In John 14:12-14, our Lord made an astounding statement: ‘12Truly, 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.13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.’
What perhaps is so astounding about it is that Jesus had in His time on earth, caused the lame to walk (Mk. 2:1-12); and the blind to see (Jn. 9). In fact, He had even raised the dead (Jn. 11:1-44). Are we meant to be doing these as well – and more? This does not seem to be so as already, immediately after Jesus left the scene on earth, what took place, as recorded in the Book of Acts, which does contain miraculous happenings, has already begun to fade into the backdrop.
Bible scholars tell us that it seems obvious that what our Lord is referring to is that of the extent rather than power of what His followers can do, which is far greater than what He had achieved. Looking at the historical sojourn of our Lord on earth, it was largely confined to a small area in the region of Galilee and Judea. However, after He left the scene, His disciples went on to achieve greater geographical exploits for him, as again reflected in the book of Acts.
This is in line with the overall teaching in Scripture, where the Gospel is meant to ripple out ‘from Jerusalem, and in all of Judea, and Samaria and to the ends of the earth’ (Acts 1:8). Right from the Old Testament, we read the record in Psalmist in Ps. 2:8, ‘Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.’ We can look forward to the time when a multiple from ‘every nation, tribe, people and language’ (Rev. 7:9) will come before God in worship.
Until such time, we are to do the greater works, doing our bit to bring the gospel to the ends of the earth. William Carey’s famous quote – ‘Expect Great Things From God; Attempt Great Things For God,’ was made by him in a sermon he preached, using the text, Isa. 54:2,3 – ‘2 “Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. 3 For you will spread out to the right and to the left; your descendants will dispossess nations and settle in their desolate cities.’
For whatever reason, this particular sermon of his was known as the ‘Deathless Sermon’ preached in 1792. Carey lived up to his own challenge to expect great things from God and attempt great things for God as a missionary to India. Today when you go there, you see imprints of his legacy (church, library, institution, etc) named in honour of him.
May God give us the passion to also be in the business of doing the greater works, in helping to extend the reach of the Gospel.
Elder Richard Lai