As he came near to the end of his time on earth, Jesus told his disciples that they would do what he did and “greater works” than him. This is quite an amazing statement. What are the “greater works’ for us to do. Signs and Miracles are an obvious contender, but are there other things for us to do which qualify? What about the abolition of slavery? What about fighting against injustice? What about feeding the hungry? Do these things qualify?
In this article I do not intend to negate a more conventional interpretation, but to add to it.
“I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.” (John 14;12 New Living Translation)
In the space of just three years Jesus:
- Healed hundreds who were sick
- Raised a number of people from the dead
- Fed thousands of people
- Cast out demons from demented people
- Changed water to wine
- Walked on water
- Calmed a storm
- Found money in a fishes mouth
- Told his disciples where to catch fish
- Taught his disciples and the crowds
- Died in order to save the whole world
- Abolished death
- Defeated Satan
What did Jesus mean by “greater”? I don’t think anybody can claim to do more powerful things than Jesus did. But Jesus, in three years, was limited by time, and could only be in one place at a time, so was limited by Geography.
An expanding Kingdom
He said, “How will we liken the Kingdom of God? Or with what parable will we illustrate it? It’s like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, though it is less than all the seeds that are on the earth, yet when it is sown, grows up, and becomes greater than all the herbs, and puts out great branches, so that the birds of the sky can lodge under its shadow.” (Mark 4:30–32, World English Bible)
Jesus planted a seed which was to grow and fill the whole earth. God has always wanted a just society: communities which care about the poor, the sick and the oppressed.
Jesus could not take on the mighty Roman Empire and abolish slavery which was its economic foundation. Even his followers could not do that. But 1800 years later, christians like William Wilberforce did just that.
Jesus could not solve problems like poverty. But the next generation can see an end to extreme poverty in the world today.
Jesus healed many who were sick, but today we have seen an end to scourges like Smallpox and Tuberculosis. Leprosy is now curable. There is real hope that Malaria, Aids and even some Cancers can be brought under control. It is my belief that Scientists, (whether they acknowledge God or not,) working in these areas are part of the process of expanding the Kingdom of God here upon earth.
The Gospel of Jesus, is not just about saving souls. It is about feeding the hungry, providing justice for the down-trodden, healing and freedom from sickness, and a world without discrimination against minorities. We are called to be the salt of the earth. As we seek to see an expansion of the Kingdom of God, in our time, we can be a part of the greater works that Jesus planned for his followers.