But He answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.” For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God. Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless [it is] something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner. For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing; and [the Father] will show Him greater works than these, so that you will marvel.”
When I was young in Christ I was made aware of John 14:12:
Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater [works] than these he will do; because I go to the Father.
Since those early years I have often heard John 14:12 cited, and I have often heard the question discussed of what “greater works” we might possibly do in comparison to what Jesus Christ did. What I have never heard is a discussion of the context of John 14:12, a context that mirrors John 5:17ff.
While the entire Upper Room Discourse (John Chapters 13 – 17) provides the context for John 12:14 (actually, the entire Gospel is the context), let’s consider John 14:10 – 11:
Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves.
In John Chapter 5 and John Chapter 14 the “works” of Jesus flow from His abiding relationship with the Father, and in Chapter 14 the “greater works” that we are invited to do are possible because of the abiding of the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit within us – and of our abiding in the Trinity. The greater works of John 14 are born of relationship; are born of us seeing and hearing the Trinity just as the works of Jesus were/are born of His seeing and hearing the Father.
Notice the synonymous relationship of “words” and “works” in 14:10, there is a sense in which the Word of God and the Work of God are one in the same. Also consider John 6:28 – 29:
Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” (As the context of 6:28 – 29 indicates, Jesus’ questioners weren’t interested in relationship; they ignored His answer).
There is an interplay of belief/trust, word, and work in the Gospel of John, and this interplay has its vitality and reality in Trinitarian relationship. In Chapter One the Word creates all that is, an affirmation of Genesis Chapter One “and God said…and there was”. We are invited to enter into the Word and Work through the portal of belief and trust in Jesus Christ.
Our problem often is (at least my problem often is) that we want to get on with the “work” without first having an abiding relationship in Christ out of which the works flow. The question shouldn’t be so much, “What are the possible greater works that Jesus speaks of?” but rather, “What is the greater relationship that Jesus invites us into?”
Whatever the greater works of John 14:12 may be, they are the result of Jesus going to the Father; “because I go to the Father”. The object of these works is that; “…the Father may be glorified in the Son”. Our participation in these greater works is not about us, it is about the glory of God; our participation is not in order that we might achieve some great thing, but that God should be glorified.
From eternity past into eternity future the True and Living God lives; shrouded at times from our eyes and understanding, deep in the mists of mystery, the knowledge of Him clouded by our sin and the effects of our rebellion; yet this Mighty and Loving and Gracious God comes to us as Jesus Christ full of grace and truth and He bids us believe in Christ, trust in Christ, place ourselves in Christ, that we should live in Him and never taste death
If we will eat and drink of the greater relationship we will know the greater works.