“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.” ~John 14:12
Around the dinner table on that last night, Jesus tells his closest disciples that, by the power of his Holy Spirit, they will do greater things than even he had done. “I’m leaving,” Jesus says. “But I’m sending my Spirit to you and you’re going to not only continue doing what I have done, you’re going to do even better.”
I have a difficult time with this verse. I know my own life. I know my sins and my failures. They are many. I’m a dedicated follower of our Lord, yes, but I can’t begin to do what he did, much less more than he did. Or greater things than he did. Greater things? Greater things than Christ Jesus? Even with the almighty power of God’s Holy Spirit living in me, I can’t imagine anything I could ever do for God’s Kingdom as being classified by Jesus as greater than what he had done.
“Greater” could mean broader or wider. Yes, it could mean that the Spirit is working through the Church now to spread the good news of salvation from God in Christ around the whole planet. In that sense, the Church today has a “greater” reach than Jesus and his faithful disciples in and around Galilee.
But I can’t ignore the fact that Jesus uses the singular pronoun “anyone” when he talks about these greater things. He’s speaking about individuals.
Could it be that the really amazing things Jesus did on this earth weren’t really the healings and the exorcisms and the feedings of the multitudes? Is it possible that, in God’s eyes, Jesus’ acts of humility and service were really the “greater things?” While he walked in our shoes, the Son of God displayed amazing obedience and sacrifice. Our Lord humbled himself and put his very life at risk in order to save others. He submitted. He not only submitted to the Father, he submitted to the world. For the sake of the world. It is amazing what Jesus did while he was here.
Is it more amazing, again, in the eyes of God, that sinful human beings also sacrifice and submit and obey? The very fact that fallen and finite men and women, empowered by the Holy Spirit, can display incredible acts of humility and service might just blow the angels in heaven out of the water. God’s Spirit enables even us to serve like Jesus, to obey, to be submissive, to be generous to others as Christ was and is. It is great! It’s almost unbelievable! Greater than what Jesus did, maybe, in that we’re sinful humans! It’s mind-blowing! I think it might be a tremendous wonder in heaven when the angels consider that the Spirit of God actually does so much good through us weak and sinful human beings. They may applaud our measly acts of service and humility as the most amazing things in the universe!
Only by the grace of God and power of his Spirit are we able to truly obey, to really submit, to actually sacrifice and risk in order to serve others. His Spirit changes us. He transforms us. He enables us to act like and look like his Holy Son. A holy and righteous and eternal Creator living inside unholy and sinful and finite human beings in order to save the world. It’s not a different ministry from what Christ did on this earth. It’s the same ministry; it’s a continuation of God’s plan to redeem all of creation back to himself. So you are empowered to do these great things. You are enabled to sacrifice and serve. You are used by God to submit and obey. You are empowered to put others’ needs ahead of your own. You are a co-worker with God, partnering with him in this great salvation work. Believe it or not, in this blessed age of the Spirit, what’s happening right now through you, Christ’s disciple, is the greatest and most amazing yet.