He reached out to the poor, the uneducated, the people who were on the fringes of society whose lives seemed hopeless and brought them a message of hope. Jesus criticized the wealthy, the religious, the powerful, and those who valued tradition over the people for whom the traditions existed. Jesus, the preexisting “Word,” stepped into time in order to pursue His people. He loved those who were unlovable. He didn’t just tolerate those trapped in sin, he lived among them and went to where they hung out. Jesus got along with partiers enough to be called a “glutton and drunkard,” and he was close enough to the rejects of his society that he was associated with them as a “friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Matthew 11:19). Simply put, Jesus went to the people who needed hope…
…then… he called his followers to do the same.
“Truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do…” -John 14:12a
But, Jesus didn’t stop with that… He promised the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to those who would place their faith in him and follow his teachings.
“…and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.” -John 14:12b
It’s a concept that so many struggle to explain, to connect to a sensible doctrine, to understand in the context of our modern and “enlightened” Western society. What did Jesus statement “greater works than these” really mean? Did he mean that we will raise more dead people to life? Does he expect us to turn even greater quantities of water into wine?
If we want to answer this question, we must first understand another concept: love-based action.
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” -John 14:15
Think about those words. Jesus wasn’t saying, “Keep my commandments to show you love me.” Maybe this is a better way to explain it…
If you love someone, do you really have to ask what makes that person happy? If you love someone, then you try to learn his/her likes and dislikes… over time as you better know the person you love, responding in a way that makes the object of your affection happy becomes natural. You love the things he/she loves, simply because of the love he/she has for that thing.
What and who did Jesus love? All we have to do is look at how he lived his life in order to see what he was passionate about. We read the words that he said as he was instructing his disciples and see that he expected his followers to reach out to the poor, the criminals, and others who have been pushed aside or demonized by their culture (Matthew 25).
If we love Jesus, we will continually develop into a community that is doing what he did.
Did Jesus withdraw from his culture? No.
Did Jesus seem to care about the way he was perceived? No.
Did Jesus worry about the boundaries of his culture? No.
Jesus loved those around him in a way that was offensive to, and constantly got him in trouble with, the religious leaders of his day… and he changed the world.
Jesus calls us to love others in the same selfless manner as him, without regard for anything other than his command to love.
So, how do we do this? How do we know if or when to act?
The Holy Spirit.
If we believe in and follow Christ, he promises that we will be empowered with the Holy Spirit as we’re acting on what he’s asked us to do.
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another helper, to be with you forever” -John 14:16
If Jesus said that those who believe in him will do the works he’s done and more, then those of us who believe in him should ask if we’re accomplishing what he said. If we’re spending our time reaching the people he loved.
Jesus doesn’t ask us to obey his commands to prove that we love him… that wouldn’t be love at all. He says that our love for him will cause us to do the things he desires.
Think again about a human relationship. If you love someone, don’t you learn the things that bring joy to that person and try to do them… because you want him/her to be happy? It doesn’t seem like work to you at all, because you love the person. If you are doing something to make a person happy out of obligation, then it is not love at all… or if you have no idea what makes the person happy… then you have not really loved that person. Serving is a natural result of love.
This is the same manner in which we serve Christ and obey his commands… it’s out of love for him. It’s not to earn love from him.
This is where the Holy Spirit comes into play…
If we are serving Christ out of love, getting in trouble for the same things he was always getting into trouble for, as a community of believers… if we are listening to the Holy Spirit… then God is directing us through His power.
How could “Greater Things” than what we saw Jesus accomplish not result from this? If we truly believe that the same spirit that empowered Jesus is now empowering believers everywhere… then how could we not have this expectation?
I don’t care what the “great things” are… I just want to be a part of them. The “things” closest to Jesus’ heart were people… not miracles (there’s a good argument to be made that Jesus saw his miracles as a distraction from real ministry)… not anything this world has to offer… it was people, it IS people.
Where I want to be found is on my face before my holy Father in heaven, living in submission to Him and to His will, loving the people that He loves and serving them in the way that Jesus did… refusing to cower before the expectations and limitations imposed by anyone… and focusing solely on Him. I want to see this for the church! When the church begins to do this as a community, when we begin to listen to the leading of the Holy Spirit… when we allow God to direct us, then I believe there will be no question that we are doing great things for Christ.
Will there be miraculous signs and wonders? Will there be physical, spiritual, and other events that take place? I guess I don’t care. It would be pretty cool (I absolutely believe it will happen), but the real supernatural event will be to witness God using His people through the Holy Spirit to accomplish His purpose for the world.
It all starts with a reckless love for God and an openness to His direction.
“There is no indication in the Scriptures that these signs and wonders (of the Holy Spirit) ceased with the deaths of the apostles. Indeed, there is much evidence that signs and wonders have been a regularly recurring part of Christian experience… except where Christians refuse to consider that they can still happen.” -John J. Turner Living the Full Bible
“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. 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.
If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” -John 14:12-17