Q. If Jesus is God and is so powerful that he can even raise people from the dead, what does it mean when he says that people who believe in him will do “even greater” things than he does? (John 14:12, “Whoever believes in me will do … even greater things than these.”)
The works that believers in Jesus do are not greater in power than the works that Jesus did on earth, they are greater in glory. See the fuller context of the statement that Jesus made about this: “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”
While Jesus was on earth, his glory was veiled. It was possible to witness his miracles and claim, as some of the Pharisees did (absurdly, as Jesus pointed out), that he was doing them by the power of Beelzebub, the prince of demons. And even those who recognized correctly that Jesus did his miracles by the power of God did not always understand who he was. Matthew tells us in his gospel, for example, that when Jesus healed a paralytic, “When the multitudes saw it, they marveled and glorified God, who had given such power to men.” They thought that Jesus was only a human being. (And it is true that Jesus did his miracles not as God omnipotent, but as someone who had emptied himself of such divine attributes when he became a human being. As such, he was completely dependent on God and yielded to God, and so a perfect channel for the Holy Spirit’s power.)
Nicodemus said to Jesus, “We know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one could perform the miraculous signs that you do unless God was with him.” So Jesus’ miracles attested that God had sent him and was empowering him. But these miracles did not necessarily disclose that Jesus was the Son of God, come to earth as the Savior.
However, when Jesus’ followers starting doing works in his name after his resurrection, people were amazed that someone whom they knew had died was nevertheless still doing miracles when people called upon him. The apostle Peter, for example, said to a paralyzed man named Aeneas in the city of Lydda, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you,” and Aeneas got right up! So the miracles that Jesus’ followers did were greater in glory than the miracles Jesus did on earth because those later miracles attested to the fact that God had raised Jesus from the dead, beginning a new age in redemptive history, and that the resurrected Jesus was doing great works to confirm the message that his followers were proclaiming about him. So the miracles of Jesus’ followers glorified him in a way that Jesus’ own miracles on earth did not, and in that sense they were greater.
This is a challenge and an opportunity for all believers in Jesus to call upon him to do things in our lives today that will glorify him as the resurrected and exalted Son of God.
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