"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father" (John 14:12).
These words must be among the most amazing ever uttered by our Lord. They were addressed to a group of very ordinary people, gathered from very humble circumstances, and yet they were being told that believers in the Lord, like themselves, would perform greater miracles than those performed by Christ Himself!
We need to remember, also, that those addressed had recently witnessed miracles unprecedented. They had seen Christ raise Lazarus from the dead, -a man who had been in the grave four days, but, at a word from Christ's lips, he had emerged from the tomb, still bound in grave- clothes (John 11: 44). Just prior to that, again, the Lord had given sight to a man who was born blind (John 9:1-7). They had actually seen Christ feed a multitude of 5000 people from only five loaves and two fishes (John 6:11-13). On that same day, Christ had walked on the sea to rescue His storm -tossed disciples (John 6:19), and there had even been times when Christ had positively rebuked the wind and the sea, and they had obeyed Him (Mark 4:39)! Everywhere, people were saying, "We have seen strange things today" (Luke 5:26), and even the disciples had to ask, "What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!" (Matt.8: 27). These are but a few examples, but now, in John 14, Christ is telling them that they would do GREATER works than these! Strange word, indeed, and calling for some explanation. With the help of the Lord, we shall now share what has come to us regarding it.
Let us first say that we ourselves have never questioned that "working of miracles" was one of the GIFTS given by our Lord to His Church (1 Cor.12: 10), -or that miracles were performed, - but it is still a fact that 2000 years of Church history make no mention of miracles commensurate with those performed by our Lord. We must therefore look DEEPER for the true explanation, and this we shall now seek to do.
First, we need to realize that, in this whole section of John's Gospel, (chs.14-16), our Lord was approaching the matter of A GREAT AND GLORIOUS TRANSITION that was about to take place among His people. It was, indeed, the dawning of a new era, when "things physical " would give way to" things spiritual ". The physical works and wonders that they had seen had been great indeed, but now they could expect those SPIRITUAL COUNTERPARTS which would be far greater; -and that would be the area where their ministry, in due time, would center. They would "perform" those GREATER WONDERS of the Spirit, and they would witness those MIGHTIER MARVELS of the inner man. In that sense, they would be accomplishing greater miracles than those that had been performed by Christ.
No doubt we would all agree that WHILST the raising of Lazarus from the dead was something immeasurably great, -the bringing of "dead souls" into "newness of Life", in Christ, is something even greater, -certainly in the light of a coming ETERNITY! What a privilege it is to see our fellow- men BORN AGAIN, as we give out God's glorious Gospel among them! And it is the same with the matter of giving sight to the blind; -great indeed, but still not to be compared with the opening of men's inward eyes through the giving out of God's Word! Paul, we remember, was sent to the Gentile world "TO OPEN THEIR EYES, and to turn them from darkness to Light, and from the power of Satan unto God" (Acts 26:18). And did not the same Paul "feed" multitudes of inward "spirits" through the writing, and sending out, of his inspired Epistles? And, thank God, we also may have our part in the same miraculous ministry, as we pass on the loaves and fishes of God's Truth. Yes, even we are called to perform "GREATER WORKS"!
We feel we must now say a little about a specially important point which the Lord carefully made when giving His original promise. The FULL statement actually occupies THREE verses (12- 14), and we have to keep the WHOLE passage in view when looking into this subject. In verse 12 (where we have the mention of the "greater works"), the Lord concludes the promise with the important words, -" BECAUSE I go unto My Father", thereby indicating, (to start with), that those "works" would be related to His ascension; -they would, in fact, be the happy issue of that triumph. Then, in the two verses that follow, He takes us still further, and lets us know that it will be HE, The Ascended Lord, Who will be The Accomplishing Worker behind everything that will take place! His words are, "Ye shall ask, and I WILL DO". The full truth of the matter, then, is that it is still HE Who will be doing those greater works, -but working, now, from the GLORY through the instrumentality of His people! All will be Heaven -based, and it is in that way that His earlier works on earth will be surpassed by what HE will do FROM THE THRONE, - through people like us! They will be inner and spiritual wonders indeed.
A verse which greatly helps us here is Luke 12:50, where our Lord says, "I have a baptism to be baptized with; and HOW AM I STRAITENED till it be accomplished!". He was referring, of course, to the "BAPTISM" of His Cross, which was then drawing near, and He says that He was enduring a great "straitening" until it was all over. He was alluding to those very severe restrictions which He took upon Himself for the period of His sojourn on earth, and which it is so difficult for us to understand. Imagine it! -The Great Creator of this vast universe, held within the confines of the tiny land of Palestine! All power was His, and yet we find Him "Wearied with his journey", and having to rest on the well of Samaria! (John 4:6). Such was restriction indeed, but, in Luke 12, He was saying that the chains would soon be off, and He would be moving again everywhere in the full majesty of His power.
We must emphasize, of course, that the "limitations" we have mentioned were willingly accepted, and patiently endured, until the "baptism" was, indeed, accomplished. And we should also add that it was a merciful self-limitation", for, had He come and moved around in the full blaze of His Eternal Being, all would have been consumed before Him. But, thank God, the "baptism" is now accomplished, and our Risen and Ascended Lord is limited no more. As the enthroned Lord of All, HE is now knowing anew-glorious RELEASE, and, wonder of wonders; His believing people are the very instruments for the expression of that RELEASE! Now, He will perform those new, and inner, and greater wonders through us. Indeed, He will "DO MARVELS”! (See Exodus: 34:10). That, we say, is the FULLER secret behind the promise of John 14:12-14. It is linked with His ascension, and with His resultant union with His people.
PEACEABLE FRUIT OF RIGHTEOUNESS –2
The second lesson we learn through afflictions is, we can develop a strong active faith (1 Pet.1: 7). Gold cannot be purified with soap and water. It has, to go through many refining fires to become pure and bright. So also our faith becomes strong when we go through suffering.
THIRDLY, these trials keep us on the right path. We are only human, and are likely to go astray from the path which our loving Savior has marked out for us. In order to keep us on the right path, the Lord sometimes allows afflictions to come upon us. We read about this in Psa. 119:67. "Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word".
FOURTHLY, God allows afflictions so that we may learn God's statutes and precepts. We can never understand God's statutes through any book of human origin. God has to teach us in His own way. David speaks of this side of sufferings in Psa. 119:71." It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes".
FIFTHLY, these hardships finally lead us to a spiritually wealthy place, enlarge our vision and give us a large heart. In Psa.66: 12, we read: "Thou hast caused men to ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water: but thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place".
SIXTHLY, by these testings, we are being prepared for our heavenly inheritance with the saints in light. We shall soon meet our Lord face to face, and receive this inheritance. Then the meaning of Rom.8: 17 will be made clear to us: "And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint- heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together".
SEVENTHLY, when we have passed through sorrows and trials, we are better qualified to comfort those who are passing through similar sorrows and trials as we read in 2 Cor.1: 4: "Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God".
EIGHTHLY, it is when we pass through mocking's and reviling's for the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, that we are able to appreciate better our oneness with Him. We see in Matt.10: 24,25, "The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master".
NINTHLY, sufferings help to keep us humble. When the Lord blesses us, we are likely to get puffed up; but in order to keep us balanced; the Lord allows sufferings to come upon us. Paul speaks about this benefit of sufferings in 2 Cor .12:7- 9, where he mentions about the abundance of the revelations given to him, and also the thorn in the flesh, lest he should be exalted above measure. This thorn in the flesh must have been very painful; but the Lord allowed it in his life to keep him humble.
TENTHLY, through hardships we are prepared to enjoy God's power in fullness. See 2 Cor.12: 9,10. "And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong". May the Lord make this true in our lives