Studies in the Gospel of John
Lesson 41: “Greater Works than These
Wouldn’t it have been great to be alive and in Israel when Jesus was there! Throughout the years many Christians have thought that – and even used it to excuse their sin in some cases. But interestingly enough, Jesus Himself said that just the opposite was true. In verses 1 through 4 of this chapter Jesus made the “announcement of His departure. And as might be expected, the disciples were agitated about it, as described in verses 5 through 11. And so in verses 12 through 26 Jesus explained that there would actually be some advantages in His departure. The first advantage, He said, was that they would have greater power in verses (because He would do whatever they asked Him to. And we ended our last study with that point.
But not only would they have greater power, another reason that believers can do more than Jesus did while He was on earth is the greater provision that He is going to make for them, as described in verses 16 and 17
And I will pray the Father and He will give you another helper, that He may abide with you forever; even the Spirit (17) whom the world cannot receive because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.”
Here is the first promise of the Spirit recorded in the New Testament. And notice some of the characteristics: First, He will be “another helper.” There is no question that Jesus had ben a “helper” to the disciples while He was on earth. But now He is going away, but He comforts them by saying that He is going to send them “another helper” – and notice how He lovingly includes the fact “He will be with you forever.” In fact, the Greek word used here expounds on that even more fully – it means that another of exactly the same kind. So this new helper will do all of the things that Jesus could do.
Peter is a perfect illustration of how this promise worked out – a “before and after” story. When He was with Jesus he had supernatural boldness (walking on the water, he had supernatural insight, (“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.) When He was with Jesus he has supernatural courage (cutting off the high priest’s servant’s ear – actually he was aiming for the servant’s head, but the servant just had good reflexes) But when he was outside the physical presence of Christ, he denied that he even knew him. The next item on the agenda was Christ’s ascension into heaven in Acts chapter one. Now if Peter denied Christ at 100 yards, he will be worthless now.
But surprisingly enough Acts chapter 2:22 and 23 finds him standing before a crowd of thousands and saying:
Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst as you yourselves know (23) Him, being delivered by the determined and purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have takenand with wicked hands have crucified and put to death . . . “
And the next verses and chapters find him exhibiting all f the same characteristics he had had when he was in the presence of Jesus: Boldness – in that sermon on the day of Pentecost “Him you with wicked hands have crucified and slain” Insight – after the healing of the lame beggar at the gate of the temple he explained in Acts 3:16 faith in His name has made this man whole.
Courage – when told not to preach any more in Jesus’ name he said in Acts 4:19
Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God you judge, but we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.
What had happened to him?
Before any of this took place, Acts 2:4 says, “and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit”
The conclusion: when Peter had the Holy Spirit he had the Holy Spirit he did the same things as when he was in the physical presence of Christ! So being filled with the Spirit can be said to “practicing the presence of Christ.” And the same can be true for any believer!
Coming back to John chapter 14, another characteristic of this new helper will be a “spirit” – the spirit of truth.” Another characteristic of the new helper is that, unlike Jesus’ physical presence with them is that “He will be in you.” in verse 17.
Coming out of that characteristic is a distinction in the last part of verse 17: “the world” (the unsaved) will not be able to see Him like they could see Jesus – leading to a great deal of misunderstanding of Christians and their actions. But also this means that He is constantly available to every believer, not just those who could manage to be in His physical presence. These truths about the Holy spirit, taken together, explain why Jesus could say in verse 12 that the disciples would do greater works than He had done.
Obviously no single disciple of Jesus would be able to do greater works than Jesus had done. But taken together they could do far more. But notice carefully they could do far more! But notice carefully – all of this is only by the power that comes from “the helper” who is within us.
Jesus is talking about “the advantages” of His departure. He said that there would be the advantage of the greater power,” and the advantage of “greater provision,” but in verses 18 through 26 He carries it a step further and says that there will also be the advantage of greater perception – and there are four reasons for it.
The first reason is “because of His return in verses 18 through 20.
I will not leave you orphans. I will come to you (19) A little while longer and the world will see Me no more. But you will see Me. Because I live you will live also. (20) at that day you will know that I am in my Father and you in me and I in you.
Jesus knew that as the disciples thought about His departure they probably felt like orphans. So He promises them in verse 18 that He will not leave them in that state forever, but will return for them (he had already told them this in verse 3 remember). Although after His departure the unsaved would never see Him again, His promise in verse 19 is that the disciples will. There are several ways in which this promise can be understood. It could be a reference to the rapture as described in First Thessalonians 4:13 through 18. Or it could refer to His coming for them at the time of their death as He said in verse 3 of this chapter. Or He could have been talking about His coming to them in the person of the Holy Spirit in the past few verses. In fact it could refer to all three.
Certainly at the cross the disciples were “orphaned” – several of them went back to their “pre-Jesus” lives. But then at the resurrection He appeared to them and about 500 other witnesses for forty days before His ascension, as recorded in Acts 1:3; I Corinthians 15:6
Verse 25 brings out a second reason that they would have greater perception after His departure. And that is “because of His reaction to them.
He who has my commandments and keeps them, is he who loves me and will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”
Do you really want to “feel” the presence of the Lord and sense His love for you? Jesus says that that comes from deliberately, out of love for Him, keeping His commandments. This is not a legalistic drudgery of obedience so that He will love you (or for fear that He won’t), but a loving response to the fact that He already does love you.
A third reason that Jesus’ departure brings greater perception is because of His residence, according to verses 22 through 24
Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself us, and not to the world? (23) Jesus answered and said to him, “if anyone loves Me he will jeep my word; and My Father will love him and we will come to him and make our home with him. (24) “He who does not love me does not keep my words and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent me.”
Not only will an obedient believer sense the presence of Jesus with him, verse 23 goes on to say that the trinity will “be at home” with Him! And just the opposite is true of the unsaved – they don’t know or sense His presence because they keep His word.
Incidentally, this whole section underscores the need for taking in the Word on a daily basis. How can we obey His commandments if we don’t know what they are? And they are so interwoven throughout the scripture that it will take a regular, consistent reading to get the whole picture. This may seem like an overwhelming commitment, but remember that God only holds you responsible for the time that you do have, but He does hold you responsible for that. And to some extent, this is a matter of time management and priorities.
Finally, in verses 25 and 26 bring out the fourth reason that His departure would bring greater perception to the disciples that is because of His remembrance
These things have spoken to you while being with you. (26) “But the helper, who is the Holy spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, He will teach you all things and bring all things to your remembrance all things that I said to you.
So many times we feel like we will never learn all that the Bible has to say, or never be able to remember it if we do learn it. But that is where the Holy Spirit comes in. If we will be faithful to take in the Word of God, He will be faithful to remind us of it as He sees our need for it. Many times over the years as I am preparing a message or counselling with someone, the Holy Spirit will remind me of a passage that fits the topic that I am working with. But notice carefully what this function of the Spirit is: First, to teach us the scripture, enabling us to understand what we are reading. And then, second, to remind us of it when we need it. Something that many people have found to add immeasurably to their study is to memorize important passages of scripture. If you think scripture memorization is something you would like to pursue, you can find a program that has helped thousands memorize important passages of scripture at www.scripture memory fellowship.org. But you can’t remember what you haven’t learned, and you can’t learn it without taking the material in. So the Holy Spirit is indispensable to obeying the Word of God.
But to come back to the point of this whole chapter, all of this “perception” is greater for believers today than it was for those who were alive when He was on earth. And so this is another of the “advantages” of His departure.
The chapter closes with a beautiful admonition about the departure in verses 27 and 28, which pretty much speaks for itself:
Peace I leave with you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid. (28) You have heard me say to you “I am going to the Father, “if you loved me you would rejoice because I said “I am going the for the Father, for my Father is greater than I.
After working our way through Jesus’ teaching in the last few verses we can see why He would say, that believers in the years to come will do even greater things that He had done, don’t you think?