In John 14:12, Jesus says to his disciples, “anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing,” which is amazing enough, but then he adds, “He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to my Father.”
But Jesus healed everyone who came to him for healing, and he raised at least two children who’d died back to life again, and Lazarus too. And how often has that happened in the church’s history? What time in the entire history of the church, in fact, have there been healings for everyone who asked for healing, and children brought back to life after they’d died?
In my own experience too, I’ve never seen healing for everyone who asked, nor have I witnessed somebody coming back to life again. I gather from stories I’ve read and heard that some people are healed, and maybe even resurrected, but that’s nowhere near doing “greater things” than Jesus.
So has it been lack of faith on our part? Or is it because healing and raising people back to life again was only meant for Jesus’ day to prove he truly was the Messiah, and only for a brief time after that through his apostles and others in the book of Acts?
But if wholesale healing and being raised back to life again is not what Jesus meant by “greater things,” then what did he mean instead?
Well, not to downplay how marvellous those healings and resurrections that Jesus did were, one has to ask what happened to all those people he healed and brought back to life again? They still had to die, right? Lazarus got his life back, but only to die a second time. And all those people Jesus healed, like lepers and people crippled and blind from birth, they died too. So the miracles Jesus did in his ministry were purely in the temporary, physical realm. They didn’t solve the problem of death.
By “greater things,” then, was Jesus talking about something beyond the temporary and physical that did solve the problem of death? Yes, he was, because in John 11:25-26 he said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” So there’s a type of “resurrection and life” Jesus is promising here that exists beyond death. Death doesn’t end them. Death doesn’t even affect them, because Jesus himself is the source of them, and he is permanent and eternal.
And, what’s more, for simply believing what Jesus says in these two verses we can experience this permanent and eternal resurrection and life in the here and now.
But how do we experience such an amazing miracle? Well, fortunately, Jesus explains that too, in John 5:24 – “I tell you the truth, that whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life….he has crossed over from death to life.”
In other words, if we believe everything Jesus said and did was sourced by the great God, we will experience being raised to a whole new life now, the life that Jesus himself lives in his resurrected state. And that life for us never ends.
And now the really good bit, that having “tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age” in this life now, Hebrews 6:5, we are then in a position to teach others about “crossing over from death” to this eternal, permanent resurrection life too.
And that in Jesus’ own definition explains what he meant by the “greater things.” He’s talking about things eternal and permanent from believing in him being the source of them, which are so much greater than the miracles of temporary and physical healing and resurrection that he did. And not only can we experience personally what that eternal and permanent life is like now, we can help others learn about it now too.
And in so doing, that’s how we do greater things than Jesus.