From the beginning of his ministry, Jesus’ plan was to leave a force on earth greater than himself. I know something sounds off about that. After all, no one is greater than Jesus, right? (Right. That’s not a trick question.) But Jesus’ words in John 14:12 lay it out for us: “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” (ESV).
Greater works than Jesus?
I’m glad Jesus said that, not me. That’s the kind of boast that gets you labeled a heretic. Have any of us ever healed the sick with greater power, or prayed with greater passion, than Jesus?
But if Jesus said it, we’ve got to take it seriously. Theologians say that our works can legitimately be called “greater than Jesus’” in at least two ways.
From Death to Life
Although Jesus’ earthly miracles illustrated his power to save from sin, the greatest miracle of all is conversion from death to life, which happens every time someone believes the gospel we are preaching.
Jesus fed five thousand to show he was the all-satisfying bread of life.
Jesus walked on water to show he was sovereign over everything in the believer’s life.
But when I preach the gospel each weekend, people are released from eternal condemnation, reunited with God, and guaranteed eternal life.
Nik Ripken tells of Russian believers who are currently seeing miraculous signs that would rival anything in the book of Acts. Blind people receiving their sight, paralyzed people walking again. Seriously, mind-blowing stuff. But these believers only use the word miracle to refer to conversion. Why? Because amazing acts of deliverance pale in comparison to what God does when he draws someone to himself.
When we preach the gospel and sinners believe, we are doing the greater work. Jesus’ miracles, according to him, were only signs. We get to preach about the thing those signs pointed to!
J. D. Greear, Above All: The Gospel Is the Source of the Church’s Renewal (Nashville, TN: B&H Books, 2019).
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