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“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. Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it” (John 14:12-14).


Growing up in a Pentecostal church, I heard these verses quoted numerous times. And with every recitation they were accompanied with the exhortation, “You should be performing miracles as Jesus did. In fact, you should be doing more than Jesus did. It’s only your lack of faith that keeps you from healing the sick, casting out demons, and raising the dead. You’re not what you ought to be. Christ is displeased with your performance.”

Well, it’s been almost 50 years since I began following the Lord. And in all that time, I’ve never seen any servant of Jesus match their Master – much less surpass Him – in performing miracles. But is it only because we’ve lacked the faith or failed the Lord so badly? I don’t think so. And here’s my reasons for saying that.

First, in the Bible, no disciple ever matched Jesus Christ in miracles. True, some point to Peter’s shadow healing people and Paul’s work clothes healing people and driving out demons as examples (Acts 5:14-15; 19:11-12). But these don’t even come close to the magnitude of Jesus’ miracles. Jesus healed with a mere command sent over a great distance (Matthew 8:8-13). His physical presence, shadow, or clothing were not necessary to heal and cast out demons. Even the spit from Jesus’ mouth healed people (Mark 7:33-34; 8:23-24; John 9:6-7). He could heal and drive out demons merely with His word (Matthew 8:16, 28-32).

And neither Peter nor Paul ever commanded a raging storm to cease or a sea to be still, as Jesus did (Matthew 8:23-27). That was a miracle Paul could have certainly used, since he was shipwrecked several times (Acts 27:9-44; 2 Corinthians 11:25). No, the Gospels record that Jesus repeatedly “healed them all” and “healed every disease” that confronted Him (Matthew 4:23-24; 9:23; 10:1; 12:15). The miracles of the apostles were sporadic, but the miracles of Jesus were non-stop. Therefore, it is doubtful that Jesus was referring to miraculous signs and wonders when He said the disciples would do “greater works.”

Consider also that in John’s Gospel he minimizes miraculous signs and wonders. Therefore, it’s unlikely that He’d tell the apostles to aspire to do more than He did. Though John alludes to Jesus performing many other miracles (John 2:23; 3:2; 4:45; 7:31; 12:37; 20:30; 21:25), he only describes seven: 1. Turning the water into wine (John 2:1-11), 2. Healing the nobleman’s son (John 4:46-54), 3. Healing the infirm man by the Pool of Siloam (John 5:1-15), 4. Feeding the 5,000 (John 6:1-14), 5. Jesus walking on the water and the immediate transport of the disciples to their destination (John 6:16-21), 6. Healing the man born blind (John 9:1-38), and 7. Raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-46). And all these miracles are clothed with some spiritual truth which is greater than the miracle itself. Actually, John exalts the Samaritans’ faith (which was based only on Jesus’ word) over the flimsy faith of the Jews (who only believed because of His signs and wonders, John 4:41-42, 46-48).

Only when we include the whole church of all ages do the disciples of Jesus come close to matching the number and magnitude of Jesus’ miracles. As Paul the apostle explained, the whole church is the “fullness of Christ who fills all in all” (Ephesians 1:23). No single individual has ever or will ever match the miraculous signs which Jesus performed.

Now, look at the context of Jesus’ statement about the disciples performing “greater works.”  It will only happen because Jesus is going to the Father and sending His Holy Spirit in His place (John 14:12). The Holy Spirit had not yet been given to Jesus disciples, because Jesus had not yet been glorified (John 7:39). The disciples had experienced the Spirit’s accompanying presence, but not until the Day of Pentecost would they know His indwelling presence (John 14:17). And only when the Spirit came in His fullness, would He convict the world concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:7-11). Therefore, it is within the sphere of the Holy Spirit’s activity through the disciples’ preaching that “greater works” will be accomplished. Because of the coming of the Holy Spirit, a far greater harvest of souls would be reaped – as occurred on the very day of Pentecost – 3,000 converts in one day (Acts 2:41).

This stands in sharp contrast to the works of Jesus during His earthly ministry. John records that there were times when many of His disciples ceased to follow Him (John 6:66) and, finally, when they all forsook Him and fled (John 16:32). But those converts whom the disciples led to the Lord just kept increasing in number (e.g. Acts 4:3; 9:31) – all because of the Holy Spirit’s activity.

Winning the lost to Jesus and building His church were definitely the “greater works” which Jesus had in mind. Once the Spirit came, He would work through the person preaching the word and also in the hearts of the listeners – opening their eyes to divine truth and creating faith within them. Only after Pentecost could this take place.

But didn’t Jesus also say that anything we asked for in His name, He would do it for us (John 14:13-14). Yes, but what do you honestly think Jesus’ apostles prayed for? These were men who had left every earthly possession behind to follow Jesus (Matthew 19:27). And Jesus told them not to lay up for themselves treasure on earth, but in heaven (Matthew 6:19-21). Is it likely that they spent their time praying for material wealth? Not a chance.

Whenever Paul asked the churches to pray for him, it always had to do with God helping him preach the Gospel (Romans 16:30-31; 1 Corinthians 16:8-9; Colossians 4:3). And when Paul prayed for the churches, it was always for their spiritual enlightenment, spiritual empowerment, and unity (e.g. Ephesians 1:16-21; 3:14-19).

So the servant of Jesus Christ should not aspire to replicate or exceed the miracles Jesus performed. Nor should the believer seek miracles for their own sake, but only for the glory of Jesus Christ and for the confirmation of the Gospel message. Nor should the citizen of heaven store up treasure on earth, but should invest in God’s eternal kingdom (Philippians 3:20-21; Colossians 3:1-5). For we must all appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ to be recompensed for all the service we’ve rendered on His behalf – or failed to do (2 Corinthians 5:9-10).


PRAYER:  Dear Father in heaven, please forgive my carnal desires and worldly pursuits. Help me to humbly exercise the spiritual gifts You’ve given me, rather than think more highly of myself than I should, as though I were the entire church or equal to Christ Himself. Help me to accept my place as one member of Your church among many and to do all I can to be a blessing to others and a joy to You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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