II Samuel 4:1-6:23; John 13:31-14:14; Psalm 119:17-32; Proverbs 15:31-32
Sometimes the Bible really blows my mind. Did you catch Jesus’ words at the end of our New Testament reading today? “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” (Jn. 14:12). Did you take a minute to think about that statement? Greater works than Jesus? Greater works than the man who raised Lazarus from the dead? And healed the blind man? And ROSE FROM THE GRAVE? How can those who believe do greater works than these?
I’ve read that verse many times and been struck each time by the hugeness of this promise, given to a group of ragtag disciples on the verge of betraying the very man who is telling them this. And I’ve been daunted, feeling small and insignificant in my own “ministry” on earth. But I don’t think Jesus meant for us to feel overwhelmed and intimidated – I think he meant for us to be empowered and encouraged.
My reasoning for this claim is that "empowered and encouraged" is ultimately how the disciples felt. Right after Jesus' death, the disciples are lost. They don’t quite understand their role and they’re wandering purposelessly for a while. We’ve seen that this year already as we’ve read the accounts of the disciples fleeing and abandoning Jesus in his hour of need, as we’ve seen them wondering at the empty grave and not knowing what it means. And we’ll see it in the next few days as they return to fishing, not knowing what else to do.
But then as we get into Acts, we’ll see the disciples start to understand what Jesus’ death and resurrection mean, and, after the giving of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2, things start to really get going. In Acts 2, Peter speaks to the Jews, recounting the history of Israel and the acts of Jesus and “those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41). Imagine preaching a sermon and seeing 3,000 people coming to know Jesus! And this is just the beginning for the disciples. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, these “greater works” begin to pour out. In Acts 5, the people carried their sick friends and family into the street so “that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them” (Acts 5:15). That’s pretty amazing! And that’s just Peter’s works – Paul traveled all over the Roman Empire, spreading the news of Jesus. From these few, ordinary men, the Christian faith went from hundreds to thousands to millions and is now the world’s largest faith group, topping out over 2.2 billion believers (according to quartz.com, a digital global business news publication).
So what about me? What about you? What are our “greater works?” If God can do amazing things through some fishermen, because they believed in him and had the Holy Spirit, then so can we. Like the disciples, though, we have to be open and willing. Our works may not be as dramatic as healing people while we walk past them, but we are part of carrying the good news forward and into the next generation. We touch thousands of people over the course of our lives – family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, our children – and that’s just through physical encounters. These days, we can have a huge impact virally as the social media world has opened up new possibilities that weren’t available to Jesus.
Be encouraged, friends. Jesus wants to use you. Let’s take heart and look for opportunities to enter into these “greater works,” through the power of the Holy Spirit.
- Esther McCurry
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