In this blog post want to address a portion of Jesus teaching that is commonly misunderstood in
our day. The passage is from John 14:12, which says, “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.” In the last 40 or so years, this passage has been largely misunderstood.
Often today we hear Christians tell us that this means Christians will do greater works—meaning
more spectacular than Jesus did (miracles and such). But, this would mean then that Christians
(whoever believes) will do more spectacular things than turning water to wine (Jn 2); giving
sight to a man born blind (Jn 9); and raising people from the dead (Jn 11). This of course seems
rather silly that one person can actually say they have done more spectacular things than this.
Many in the early church interpreted this passage as teaching of the great missionary successes
of the early church as seen in the book of Acts, which were more substantial in number than
Jesus ministry. I think this is closer to the mark, but I think there is more to it.
The keys to understanding this passage are in the clause: “because I am going to the Father”, and
in a previous passage. In John 5:20 Jesus referred to “greater works”, and the context shows that
these are referring to giving of life (v.21), judgment (v.22), in order that all might honor the Son
(v.23), and resurrection (v.24-26). Both of these keys are pointing to the same thing: The
finished work of Christ in His death, resurrection, and exultation to glory and the pouring out of
the Spirit. These greater works are tied to the coming of a new era in which his disciples will be
ministering with the full understanding of the work of Christ (before the resurrection it was
veiled) and the power of the new age. This is similar to why the least in the kingdom will be
greater than John the Baptist—they can point to Christ more clearly and witness more effectively
for Christ than John could before the Work of Christ was finished (Matt 11:11).
So what this verse means for the Christian today is that we can minister in a greater way because
we can make Christ known in a greater way. With the finished work of Christ and the coming of
the Spirit we can make Christ known in a much fuller way. Through the ministry of the Spirit we
can make Christ clearly known and the impact of Christ on people’s lives will be greater;
reaching and changing more of the world. So believer, get out share and Christ and do these
John Goodell is the pastor of New Life Fellowship Church in Grant Nebraska. By God's grace he came to know the Lord as a young adult. John attended the University of Nebraska at Kearney and is a graduate of New Geneva Theological Seminary in Colorado Springs. John is happily married to Angela and enjoys all six of his children (two in college and four at home).