John 12:49-50 NIVO)
When Jesus spoke it was the work of God. Now, back to John 14 and let’s go on to the next verse. In verse 11, Jesus said,
11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. (John 14:11 NIVO)
It’s interesting that the New International Version translates this instance of the same Greek word, “miracles” instead of “works.” I checked this past week and every other translation I read translated the word, “works.” Now, let’s go on to verse 12 where Jesus said,
12 I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. (John 14:12 NIVO)
In our English Bibles we read, “will do,” but here it is the same Greek word so we should read it as, “…anyone who has faith in me will do the works that I do.” What is the “work” Jesus did while He was on the earth? Was Jesus’ work restricted to His miracles, to signs and wonders? That can’t be the case. Let me show you why.
In the Gospel of John we read about seven “signs” or seven miracles that Jesus did during His ministry. The Greek word for “sign” is “???????” (semeion) and it means, “a sign by which a person or a thing is distinguished from others or miracles and wonders by which God authenticates the men sent by him.” The seven “signs” or miracles that John highlights for us are:
- Changing water into wine in John 2:1-11.
- Healing the royal official’s son in Capernaum in John 4:46-54.
- Healing the paralytic at Bethesda in John 5:1-15.
- Feeding the 5000 in John 6:5-14.
- Jesus’ walking on water in John 6:16-24.
- Healing the man born blind in John 9:1-7.
- Raising Lazarus from the dead in John 11:1-44.
In each of these instances the Greek word for “sign” and not “work” is used. If Jesus had wanted to tell His disciples that they would do greater miracles than He did then He sure had the vocabulary to let them know. Jesus’ work, and the work He calls us to, encompasses Jesus’ entire mission and not just one facet that we find fascinating. In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus prayed to the Father and said,
4 I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. (John 17:4 NIVO)
Jesus’ work was not working miracles. Jesus’ work was the work of redemption, to call hopeless sinners to His saving grace. The seven miracles that we read about in John were signs to call attention to who Jesus was and why He had come. I wanted us to take the time to talk about this today because it seems to be that there are two huge errors that are being committed by the Body of Christ today. First, the vast majority of Jesus’ followers do not believe there is any work that is left for us to do. They would say that going to church and maybe a random Bible study now and then is the sum total of the work they do. The other error that I see being committed over and over again is to describe the most important work of the followers of Jesus as performing what they call “signs and wonders.” Jesus said,
12 I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. (John 14:12 NIVO)
Did you notice a key phrase spoken by Jesus? Jesus said, “…anyone who has faith…” Any follower of Jesus will do what He did and in fact will do even greater things. God still does miracles in our day. There is no doubt about that. In this modern-age, mesmerized by science, there are still things for which science cannot explain. God is a miracle working God. He still uses His people to pray for the sick, the burdened, the afflicted, and oppressed. Sometimes He moves in a miraculous way to immediately change our circumstances, but to say that “anyone who has faith” can feed 5,000 with a few loaves of bread and a handful of fish, or to say that “anyone who has faith” can walk on water, or to say that “anyone who has faith” can pray and someone who has never been able to walk will get up out of their wheelchair and walk…anyone? That’s just not so.
What can anyone who is a follower of Jesus and reading this lesson do? That’s a great question and I’m so glad you asked. Jesus’ works entailed every aspect of His life not just the miracles He performed. The way He interacted with people, the way He taught, the things He said, how He treated those that the rest of society walked right by; all of this and more was the work of Jesus that anyone who has faith can do as well. Jesus told His disciples in John 13:35,
34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35 NIVO)
In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul lists some of the things that fascinated the people of his day and which continue to fascinate people in our day. Speaking in tongues, the gift of prophecy, understanding all mysteries and all knowledge, the faith to move mountains, a level of generosity that can’t be described in human terms, and a willingness to literally die for what we believe in. People who have been given the ability to do these things certainly grab our attention. Paul said if we are able to do all of these marvelous things, but don’t have love then it is meaningless. Paul said, “Love never fails.”
In Matthew 5, when Jesus preached the greatest sermon ever in the history of the world, He told the crowd,
16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:16 NIVO)
Living a life walking in Jesus’ steps will lead you and me to do what Jesus did. What is that exactly? I can’t draw you a map, but I’ll promise you that if you will walk with Him every day, trust Him every day, seek to be obedient to Him every day, then He will do through you what He desires to do. What a wonderful blessing!
Jesus also said that we will do greater things. What could be the greater things? Greater than miracles. Greater than reaching out and loving the least of these? Greater than letting our light shine so that all people will know that we belong to Jesus? Greater than loving one another? What could be greater than these? I believe there are two different way to understand this statement.
I read a story this past week that caught my attention. In Luke 10, Jesus sent out 72 people, two-by-two, to go ahead of Him. He gave them instructions about what they were to do as they went about. We can read about what happened when they returned to Jesus in Luke 10:17-20. Read along with me.
17 The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” 18 He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. 20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:17-20 NIVO)
As wonderful and marvelous as the stories of Jesus’ miracles are to you and me, there is no greater miracle than the conversion of the dead to life, everlasting and eternal life. When we share God’s Word, share the message of the Cross, and share our stories of how God has saved us, redeemed us, and is transforming us, and others hear and open their hearts to Jesus–that my friend is the greatest miracle of all!
There is another aspect to how our work can be even greater than the work of Jesus and that is in the scope of our work, the broad reach of our work. While Jesus was ministering on earth He was confined to one small area of the world. Just 10 days after Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father, the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples. Peter, the one who denied he even knew the Lord, shared the Gospel by the power of the Holy Spirit, and 3,000 people surrendered their lives to Jesus as Lord. In one day more people became followers of Jesus than during the three years that Jesus ministered. Those 3,000 went back to their nations, cities, and homes and shared the Gospel and before you know it the Gospel had spread all over the ancient Near East and eventually throughout the world.
Our “doing” greater works than Jesus is really not an accurate description of what has been and continues to take place. Jesus said that these “greater things” would be done “because I am going to the Father.” What would happen when Jesus went to the Father? Well, He told His disciples in John 14:16, a verse we will get to eventually. Let’s read it together.
16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever– 17 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. (John 14:16-17 NIVO)
The sending of the Holy Spirit was a game changer for the people of God. He indwells every believer. He convicts every believer. He reminds every believer. He counsels every believer. He leads and empowers every believer. Luke, the author of the Gospel of Luke also wrote Acts. In the opening verses he writes,
1 In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. (Acts 1:1-2 NIVO)
Luke could have said, “Now, I’m going to tell you about what Jesus continued to do through His people by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.” It wasn’t Peter that made the difference at Pentecost, it was the Holy Spirit working through Peter and in the crowd who listened to him. And the work of Jesus continues on to this very day through you and me by the empowering of His Spirit.
There’s one more thing we need to talk about before we leave and it is found in verses 13-14 where Jesus said,
13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. (John 14:13-14 NIVO)
This verse has been misquoted and misapplied so many times since Jesus first spoke this truth. Jesus wasn’t joking when He said it and neither is He unable to fulfill exactly what He promised. The problem is that we have misused Jesus promise to get what we want. John wrote in 1 John 5:14,
14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. (1 John 5:14 NIVO)
“If we ask anything according to His will, he hears us.” The Apostle Paul went through all kinds of trials, persecutions, and health issues during his life. He prayed for God to remove his “thorn in the flesh” and God said, “No!”
9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. (2 Corinthians 12:9 NIVO)
Today’s health, wealth, and prosperity preachers would have told Paul to have more faith, to take authority over his affliction, and to remind God of His promise that He would give him anything he asked in Jesus’ name. Paul said, “…I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
We aren’t to pray for comfort, we are to pray that God might be glorified. We aren’t to pray that God would bless us, we are to pray that He would make us a blessing. There is another place where we read the same promise of Jesus and we need to read it in its context. Turn with me to John 15:15-16.
15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit– fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. (John 15:15-16 NIVO)
We have been chosen by Jesus, but not chosen to live a life of luxury, entitlement, or privilege. We have been chosen and appointed to go and bear fruit–fruit that will last. As we go about doing our Father’s business, working to share the Gospel and minister in His name, we will encounter situations in life that we don’t know how to deal with, we will have needs that we have no way to provide for, and we will go through dark nights of the soul where we feel lost and alone. God invites us, urges us to call out to Him, to cry out to Him, and He will answer us and provide for us what no other person could ever provide.
What incredible lessons we have learned this morning, but the truth is that these great promises are only available to those who surrender their lives to Jesus as Lord and Savior. I want to urge this morning to hear His voice calling you to Himself and surrender your heart to Him.
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
May 29, 2016