Truly, truly, I say to you, He that believes on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do…
I. The text presents us with a PARALLEL. Christ teaches that there shall be a relation of likeness or identity between His own personal works and the works carried on by believing disciples after His departure. "He that believeth on Me, the works that I do, shall he do also." The terms in which Christ describes His own supernatural works are remarkable and suggestive. He scarcely ever speaks of them as miracles. He nearly always uses the quiet, unostentatious phrase employed in the text — "works." The mere triumph over physical law seems to be forgotten, and there is a godlike unconsciousness of that which is extraordinary to us. The term is suggestive of calm power. These things are not miracles to Him, they were miracles only to the beholder. The word too is one that links His achievements with the achievements of the future Church. It expressed only that which should be common between the two. The miraculous element, in the popular sense of that word, was not the most conspicuous feature in the works. Christ's thought would seem to have been fixed upon those elements in the works that embodied living relations. The eye of the child is caught by the glare of colour in the picture, and a little Red Riding Hood from an illustrated paper will fascinate it just as much as a Holy Family by Titian. The eye of the artist is riveted by the form and composition and delicate suggestion and sentiment with which the canvas has been made to speak. The first living relation in Christ's works was with the Father. They were a continuous testimony of the Father to the Son before the world. "The Father worketh hitherto, and I work." "The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do." "The Father that dwelleth in Me, He doeth the works." The second living relation embodied in Christ's works was with the Holy Spirit. Now these are the essential elements in Christ's works, and the power of accomplishing such works is given just as much to us as to Jesus Christ. Through all the life of a man who believes in Jesus Christ the Father directly testifies concerning His Son. Whilst the man retains a loyal, believing relation to his great Head, the Holy Ghost is the sovereign guide of all his activity, and his works are as perfectly adapted to the removal of suffering, the destruction of unbelief, and the awakening of faith in those with whom he is associated, as were the most imperial works of the Son of God upon earth. "The works that I do shall he do also." If we cannot do works upon which the miracle glory rests, we can do works upon which there rests a glory that in Christ's view outshines and eclipses that of miracle, so that even" that which was made glorious had no glory, by reason of the glory that excelleth."
II. The text contains a CONTRAST. There is to be a splendid advance in the character of the believer's achievements, an advance that will make them transcend even the Lord's own personal works amongst men. "Greater works than these shall he do." Christ had always thought more of the moral elements and relations in His works and those of His disciples, than of the merely miraculous. The time Christ spent in teaching men was enormous, compared with the time spent in healing disease. A second sufficed to touch a leper with His restoring hand: it sometimes cost Him days to do the yet greater work of touching a polluted soul with heavenly light. In the Acts of the Apostles we find the space occupied by narrating the work of miracle small, and that occupied by the work of conviction increasingly large, in comparison with the relative spaces they fill in the synoptical gospels. The apostles were beginning to enter into Christ's estimate of the relative value of the two types of work. The physical conditions that constituted Christ's works miraculous are often realized in connection with spiritual work upon a much more commanding scale. Did some of Christ's works, such as turning the water into wine and feeding the multitudes, imply mastery over creative processes? Whilst fruitful seasons and food and gladness are given by the loving Father to good and evil alike, I have no doubt, the cry of the scientists notwithstanding, they are given in conspicuous degrees to the piety and prayers of God's people. And not to speak of the supernatural influence of Christianity, how much of the wealth of the world is due to the thrift and righteousness growing up out of its conversions! Take away its presence from the earth, and nations that now overflow with luxury would be represented by groups of scattered savages gnawing roots and uncooked carrion. It is Christianity that is feeding the nations. By its uplifted hands of righteousness and prayer it is multiplying bread for thousands in comparison with whom the crowds Christ fed were but as units. And is not this a greater thing than the miracle on the tableland of Bethsaida or the plain of Gennesaret? Did the largest group of Christ's miracles imply command over disease and death? How much has that active sympathy, which is the outcome of faith in Christ, done to limit the ravages of disease and add to the length of human life? The evils turned back by the conversion of those present in thousands of Christian congregations are as ghastly and as terrible and manifold as the evils that shrank before Christ's word in the days of His flesh. For Christian faith and love to put healing hands upon human sickness and infirmity, to prevent in incalculable degrees human pain, to add year by year to the length of human life in all quarters of the globe, is it not a greater work than Christ's comparatively circumscribed work of healing the sick and raising the dead when upon earth? The spiritual works effected by believers in Jesus Christ bring about that conviction which is the great end of miracle by more effective methods. In miracle the work of the Spirit came before the eye. Miracle left the man more or less the victim of his own prejudice, unbelief, self-will. Miracle was only occasional in its appeal. The demonstration of the Spirit in the heart of man was a power that outlasted the believing prayers and labours to which its first coming was a response. If our faith reach up to the full evangelical altitude, we may do by the instantaneous help of the Spirit what it cost Christ years full of pains and sighs and toils to accomplish. Our work transcends miracle because the spirit, which is the special sphere touched by it, is more delicately sensitive than the body, which is the sphere in which miracle was wrought. The unseen part of a man's nature has capabilities of enjoyment or suffering which are indefinitely in advance of the part of his nature represented by the senses; the work of saving and tranquillising it must be indefinitely higher in both process and result. In comparison with the agony of a wounded spirit, physical suffering is a mere pin prick. To impart health by miracle to a diseased frame is a work unspeakably inferior to that of ministering salvation to diseased souls, plucking out rooted sins from the memory in which they rankle, and freeing the conscience from the haunting sense of eternal wrath. The spiritual works it is the believer's high privilege to do outshine Christ's personal miracles, because spiritual work is the key to the final destruction of all physical evil and disability at the last day. In spiritual miracle, the sentence is pronounced that shall then be carried out, and evil is virtually dead for the man whose nature has been touched by the works we do through our believing fellowship with Christ. The miracle was only respite. "Lo! disease and death come back to undo the triumph of the vanished wonder worker." By the power I wield as a believer in Jesus Christ I work irreversible miracles. I dismiss disease and death into a realm from whence they can never return. The inward miracle of regeneration is the mainspring of that climatic miracle which sums up all other acts of healing power, when sickness and sorrow and sighing shall be swept forever away. This is the true virtue radiated from the ascended Saviour, imparted freely to all His disciples, and perpetually reflected from every quickened Church in fellowship with its Lord. It pulsates unseen in our midst lust now, but a few transient breaths must come and go before it can be seen that the flush of immortal health has been restored to the universe.
III. The text points out THE SECRET OF THIS CONTRAST between Christ's works and those of His favoured followers. The secret has a Divine and a human side. Christ's presence at the right hand of the Father is the pledge and sign that sin has been dealt with, man's unfitness to receive these high and holy gifts has been taken away, the burden which crushed human nature into impotence removed, and the Father's hand opened to His reconciled people in more than its ancient wealth of blessing. This secret of transcendent power has an earthly as well as a heavenly side. "And whatsoever ye shall ask in My name, that will I do." Some of the natural forces of the universe can only be manifested through the special elements and agencies that are adapted to transmit them. Electricity must have a pathway of susceptible matter over which to travel, even if that pathway be one of indefinitely minute particles of ether only. So with the spiritual forces of the universe. If the power of the mediatorial presence have no conducting lines of faith along which to travel, it must sleep forever, and the world be left to swing on in its old grooves of evil and death. The manifestation of all the energies of that presence can only come through the believing request of the disciples. Prayer, bound only by the holy instincts of the faith that inspires it, and the rights of the name in which it is presented, is a thing of illimitable power. Let us never forget the dignity and beneficence of all spiritual work. This promise suggests the plenary character of the Pentecostal endowment.
(T. G. Selby.)
Because I go unto My Father. —
I. COMPLETING MY WORK IN THE FLESH.
II. ACCEPTING MY PLACE AT THE THRONE.
III. BEQUEATHING MY WORK TO THE CHURCH.
IV. ENDURING MY SAINTS WITH THE SPIRIT.
(S. S. Times.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.