This post is part of an ongoing series in the study of John we are doing during January. Subscribe to the blog for daily updates in the Bible Study posts. Subscribe to the podcasts to hear our discussion of the book of John throughout this month. Join us in your daily devotions as we travel through this fascinating account of the life of Christ.
“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it. John 14:12-14 (NKJV)
I have seen many different perspectives of teaching on this passage of scripture. Some explain that Jesus is describing how this is a promise that we will be able to heal and raise the dead just like He did or even more than he did. At the other end of the spectrum of interpretations of this passage is an explanation that when Jesus said, “greater works,” He did not mean more significant, but more in number and across a greater spread of geography.
Any perspectives that suggest Jesus did now empower His followers to do miraculous works overlooks the many miracles performed in the early church and recorded in the book of Acts. There is no biblical basis for suggesting the active miracles of God in the church should cease, even if there are plenty of manmade doctrines that make that exact assertion.
Similarly, perspectives that focus entirely on the miraculous works and hype up our engagement with such works often overlook the real point of what Jesus is discussing here – the Father must be glorified in the Son.
The Greek word for works in this passage is ergon. It means to toil, deed, act, or occupation. It is used 25 times in the book of John but not usually in association with miracles. Remember, we saw the signs that Christ performed. In the Gospel of John, that is the word most frequently associated with great and miraculous displays.
- John 3 – Ergon speaks of deeds that demonstrate if we are of the light or the darkness.
- John 4 – Ergon is used to describe the work of God and the true satisfaction and fulfillment Jesus gained in doing His work.
- John 5 – Ergon is used to describe the miraculous works of God in healing a man. Jesus adds that the ergon that He does bears witness to who He is.
- John 6 – Ergon is described as belief and faith in God. This is the ergon of God.
- John 7 and 8 – Ergon is again used to reveal who our source is, God or the devil.
- John 9, 10, and 15 – Ergon is the activity of Christ that reveals God.
In chapter 14, we find ergon used three different times (14:10, 14:11, and 14:12). We saw in yesterday’s studythat the works of Christ reveal the Father (the first two uses of ergon in chapter 14). That is what Christ always does; He reveals God to man. That was the nature of the works, to bring revelation. That could be miraculous signs and wonders, but there is nothing to suggest Jesus is referring exclusively to signs and wonders.
When Jesus says, “the ergon that I do he will do also; and greater ergon than these he will do” His focused emphasis remains on what He was discussing in the prior verses – revealing God to man. The nature of what He is discussing is very important because, in the following passage (tomorrow’s study), He continues on that same topic when He discusses the Holy Spirit.
When we seek to do the works that Jesus did and even greater works than this, we seek to know and reveal the ways of God to the world around us. That might come through miraculous signs and wonders, but more often than that, it comes through living life resourced from heaven and the heart of God, just like Jesus did. When we reveal God to the world around us, we assume the nature of Christ, who is always (as we saw yesterday) revealing God to mankind.
The point of this passage of scripture is not a focus on signs and wonders or geographical spread. It is focused upon the Father being glorified through the manifested nature of Christ (the Son) in us!