Is it possible for a few moments to imagine being one of Jesus' disciples in the upper room? Is there a sense of confusion as to what is coming next? Jesus is talking about going away, but you don't quite understand what he is saying-- after all, the Messiah isn't supposed to leave; he is supposed to be right here in Jerusalem and lead his Messianic revolution against the oppressors. Jesus is also talking a lot about the Holy Spirit that is coming after he exits this world. Is it possible to imagine the sense of bewilderment and befuddlement sitting there listening to the one you have followed and placed your hopes in for three years?
And then Jesus says something really amazing:
"Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father."Wait a minute. Did Jesus just say what I thought he said? Not only will we do the same works he did in his ministry, but that our works would be even greater? Jesus went about healing and miraculously feeding large crowds of people and even raising the dead. Does Jesus mean that we will do even greater things? Can there be greater things?
Of this, John Wesley writes,
So one apostle wrought miracles merely by his shadow, Acts v, 15; another by handkerchiefs carried from his body, Acts xix, 12; and all spake with various tongues. But the converting one sinner is a greater work than all these.I believe that God still works miracles today. I have witnessed a few, but the greater work that God will accomplish through his church now that Jesus has "gone away" is the proclamation of the gospel in word and deed; for only the gospel can bring the kind of healing a broken world needs. This salvation is not be understood as a "purely spiritual" thing divorced from the physical world God created, nor is such salvation a kind of heavenly-mindedness that does no earthly good. The salvation Jesus brings is holistic offering healing from all the brokenness that mars God's creation and the restoration of the image of God in all persons. Tom Wright notes,
But now, by the spirit, they will be able to do all kinds of things. When Jesus "goes to the father"-- in other words, when he defeats the power of death through his own death and resurrection-- then all sorts of new possibilities will be opened in front of them. The "works" he has been doing, as he says again and again, are the evidence that the father is at work in him. Now he says that the disciples will do even greater works than these! (Wright, John for Everyone, Part Two, p. 63).It's an astounding thought that Jesus is basically implying that his followers will have opportunities to do what even he did not. They will be able to witness in their very lives to the new world resurrection brings and the power of the Holy Spirit that is now continually present with them. Thus, when everyone else in the world has settled in living the ordinary life according to the old age basically concerned with making money and relaxing on the weekend, Christians can live the extraordinary life of walking in the resurrection of Jesus even in the ordinary routine of daily life. As Richard Hays correctly states, "God is re-creating the world through Christ in the church."
The gospel comes into God's ordinary world and is embodied in an extraordinary community called church made up of ordinary believers who seek to live lives made extraordinary by the Holy Spirit.
We will do greater works indeed! Are we willing and prepared to do so?
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