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Gems in the Gospel of John



Part 60 – John 14:12

Greater works

Jesus goes on after his great statement that he is ‘the way, the truth and the life” to say that his disciples will do even greater things than he did, which is a quite astonishing thing to say. We have to ask – did he mean it in terms of quality or of quantity or what? It is easy to see that in most particulars we can indeed do more things that Jesus did because there are so many more of us. About quality we may well be much more doubtful.

What Jesus did he listed in Matt 11:5 as “The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor”.

So far as the first four are concerned – yes, we can do more than Jesus did. Modern medicine has replaced miracle working in these cases. As a friend reported that the surgeon said to him as he was about to operate on a very serious wound “with my skill and the Lord’s help we will see what we can do”. We no longer expect that the miraculous will be necessary in most cases. On the comparatively rare occasions when it does occur we should be glad and rejoice.

There were a few hospitals in the ancient pre-Christian world but not many and not very effective either. They mostly made things as comfortable as possible for the dying. That was all that they could do. It was the Medieval Christian hospitals and the development of the realisation that it was possible to apply the ideas of scientific thinking to questions of health which started the developments which are so good today in the matters of health.

But Jesus did not stop there. The thing he claimed that is obviously questionable today is “raised from the dead”. To a very limited extent doctors may indeed resuscitate those who ought to have died but that is not quite the same thing. Claims are made in some parts of the present day church that people are raised from the dead. Perhaps. Those of us who live in the post-Enlightenment Western part of the world will always be very doubtful of such things. Your reaction to the very suggestion will depends on where you live and what your church culture is. What we must be careful about is not claiming that we have all truth in such matters. We must rejoice in what we can now do by the great advances of modern medicine. We must be careful not to reject any of the good things we now have. Let us rejoice in them.

The last of the things Jesus listed as the works that he did is the most interesting one: “the good news is proclaimed to the poor”. There has been a greater explosion of Good News round all the world in the last 50 years than there has ever been before. But this is not so much an explosion of human activity as that of the Holy Spirit. Only the Holy Spirit can touch people’s hearts and minds with the true work of the Lord God. No one else can control his work, his action, his force. That is why Jesus said the reason greater things would be done was “because I am going to the Father”. And although that is most obviously a spiritual work, more obviously than curing blindness or lameness, all those things that help a human being are ultimately a work of God. Which is why Jesus goes on to say that he will do whatever we ask in his name. The things we ask for have to be things that fit in to the personality and purposes of our Lord – not just any old thing that we would like (a pile of gold coins would be very welcome, Lord!)

It is our good fortune to live in days when the Kingdom of God is expanding at an unprecedented rate (except for those few unhappy parts of the world where vicious and horribly misguided people are trying to wipe out Christian faith with the bullet and the bomb – they will never succeed). We have indeed been given access to ‘greater things’ than it has ever been the good fortune of any previous generation to have. Let us rejoice and make the maximum use of these great gifts that are ours.


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