John Bible Study (That You May Believe)

John 14:8-14, Greater Works Than These


Jesus is speaking to his disciples about his departure and is speaking with words to comfort their troubled hearts. Jesus leaving would be a benefit for his disciples. Jesus was going to prepare a place in the Father’s house for those who belong to Jesus. The disciples are concerned that they do not know the way to Jesus (14:5). But Jesus responds that he himself is the way (14:6). By knowing Jesus, then you know the Father and will be in the Father’s house when Jesus returns (14:7). This sets the stage for the continuing discussion between Jesus and his disciples on the last night of his life as they sit in the upper room.

Show Us The Father (14:8-11)

After declaring that Jesus is the way to the Father and if you know Jesus then you know the Father, Philip has a request. “Lord, show us the Father and it is enough for us.” Now, it is easy to be quite critical of Philip’s request. Just give us one thing, Lord, and that will be enough for us to believe. But this is exactly the same kind of thinking we see in the religious world today. This is the same thinking we see throughout the Gospel of John. We just need to see one thing and we will believe. Show us one great, supernatural moment and we will believe. We only need some sort of confirming experience and we can then believe. Even Jesus’ own brothers want Jesus to show himself to Jerusalem to prove who he is (John 7:3). But Jesus never yields to this request. Jesus never accepts that simply showing one sign will be all that is needed for a group of people to believe. So Jesus gives the answer to every person who has ever wanted to see one more thing and it will be enough.

Jesus says in verse 9 that if you have seen Jesus then you have seen the Father. This is so difficult to grasp. We have seen God in Jesus. We have been given all we need for belief and for comfort. Jesus is not simply some religious teacher or guide. Jesus is the goal. Jesus is the end of the pursuit. Jesus is the first hand revelation of God. If we will see Jesus, then we will see God, as John wrote at the beginning of this gospel (John 1:14,18). No one has seen God but the Son has made him known. Consider what Jesus says to Philip. If you don’t know that you are looking directly at the Father when you come to know Jesus, then you do not know Jesus at all. Notice that Jesus asks Philip how it could be that he has been with Philip with long, but Philip still does not know him.

Verse 10 explains why when you see and know Jesus then you have seen and know the Father. Jesus says that the Father is in him and he is in the Father. Jesus further states that the Father dwells in him. What does this mean? This is important to answer because the scriptures are filled with pictures of God living in us and us in the Father. The Gospel of John has repeatedly told us what it means for the Father to live in Jesus. Jesus is controlled by the Father’s will. Jesus lives for the Father and not for himself. This is why Jesus could say that he and the Father are one (John 5:18; 10:30). The life of Jesus is all about the Father’s will and authority. We have to remember this because in a couple sentences Jesus is going to tell his disciples that the Spirit of truth “dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:17). He will also tell the disciples that Jesus is in them and they are in him (John 14:20). We will discuss these texts in more detail in our next lesson. But I want you to see it now so that we can see that Jesus is speaking of relationship and revelation. When you see Jesus, you see the Father because Jesus does the will of the Father, not his own will. Jesus has such a relationship with the Father, such an intimacy and knowledge, that you are understanding the Father when you are in a relationship with Jesus. It is a beautiful picture and it is a picture that is to give disciples hope and confidence. When you learn about Jesus, you are learning about the Father. When you develop this relationship with Jesus, then you are developing a relationship with the Father. When you love Jesus, then you love the Father. These ideas cannot be separated.

By the way, this is why Jesus must be God. Nothing less than God himself can accurately represent and reveal the Father. No one can show God but God. This is the basis for our faith (14:11). This is what must believed: Jesus is the only way to the Father. Where else can we go to see the invisible God? Jesus has made the Father known. The works of Jesus shows this truth (14:11). The life of Jesus proves all that we need so as to believe. What we have seen in Jesus is enough. There is nothing else to see. Nothing else could be revealed that can trump the glory of the Father seen in Jesus.

Greater Works Than These (14:12)

But there is more that these disciples need to know. Jesus’ departure does not mean that his disciples are to disband or that the work is over. Jesus expects them to continue to work and even accomplish greater things. Listen to the staggering words of verse 12.

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. (John 14:12 ESV)

I want us to notice who is referred to: “Whoever believes in me.” In this gospel, “Whoever” is always used of all people, not just the audience hearing the words. What Jesus is going to say here is not only true of the disciples who are listening to these words, but all disciples who believe in Jesus. Never has the phrase, “Whoever believes in me” been limited to only the first century audience in John’s gospel. Jesus says that whoever believes in him will do the works that Jesus does and even greater works than these. What is Jesus referring to?

Jesus cannot be referring to the miracles. No one did greater than Jesus, not even the apostles. Jesus walked on water, raised the dead, turned water to wine, fed the 5000 and more. How could anyone ever do “greater works than these?” I want us to observe that the greater works that Jesus’ disciples will perform are tied directly to the completion of Jesus’ saving work. The reason disciples will do greater works than these is because Jesus is “going to the Father” (14:12). The greater works by the disciples will be accomplished by Jesus going to the cross and returning to the Father. I submit to you the work of the gospel is the most important work to God. Christ is referring to the spiritual works that his disciples will perform, the salvation of souls when the gospel is proclaimed. Commentator Adam Clarke said it very well, “It is certainly the greatest miracle of divine grace to covert the obstinate, wicked heart of man from sin to holiness.” These greater works are made possible in Jesus going to the Father. Further, these greater works of salvation would no longer be contained to Palestine. The gospel was going to spread to the ends of the earth. Jesus told parables of the mustard seed and leaven to make the same point. After Jesus’ departure, his disciples were able to influence much larger numbers of people with the proclamation of the gospel.

Ask Me Anything In My Name (14:13-14)

Prayer is always the means for the greater works. “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” (John 14:13–14 ESV)

We know from the scriptures that this is not a carte blanche license that God will do anything we ask, which is how some selfishly like to approach these kinds of statements. We know from 2 Corinthians 12:9 that Paul’s prayer for his thorn in the flesh to be removed was answered with a resounding no. We also know from James 4:2 that if we ask prayers improperly with improper motives that God will not answer our prayers. We further know from 1 Peter 3:7 that our prayers are blocked if we are not acting properly in our marriages. So this is not a license from God to ask for anything you can possibly think of and you will receive it.

Notice Jesus says the answer to the request will be so that the Father is glorified in the Son and twice says that the request must be asked “in my name.” Asking “in the name of Jesus” is far more than ending our prayers with a perfunctory statement, “In Jesus’ name, Amen.” Praying in the name of Jesus is praying according to his will, on the grounds of Jesus’ claims, with faith in him, that this request is for the glory of God. To pray in the name of Jesus is to bring our request in line with his purposes. We are subjugating our request to the glory of God and his purposes. Everything Jesus did was for the Father’s glory. Our prayer in his name must be with the same intention and purpose. Jesus says that if we ask him, he will do it. We cannot make this declaration an outlier that does not apply to believers. Jesus will say it again in John 15 in the imagery where Jesus calls himself the vine and believers are the branches. Jesus said, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. (John 15:7)

The context is explaining how these greater works would be accomplished. Praying for our selfish, worldly desires is not in view. These great spiritual works of Jesus that disciples are to be doing are not done by their own power. They are done by the power of God. We do these works depending on God through prayer. The power of the gospel is not in the teacher but in the Lord who through his word powerfully opens hearts and brings them to the light. As Paul would declare concerning himself and Apollos, so also with us. We are simply planters and waterers. It is God who gives the increase (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:6). Faith comes by hearing the powerful words of Christ. God is working in the hearts of people and our work in the kingdom is 100% dependent on the power of God. Our working must depend on the power of prayer.

This is one thing I really do not like about all these popular church growth strategies. What I don’t like is that it can leave the impression that the power resides in us. It does not. All that depends on us is to give people the word of Christ. God will do the rest. God works on hearts. We cannot change hearts. The strategy is to share the gospel of Jesus to your friends, neighbors, and acquaintances. I hope this teaching will change our prayer life to be far more evangelistic. We must pray for God to use us as instruments in his service to reach the world. Pray to be light at your work tomorrow. Pray to speak in ways that reflect Jesus today. Pray for God to bring the lost through these doors. Pray for an opportunity to teach people in your life. Our prayer life must be consumed with the most important thing to God: the salvation of souls. “Whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these he will do.” Let us be ready to do those works depending on God’s power.

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