Truly, truly, I say to you, He that believes on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do…
The keyword of this context is "Believe!" In three successive verses we find it, each time widening in its application — to the single disciple: "Philip!" to the whole group: and now, here, to whosoever believeth in Him. Our Lord has pointed to believing as the great antidote to a troubled heart, as the sure way of knowing the Father, as the better substitute for sight; and now here He opens before us still more wonderful prerogatives and effects. We have here —
I. THE CONTINUOUS WORK OF THE EXALTED LORD FOR AND THROUGH HIS SERVANTS. These disciples, of course, thought that the departure of Jesus would be the end of His activity. Henceforward whatever distress or need might come, that voice would be silent, and that hand motionless. Some of us know how dreary that makes life, and we can understand how these men shrank from the prospect. Christ's words tell them that in them He will work as well as for them, after He has departed.
1. Christ's removal from the world is not the end of His activity in the world. We are not to water down such words as these into the continuous influence of His memory. That is true, but over and above that, there is the present influence of His present work. One form of His work was "finished" on Calvary, but there is another work, which will not be ended until the angel voices shall chant "It is done, the kingdoms of the world are the kingdoms of our God and of His Christ." And therefore these disciples were not to be cast down as if His work for them were ended. It is clear, of course, that such words as these demand something perfectly unique in the nature of Christ. All other men's work is cut in twain by death. "This man, having served his generation by the will of God, was gathered to his fathers. And he (and his work) saw corruption." That is the epitaph over the greatest, the tenderest, and most helpful. But Christ is living today, and working all around us. Now, it is of the last importance, that we should give a very prominent place in our creeds, and hearts, to this great truth. What a joyful sense of companion. ship it brings to the solitary, what calmness of vision, in contemplating the complications and calamites of the world's history.
2. But not only for us, but on and in and therefore through us Christ is working. "I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me," and through me, if I keep close to Him, will work mightily in forms that my poor manhood could never have reached. And now, mark that a still more solemn and mysterious aspect of this union of Jesus Christ and the believer. It is no accident that in one clause He says, "I am in the Father, and the Father in Me. The words that I speak unto you," etc.; and that in the next He says, "The works that I do shall He do also;" and so bids us see in that union between the Father and the Son, a pattern after which our union with Him is to be moulded, both as regards the closeness of its intimacy and as regards the resulting manifestations in life. All the doings of a Christian man holding by Christ, are Christ's doings, inasmuch as He is the Life and the Power which does them all. So let us curb all self-dependence and self-will that that mighty tide may flow into us; and let us cast from us all timidity, and be strong in the assurance that we have a Christ living in the heavens to work for us, and living within us to work through us.
II. THE GREATER WORK OF THE SERVANTS ON AND FOR WHOM THE LORD WORKS. Is, then, the servant greater than his Lord? Not so, for whatsoever the servant does is done because the Lord is with and in him. The contrast is between Christ's manifestations in the time of His earthly humiliation and His manifestations in the time of His glory. We need not be afraid that such words trench on the unapproachable character of the earthly work of Christ. This is finished. But the work of Revelation and Redemption required to be applied through the ages. The comparison is drawn, between the limited sphere and the small results of Christ's work upon earth, and the worldwide sweep and majestic magnitude of the results of the application of that work by His servants' witnessing work. And the poorest Christian who can go to a brother soul, and draw that soul to Christ, does a mightier thing than it was possible for the Master to do whilst He was here. For the Redemption had to be completed in act before it could be proclaimed in word, and Christ had no such weapon as we have when we can say, "We testify unto you that the Son of God hath died for our sins, and is raised again according to the Scriptures." "He laid His hands on a few sick folk and healed them," and at the end of His life there were 120 disciples in Jerusalem and 500 in Galilee. That was all that Jesus Christ had done, while today, the world is being leavened, and the kingdoms of the earth are beginning to recognize His name.
III. THE CONDITIONS ON WHICH THE EXALTED LORD WORKS FOR AND ON HIS SERVANTS.
1. Faith, the simple act of loving trust in Jesus Christ, opens the door for the entrance of all His solemn Omnipotence, and makes us possessors of it. So if Christian individuals and communities are impotent, there is no difficulty in understanding why. They have cut the connection, they have shut the tap.
(1) Our power depends upon our prayer, Not God's and Christ's fulness and willingness to communicate, but our capacity to receive of that fulness, and so the possibility of its communication to us, depend upon our prayer. "We have not because we ask not."(2) The power of our prayer depends upon our conscious oneness with the revealed Christ. Christ's name is the revelation of Christ's character; and to do a thing in the name of another person is to do it as His representative, and as realizing that in some deep and real sense — for the present purpose, at all events — we are one with Him. Prayer in the name of Christ is hard to offer. It needs much discipline and watchfulness; it excludes all self-will and selfishness. And if, as my text tells us, the end of the Son's working is the glory of the Father, that same end, and not our own ease or comfort, must be the end and object of all prayer which is offered in His name. When we so pray we get an answer. And the reason why such multitudes of prayers never travel higher than the roof, and bring no blessings to him that prays, is because they are not prayers in Christ's name.
(3) Prayer in His name will pass into prayer to Him. As He not obscurely teaches us here, if we adopt the reading, "If ye shall ask Me," He has an ear to hear such requests, and He wields Divine power to answer.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.
WEB: Most certainly I tell you, he who believes in me, the works that I do, he will do also; and he will do greater works than these, because I am going to my Father.