“Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves. 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.”
Jesus Christ, John 14:10-12
Jesus asks his disciples, rhetorically I believe, if they believe he, Jesus, is in the Father and the Father is in him. And he says, if they need to, they can believe this based on the evidence of the works Jesus has performed in their presence.
Then he says that whoever believes in him will also do the works that he does; and even greater works will he do.
I used to struggle with that last part of Jesus’ statement. “How can Jesus’ disciples, or a modern day believer like me, do greater works than Jesus? Jesus who gave voice to the mute, and gave sight to the blind, and made the lame walk, and raised people from the dead?”
Then I noticed something Jesus said in Luke 10. You already know the story. Jesus appointed seventy-two of his disciples to go out into all the towns where he himself was about to go. He tells them to heal the sick and to tell people “The kingdom of God has come near you.”
When the disciples returned back from their trip they were stoked about the power they experienced. They were excited about the miracles they were able to perform against the destructive works of Satan. Imagine what that would be like. Jesus standing before you, in person, gives you power to heal and to do miracles, and then you go out and you do it. You heal the sick. God uses you. You see it happen. You experience it. You feel His miraculous power flowing through you. There’s no doubt in my mind I’d be excited about that too.
But after the disciples expressed their amazement and how thrilled they were with the power they experienced, Jesus said, “. . . do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
So to me, and to the disciples, and to most human beings, the miraculous works are the greatest and the most amazing.
But not to Jesus. For Jesus the greatest work was something else. For Jesus the greatest most exciting thing to be celebrated was the gift the disciples had been given. The greatest work was the disciples being given a reservation in heaven. (Luke 10:1-20)
If you think it through, this makes perfect sense. Even when Jesus raised someone from the dead, it was only temporary, because after all, later on that person died anyway. Jesus raised Lazarus but from God’s perspective, “like a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” a short while later Lazarus died. The same can be said for every healing miracle performed by Jesus, every one of those people who he healed died after “a little while.” But when someone believes in Jesus and is saved, and their name is written in heaven where they’ll live for eternity, that’s, well, that’s eternal, it’s permanent, they won’t die again. It’s a greater work. (James 4:14)
We see this throughout scripture, the difference between human values and God’s values. Sometimes it’s even stated directly and explicitly.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. (Isaiah 55:8)
“. . . the Lord sees not as man sees . . .” (1 Samuel 16:6-8)
Later, after Jesus ascends into heaven, the disciples receive God’s Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:1-4) And then Peter addresses a large crowd of people and 3,000 additional names are written in heaven as a result. (Acts 2:14-41)
Three thousand, at once. At the end of Jesus’ ministry there were only 120 praying for the Holy Spirit in the upper room in Jerusalem. But Peter saves 3,000.
Today I read about a church in the Minneapolis area that numbers in the thousands and 80% of their congregation is made up of previously unchurched people.
One time the evangelist Matt Brown was involved in sharing Jesus with 23,000 young people at an event in Minneapolis. A Beyoncé concert in the same area only drew 13,000.
Jesus spoke to crowds of around 10,000 at the most.
Luis Palau once spoke to a crowd in Guatemala City that numbered 700,000.
When Jesus shared the parable of the prodigal son, there’s no record of anyone believing on Jesus and receiving his salvation. But when Billy Graham shared the story of the prodigal son in Wembley Stadium in London, 3,000 people became Christians, and their names were written in heaven.
So, from God’s perspective, these works we see from believers in Jesus are truly greater.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Further study will be rewarded: See Matt Brown, Awakening, Leafwood Publishers, 2015